Darn It! A Company’s Transformation Retains Jobs

New Bedford Economic Development Council Staff

An “Extreme Makeover” of Ronnie Manufacturing in 1996 transformed the 35-year-old contract clothing business into a unique operation that solves quality control and logistical problems caused by offshore manufacturing.

Darn It! was created in response to a dilemma facing the 350-employee, family-owned plant: the wave of outsourcing that was draining the U.S. garment industry. “The old adage – ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ is fitting, according to Darn It! President Jeffrey Glassman.

Glassman and his father Norman made the bold decision to change the operation’s focus and the result today is a thriving, growing business with more than 120 employees occupying 140,000 square feet on 92 Harbor Street in New Bedford in the former Berkshire Hathaway mill complex.

Darn It!’s client list includes major retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, importers, catalogue retailers and liquidation companies.

The idea for the business sprung up from the fact that many of their customers in the mid 1990s began sending their cut-and-sew productions offshore instead of to Ronnie Manufacturing, Glassman recalled. However, when the products came back to New England, they had quality problems ranging from poor stitching and packaging to incorrectly sewn labels.

“There was no time for them to send the products back to the original factory as their customers (the retailers) could possibly cancel the order if the delivery date was not met. So our old customers began sending their foreign made products to us to fix and refurbish for them. We would inspect, repair and send them the product back quickly so they could meet their delivery deadlines,” he explained.

Following lengthy marketing research, Glassman discovered that some large area retailers and manufacturers needed help with similar issues. The family closed the cut-and-sew operations to concentrate on the service business and hasn’t looked back.

“What really separates us from many competitors is that our employees possess the skills in manufacturing, quality control and warehousing that enable us to provide our customers with a quick turn around with the proper quality so that they can get their goods on to the selling shelves immediately,” he said.

Many staff members from Ronnie Manufacturing now work at Darn It! and participated in the transformation process.

“Reinventing a business like Darn It! that retains jobs and uses one of the city’s best assets – our mill space – is a critical piece in the overall revitalization of New Bedford,” said Matthew A. Morrissey, Executive Director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

Darn It!’s slogan, “Your Problem is Our Business,” appropriately sums up the operation.

Examples of services include everything from garment repairs, alterations, button and snap replacements and trimming to dry cleaning and laundering, mold and mildew removal, spot cleaning and hem reinforcement to pressing, re-packaging and re-labeling.

The quality control services include inspections for fabric and product flaws and measurements.

Glassman added that the company has become a de-facto quality control/inspection department for many clients-receiving all their shipments to ensure that there are no problems before they proceed to distribution facilities.

“These are common problems-nothing major, but enough to make the products unsalable,” Glassman said. “Our clients depend on Darn It! as a quality control, problem solver.”

In addition, another portion of the business is devoted to warehouse and distribution. Numerous New England retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers use Darn It! as their distribution outsource center and for long or short term storage, returns processing and pick and pack/fulfillment.

October 12, 2007

VIEW: The Old City is New Again

New Bedford Standard Times Editorial

A woman living in one of New Bedford’s senior high-rises got all excited a few years ago when she told a Standard-Times reporter about the way things used to be downtown. She didn’t live in the city center back then, but she spent plenty of time there as she was coming of age — meeting girlfriends and “fellows,” admiring the clothes in the shop windows and going to dances. Those dances were the place to be.

Last night as AHA! — the city’s monthly arts and culture night — marked its 100th incarnation, the reinvention of New Bedford, too, started coming of age.

The changes happening downtown will not replicate what the city was 50 years ago, and that’s OK. Indeed, they shouldn’t. The world is very different now, and different things draw people to the heart of a city — things like the exhibit of antique motorcycles at the Tatlock Gallery, the creative activities for kids at the Whaling Museum and ArtWorks!, and new exhibits at the New Bedford Art Museum and myriad other galleries and studios.

AHA! Nights, the product of a task force that grew out of the Regional Community Congress in 1999, have organized the arts community so effectively that AHA!, coupled with the Star Store arts campus of UMass Dartmouth, has made arts and culture the driving force of downtown renewal.

With the new life downtown has come another hallmark of a bustling city: great places to eat. New Bedford is the region’s best spot to find hip independent cafes, upscale restaurants, and most recently, two new wine bars.

