By Rod Lee
Newcomers to the business scene in the town of Uxbridge are discovering what third-generation insurance man Michael Cove has known for years. Which is that the climate for enterprise in a municipality that is struggling politically but prospering in many other ways is a fertile place for commercial activity—including a diverse and impressive mix of retail.
Virtually no empty storefronts and few shuttered buildings are testament to this.
As Mr. Cove, whose grandfather, James Francis Cove, founded J.F. Cove Insurance, put it in alluding to the contrast between the government and business sectors during a recent interview in his office, Uxbridge is “a town that is succeeding in spite of itself.”
A longtime fixture in the community and avid supporter of local initiatives and nonprofits, Mike Cove joined J.F. Cove Insurance in 2000 after a stint with Commerce Insurance. His agency’s roots date to 1935. “My grandfather was a caretaker at the old Baisley Estate (subsequently the now-closed Cocke ‘n Kettle restaurant and function facility) and a lawyer in Uxbridge. My father was a teacher in Franklin. He started working for my grandfather, as did my uncle, John.”
In carrying forward what his grandfather began and his dad continued, Mr. Cove has had a front-row seat from his perch at 9 N. Main St. to watch as the downtown area and its immediate environs evolve. As a full-time director with Savers Bank (in the old, beautifully restored Uxbridge Inn—“my dad and John Andrews were instrumental in the redevelopment of the property”) and as a member of the Uxbridge Historic District Commission (UHDC), he views with pride the activity that is taking place; as he does in the fact that his entire building is rented, as is the former “Jack’s Place” behind him, which he owns.
He points to the Blanchard School Apartments on Hartford Ave. East as still another example of Uxbridge-on-the-move. “I went to kindergarten there!” Mr. Cove said. “Harry Romasco and his group did a spectacular job with that!”
Steve Bloem’s family, like Mr. Cove’s, boasts a long history in Uxbridge. Mr. Bloem owns and operates Bloem’s Auto Repair, 194 N. Main, where he is expanding his sale of used cars and trucks. “We want stuff out front to reflect the quality of the shop,” he says of the vehicles he puts up for purchase. Mr. Bloem’s grandfather started in North Uxbridge, where Uxbridge Gas is now, in 1949, making his grandson, like Mike Cove, a third-generation businessman.
“Absolutely,” Rico Renzi, manager of the Green Room Billiard Parlor, 535 Quaker Highway, said, when asked if Uxbridge is a good place to do business. Under the same ownership for more than twenty-five years, the Green Room has a lot going for it as an entertainment venue: pool tables, dartboards, TVs, a full bar and a kitchen.
“We are open until 1:00 a.m. every day,” Mr. Renzi said.
On both ends of Main Street, on Mendon Street, on Douglas St., on Quaker Highway and elsewhere, Uxbridge is a percolating blend of old and new.
“We have done better in the first two months here than two years in Bellingham!” Jim Cote of Butterfly (unique handmade gifts and crafts), 264 N. Main St., said. Between them, Jim and Debbie Cote and Debbie Muratore have stocked their quaint storefront with an array of merchandise that has to be seen to be believed: hooded towels, throw pillows, chimes, a baseball-themed sleeve for crayons, repurposed beer and wine bottles. Nothing is left to the imagination.
“The town has a country feel to it” is the way Dawn Sherry of Bittersweet Hollow, 107 S. Main St., describes Uxbridge’s appeal. Ms. Sherry has been at her location for twelve years after being uprooted from the Bernat Mill by a fire. Bittersweet Hollow specializes in lovely primitives, small furniture, pictures, linens, lighting, florals and candles—for instance.
“The visibility is great and almost every storefront is occupied,” Eddie Fournier of Eddie’s Classic Barber Shop, 2 S. Main St. (at the corner of Mendon St.), said. Mr. Fournier took up residence at his spot three and a half years ago and is pleased to be in the center of the bustle, as he was for downtown’s recent “Dine, Shop & Stroll” event.
Also strategically situated is Attorney Mark Wickstrom of Wickstrom Morse LLP at 6 Ct. St., on the Common. Mr. Wickstrom, from a prominent area law family, handles real estate transfers, loan closings, estate planning and civil litigation. He purchased the building in 2014 after working from an office in the Savers Bank building.
Amy Josey of The Gift Stop, 2 S. Main St., Suite 103, shares the euphoria that is prevalent in downtown Uxbridge these days. Ms. Josey’s sister Jess Lambert operates Hair Works, next door (Suite 104), and the side-by-side shops benefit from crossover foot traffic. Hair Works’ friendly and knowledgeable staff wins consistent praise from patrons for its expertise in styling, cutting and coloring.
The response to Dine, Shop & Stroll—which included a hot dog vendor, music, a PA system and the opportunity for merchants like herself to put merchandise at the curb for customers to peruse—was “great” for The Gift Stop, Ms. Josey said. She is capitalizing on that momentum and a first-year anniversary she is observing (this month) by opening up a back room in which local vendors and crafters can display their product. The back room will also contain “a baby nook,” she said.
“It pairs nicely with what we have out front,” she said.
“August is eleven years which is a good run especially for consignment,” Michele Provencal of The Sassy Foxx, 19 Depot St., said. An upscale women’s boutique (new arrivals come in daily), household goods, accent furniture and jewelry, The Sassy Foxx is firmly established at its current address. “This is the best of the three locations I’ve had,” Ms. Provencal said. “I am so thankful for all of our 4000 consigners and our customers.”