A year ago this month, the Boston Globe said the city’s galleries were “a barometer of a community on the ascendancy.” But the broader arts community isn’t just measuring the weather; they’re making it.

Nelson Hockert-Lotz, a member of the AHA! Steering Committee and tireless supporter of the city, says AHA! Nights remind him of WaterFire in Providence — a favorable comparison for sure. He reports that 11 other communities around the state are using AHA! as a template for their own events.

Wood sculptor John Magnan, one of the founders of AHA!, says it has surpassed all expectations. How true. Maybe it’s time the region raised its expectations of New Bedford. With groups like AHA! in the city, we won’t be disappointed.

October 12, 2007

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Event Kicks Off Bioneers by the Bay Conference with a Free Lecture at the Zeiterion

The City of New Bedford will host a special kickoff event featuring a presentation by lifelong champion of conservation and environmental business practices, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to launch the “The Third Annual Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change” conference. The Bioneers by the Bay kickoff event will take place at the Zeiterion Theatre on Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 7:30 PM and admission is free and open to the public however, seating is limited and will be on a first come, first serve basis.

The internationally acclaimed environmental conference “Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change” will be presented by the Marion Institute from October 19-21 at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The three day conference will feature live plenary presentations; afternoon workshops; an exhibition hall of sustainable businesses and organizations; films; music; local and organic food and art. Over 2,000 individuals-students teachers, green business innovators, scientists, grassroots leaders and others- with a broad depth of experience and vision in environmental causes like sustainability, clean water and energy, health and social justice will participate in the conference.

According to Marion Institute Director, Desa VanLaarhoven, “Bioneers by the Bay”, takes a “holistic approach to environmental sustainability by addressing multiple dimensions of the human condition and the world we live in and how we will leave this world for future generations. The goal of our conference is to educate our community about the most critical issues facing humanity and demonstrate how ordinary citizens can join grassroots efforts to connect for change.”

The conference is one of 18 Beaming Bioneers sites throughout the U.S. that will be linked via satellite with the main Bioneers conference in San Rafael, Calif. For complete registration information and the conference schedule, call the Marion Institute at 508-748-0816 or e-mail info@connectingforchange.org. Conference details are also available at www.connectingforchange.org. A limited number of scholarships are available for seniors, students, and activists.

About Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is a lifelong champion of conservation and environmental business practices. With his experience as a lawyer and public figure, he is one of the nation’s most stirring advocates for protection of the environment and social change. His reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions. Kennedy was named one of TIME magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River. The group’s achievement helped spawn more than 130 Waterkeeper organizations around the globe. Kennedy serves as a chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and president of Waterkeeper Alliance. He is also a clinical professor and supervising attorney at Pace University School of Law’s Environmental Litigation Clinic and is co-host of Ring of Fire on Air America Radio. Kennedy is the author of several books, including the New York Time’s bestseller Crimes Against Nature.

About Bioneers: “biological pioneers”
A national, nonprofit organization, Bioneers was founded in 1990 by Kenny Ausubel, a social entrepreneur, author, and filmmaker, to promote practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring the Earth and communities. Ausubel most recently served as an advisor to and appears in Leonardo DiCaprio’s feature documentary, The Eleventh Hour.

The Northeast host for this year’s Bioneers program, the Massachusetts-based Marion Institute supports and promotes programs worldwide that work to enhance life and a sustainable future for the Earth and its inhabitants. For more information about the Marion Institute, call 508.748.0816, e-mail info@marioninstitute.org, or visit www.marioninstitute.org.

What is Happening Downtown?

New Bedford Economic Development Council

Downtown New Bedford’s evolving streetscape reflects a national, even international, trend: downtowns are increasingly the place to be.

As long ago as nearly a decade ago, the Fannie Mae Foundation and the Brookings Institute projecting urban population growth from 1998-2010 showed that several of America’s largest cities would become increasingly favorable in the housing market, even those cities that had experienced serious decline in the 1960s and 1970s such as Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia. Nearly ten years following these projections, the forecast has largely been realized, extending to smaller cities. Recognizing this trend, local developers have created a number of innovative loft and condominium projects throughout the downtown area. Factors that appear to, in part, drive the renewed interest in urban living are the decline in crime rates and rising gas costs, leading to a desire to live in a pedestrian-friendly environment close to amenities like libraries, theatres, museums, banks, restaurants, post offices, and shops.

With a long-established core of art galleries, the Zeiterion, and world-class museums, the New Bedford urban pioneers are finding a growing cadre of eclectic restaurants and drinking emporiums (from the very un-buttoned No Problem taqueria to the elegant Cork tapas bar) and diverse shops offering clothing (Attia), personal care products (Blush Beauty Bar) and even second-hand bagpipes (Joe Piper). Showcase events like the monthly Arts! History! Architecture! (AHA) theme nights have had significant success in drawing people downtown to sample different types of music, food, shopping experiences, free museum access, and family-oriented activities.

Both anecdotal and formal research information show that the new housing opportunities in downtown New Bedford reflect the national trend of appealing to young people, college students, and “empty nesters” who are generally better educated and consumers of the arts, cultural events, and locally-owned restaurants and bistros rather than the nationally-owned, ubiquitous chains. By attracting them to the downtown neighborhoods, the demand for goods and services will increase at a sustainable rate because so many consumers will be continually present throughout the day and into the evenings. Locally-owned businesses, in turn, cycle money throughout the local economy by using local accountants, lawyers and other professional services to support their business.

The emergence of the New Bedford downtown landscape has been driven in part by the relocation of a significant portion of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and a New Bedford-based campus of Bristol Community College, through the adaptive reuse of the old Star Store building which once served a vibrant downtown community decades ago and once again becomes a key focal point for re-energizing the neighborhood. It is a success story, created by the synergies of the state and local governments recognizing a new opportunity and working with private development to make it happen.

Eugenie Ladner Birch, in her article Dowtown Living: A Deeper Look (July 2002 issue of Land Lines published on the web by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy), noted this type of phenomenon: “Public/private partnerships have been essential in achieving changes in downtown living. The existence of productive interplay between focused interest groups, especially the growing number of business improvement district leaders, and public planning and economic development units has resulted in bold, imaginative, creative and thoughtful approaches to creating opportunities.”

The initial work to invigorate the downtown area probably seemed very slow but those residents and businessmen who persevered through some difficult times are doubtless reaping the benefits that a critical mass of new condos, apartments, shops, offices and restaurants have reached today.

As the national data indicate, the tide is rising for our downtown and others around the country. The continuing emergence of the City’s targeted efforts, many new shop owners, and many pioneering foundational owners are making New Bedford’s downtown a destination all over again.

Much more to come in the near future…..

September 24, 2007

South End of New Bedford – Reclaimed Berkshire Hathaway Mills Provide Space for Hundreds of Jobs

Opportunities for Success, Growth Abound at Diverse Cove Street Complex
New Bedford Economic Development Council

A diverse mix of 40 manufacturing, office and industrial tenants occupy the former Berkshire Hathaway mills and there’s still substantial space available for sale or rent, according to Roland Letendre, developer.

The complex boasts an array of uses ranging from an architectural salvage and antiques company to importers of Portuguese fishing nets, Chinese antiques and furniture replicas, an electric motor scooter warehouse facility and a plant that provides packaging to the fishing industry.

“Historic buildings in general have a lot of character and are ideal places to house your businesses,” said Letendre, who bought the one million square feet of space back in 2000. Dating back to the late 1880’s, the site’s 30 buildings spanned across 17 acres and the company employed more than 5,000 textile workers. Investor Warren Buffet gained control of the company in 1965 and closed the mill operation 20 years later.

Times have changed but the ethics and loyalty of the city’s employees remain intact. “The work force in New Bedford is excellent and many of our tenants are long standing and their companies keep growing,” Letendre said. Other pluses of the location include its proximity to beaches and water views, neighboring farm and coastal communities, easy access to Route 18 and other highways, ample parking and limited traffic.

“The whole south end area is great,” Letendre said. “It’s near downtown but not in the middle of it. This is a hub zone and as such, special consideration is given by government agencies to companies when bidding on contracts that are located in this zone.”

The Division of Marine Fisheries is among the agencies to recently rent space. Additional examples of tenants include a photographer, a medical practice supply warehouse, a surveyor and bookkeeper, and Letendre’s company, a leather goods manufacturer that supplies equestrian riding products as well as saddlebags and riding chaps for motorcycles to vendors nationwide.