So too is Deb Kennedy’s A Touch of Magick (mind, body, spirit, consignment, psychic readings) at 195 S. Main St., one of the town’s most interesting and unique shops. Ms. Kennedy’s homey store relocated from downtown to quarters that are more conducive to the environment that A Touch of Magick is attempting to foster.
Faith Kennedy’s Hummingbird Holistic—massage, energy work, hypnosis and facials—took up residence in the A Touch of Magick building one month ago. Ms. Kennedy (no relation to Deb Kennedy) has been in the massage business since 2001. “I love the space!” she says of her location at A Touch of Magick.
Lucille’s Floral Designs is also at a new address, at 111 S. Main St., since June—the shop’s fifth location. Family owned and operated for thirty-three years, Lucille’s is now a second-generation shop with Lucille Aldrich’s niece Kate Viera on board. Ms. Viera’s mom Geri says her daughter “grew up in the flower shop and has a good eye for arranging. We are still a full-service florist for weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, happy and sad occasions. I have many customers who are now friends of mine. They have been very good to us.”
Mention of the Quaker Tavern, offering food and drink with a wide-ranging menu at 466 Quaker Highway, prompts Geri Viera to recommend trying “one of Scotty’s pretzels, they’re terrific!”
As with Lucille’s, the term “full service” also applies to Uxbridge Family Dental, 158 N. Main St., where services provided by “The Team,” consisting of Dr. Bashar Zyoud, Dr. Michelle Poon, Dr. Hina Khurana and Dr. Woo Young Chang, cover general dentistry, cavities and fillings, proactive dental care, X-rays, root canals, dental bonding, extractions, veneers, dentures and crowns.
The Perfect Paw is one of the newest additions to town at just over a month in business at 6 S. Main St. “I was originally a dog show person and I ran a grooming business out of my home in York, Maine, for many years,” Owner Karen Osper said. “I’ve been super busy” since opening in the former Rita’s, she said.
“I started out as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant. I can’t get out of kitchens!” Matt Tyrrell of The Depot Café, 11 S. Main St., across the street from The Perfect Paw said. Mr. Tyrrell took over The Depot Café, a popular spot for breakfast and lunch, in October. “Before that I was at Grumpy’s in Bellingham, before that a teacher, before that GM of a bar/Irish club,” he said. “Everything led here.”
Steve Guiliani of the Old Time Barber Shop, 13 Mendon St., has found the home he was looking for. “I was in Franklin for eight years but the rent was too high,” Mr. Guiliani said. “I moved here to be closer to home. It’s a nice town.”
“My goal is 375 handbags!” Pat DeVries, the owner of Chevere (beads and boutique), 336 N. Main St., said, of her annual drive on behalf of Dress for Success, which was scheduled to end earlier this month.
Chevere has been in business for nine years at the traffic light at N. Main St. and Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge’s mercantile environment has also been richly embellished with the opening of Stanley Mill Antiques and Primitive Goods on the grounds of the old Stanley Woolen Mill complex at 146 Mendon St.
“We are having a lot of fun with it,” Sherri Kagno of Stanley Mill Antiques said. The store will host an antique yard sale on July 20th—as it does every three months.
That same day and the next (July 21st), Primitive Goods will be hosting a “firecracker sale,” Jeanne Silva said. “I will be offering 10 percent off anything ten dollars and up,” Ms. Silva said.
“We are all friends,” Tom Evers of Evers Automotive, 278 N. Main St., said of automotive interests along N. Main St. Mr. Evers’ repair shop will mark ten years in business at the end of August. He started working at Ken’s Automotive across the street (a convenience store sits there now). He sells classic cars as a hobby.
“I treat people the way they want to be treated,” he said.
That Uxbridge has something for everyone is reflected in thirty-one years for The Mane Place, 510 Hartford Ave. West, a pet supply store that Linda Chita started at the Bernat Mill in October of 1988. Still going strong, The Mane Place provides food for horses “and quite a lot of people have chickens and goats—alpacas,” Ms. Chita said. “We sell dog food, cat food, feed supplies, saddles, bridles, apparel, riding helmets.”
Shine Construction, 301 N. Main St., is flourishing, Manuel “Manny” Curin said while stepping away from a job site to chat. With fourteen employees, “we work all around New England, and for builders and contractors” Mr. Curin said. Roofs comprise 99 percent of the demand for Shine Construction’s expertise, which is guaranteed, and the company does cleanups too. Shine Construction can also help with siding, gutters, replacement windows and snow removal.
Chamberlain Construction, 169 Davis St., Douglas, and Slater Clothing Co., 11 N. Main St., North Smithfield, Rhode Island, are in close enough proximity to be worth visiting; Chamberlain for bark mulch, loam, propane, sheds and U-Haul rentals, Slater Clothing for apparel made in the USA, jewelry, ceramics and notecards.
In reflecting on Cove Insurance’s good standing in the community, Mike Cove said it stems in large part from the agency’s support of such worthy undertakings as an annual fireworks display, the holiday First Night celebration and local sports teams. Other merchants feel the same way.
“That is a big part of doing business in town,” he said. “Part of being in business in a small town is investing in it.”
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999