“There’s ample, affordable space and a lot of opportunities here,” Letendre said, adding that it wouldn’t be unheard of to add a restaurant or artist’s apartment/studio into the mix. Letendre is looking for buyers to purchase or rent the buildings.

In the past, the New Bedford Economic Development Council has provided assistance and Letendre expects that partnership to continue. “It made a huge difference having the NBEDC involved and helping with financing. They are an asset to the city.”

September 24, 2007

2007 Working Waterfront Festival: An Authentic Success

New Bedford Economic Development Council

At the 2007 Working Waterfront Festival took place in New Bedford, America’s largest commercial fishing port, this past Saturday and Sunday. This free, family-friendly event opened the waterfront to the public and offered a rare look into commercial fishing, America’s oldest industry.

More than simply a celebration, the Working Waterfront Festival was a unique opportunity for the public get a firsthand look at the culture and traditions of the commercial fishing industry and for the working waterfront community to tell its own story. The event presented all that goes into bringing seafood from the ocean to the table in a way that is hands-on, educational and fun.

The 2007 Festival explored the many roles of Women in the Industry. Women are employed in all aspects of the fishing industry from skippering vessels to manufacturing gear; from running settlement houses to processing fish; from advocating for the industry to working in fisheries science; from owning boats to running shore side businesses. The experiences of women who work in the industry as well as those who are connected to the industry through familial ties was explored through a myriad of programs. In addition, the Festival continued to feature vessel and harbor tours, demonstrations and contests of industry skills, live music, fresh seafood, children’s activities, author readings, panel discussions and cooking demonstrations.

In just four years, the Working Waterfront Festival has quickly become a flagship event. The Festival was one of only three events in Massachusetts to be voted one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association for 2007. In addition, the Festival also received the Spirit of Commerce and Industry Award from the Southeastern Massachusetts Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Congratulations to organizers and volunteers who created another spectacular opportunity to showcase this jewel of our city.

September 24, 2007

Teledyne Chooses New Bedford for Nuclear Users Conference…AGAIN

For the second year, the City of New Bedford was the first choice for the annual Quiklook Users Group Meeting hosted by Teledyne Instruments Test Services, a Marion company with New Bedford roots.

According to general manager Roger Masson, the event was a great success. “When last year’s participants were so impressed by the city’s hospitality and the quality dinner we enjoyed at the Whaling Museum, we looked for yet another way to treat them to a New Bedford experience. We came up with a clambake served inside Fort Taber. What better way to give our visitors from all over the country an introduction to New England.”

After their conference sessions in Marion on August 15, 32 participants and several Teledyne staff visited the Military Museum and then boarded the Union Street Trolley for a one hour guided tour of the city. Participants remarked the tour gave them a good sense of the history and diversity of New Bedford.

Under a tent inside the granite walls of the fort, NBEDC President Anthony Sapienza welcomed the group, thanking them for their interest in New Bedford, and explained the basic role of the Council is to help create and retain jobs, and that a renewed mission is driving a specific strategic economic development agenda. “We feel the responsibility for the future of this city rests with its citizens, especially those in business, education and in community leadership roles,” Mr. Sapienza told the company’s test services business unit, a group of engineers and managers.

Having invited the group back for their second annual gathering, Mayor Lang greeted the group and said he was pleased to see they decided to return. The Mayor extolled the virtues of the city and doing business in the city.

“Interest in the city by companies like Teledyne Instruments shows an appreciation for what this city has to offer, not only this beautiful and historic setting here at the end of the peninsula jutting into Buzzards Bay, but to our legacy as a leader in technology.” The mayor outlined areas of progress he sees as indicators for economic development within the strategic goals he and his administration have set. The mayor told the group he hopes to see them next year.

With a lineage dating back to the 1930s, this unit of Teledyne Instruments has a reputation for high-quality, cost-effective products and technical support services. With almost 50 years of experience, the company has provided equipment and analytical services for use in hostile environments, including temperatures greater than 550oC and ocean depths of 7 kilometers. In addition to products, Test Services provides engineering services for field testing and on-site installation as well as consultation on stress/strain-related projects.

Matthew Morrissey, Executive Director of the NBEDC said, “In Teledyne’s case, they have made hundreds of millions of dollars in acquisitions in Marine Science companies, and events like these provide us opportunities to share with them our substantial Marine Science infrastructure and about locating their Marine Science units here, or investing in some of our smaller Marine Science startups. It all begins with a conversation.”

“The 32 participants represent a wide range of US geography from New Hampshire to Iowa to Georgia to New Jersey,” said NBEDC executive director Matthew A. Morrissey. “Once a part of Rodney Metals in New Bedford, Teledyne’s history links them to the city and their continued connection has brought an ever-widening population who have come to know more about the excellent quality of life we have to offer.”

September 24, 2007

Fast ferry pilot tests New Bedford – Woods Hole Connection Around Marine Science and Technology

Ferry links New Bedford, Woods Hole
By Steve Urbon
New Bedford Standard-Times

NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Scott W. Lang called it a “sleigh ride,” an over-in-a-blink transit from State Pier to Woods Hole to show local media the wonders of a watery shortcut to the “transportation hub” of Cape Cod.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun this morning,” he told the 75 guests, media representatives and crew who rode free on Monday morning as part of an introductory promotion.

New Bedford officials launched the trial service on Aug. 13 to see if there’s enough interest to resurrect the ferry route permanently.

Boston-based New England Fast Ferry Co. was the sole bidder for the twice-a-day service, which will run for four months.
Transit officials point out that the marine sciences labs and schools in the two ports are the primary target of the service, to eliminate the tedious drive across the Cape Cod Canal and around Buzzards Bay.

Several commuters on board Monday bypassed the highway ride to Wareham.

Others, hearing about the free tickets, brought their families for an excursion to the Cape on a perfect summer morning. For the first two weeks, the trips are free but starting next week the trip will cost $7 each way.

“We came for the fun of it,” said Mike Powell of Dartmouth, who was accompanied by his daughter, Sarah, and grandchildren Natalie and Justin.

Originally from Illinois, Powell said he hadn’t yet explored the area, so he grabbed the chance. Cape explorers can catch cabs in Woods Hole or take public transportation to Hyannis, where the ferries run to Nantucket.

Other passengers Monday, such as UMass-Dartmouth economics professor Daniel Georgianna, stepped off the gangplank in Woods Hole to experience how much easier it will be to do business there, where he holds a consulting contract with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“I try to come out here twice a week, but I can’t, especially in the summer,” he said. The drive is simply too taxing.
The fast ferry, by contrast, whisks passengers from New Bedford across to Woods Hole in less time than anything but a helicopter might take.

The speed is the selling point of the New England Fast Ferry, which is diverting one of its two boats twice a day from Martha’s Vineyard for the run out of New Bedford. As the summer tourism season winds down, the Woods Hole route will have its own ferry until mid-December when the four-month experiment ends. After that city officials will evaluate the program.

A $75,000 matching grant from the state Executive Office of Transportation will fund the trial ferry service. Survey specialists are being used during the test period to interview passengers to see what they like about the service and what they would change.

Thomas Lanagan of Mattapoisett, a student at the University of Vermont who also works at the Alvin group, of ocean submersibles fame, in Woods Hole, lamented “all the gas going back and forth” around Buzzards Bay by land, and was happy with the ferry. But he would like to see one change.

“I get off of work at four or five in the afternoon,” he said. But the evening run back to New Bedford isn’t until after 7 p.m.
That could change, however, said Kristin Decas, executive director of the Harbor Development Commission.

When the summer tourism season slows down, the ferry service may be able to adjust the trip times and may even add a midday round-trip if there’s a demand, she said.

Contact Steve Urbon at surbon@s-t.com.

August 23, 2007

New Bedford Tells Its Story in Creative Ways

Classic Yachts Play New Bedford Waters for Layover
By Don Cuddy
Standard Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — With a fine easterly breeze filling their sails, the line of classic yachts gliding through the hurricane barrier lent an air of gentility to the New Bedford waterfront Wednesday afternoon.

It is a sight that many along the shore are hoping will become more commonplace, among them economic development director Matt Morrissey, who went out in a launch to greet the boats as they sailed in from Edgartown just after 1 p.m.

“It’s great to see these beautiful boats entering our harbor,” he said. “We continue to support the working waterfront, but the harbor is large enough to accommodate a mix of uses. We see a real opportunity now to bring in more recreational boating and to market the harbor to different populations.”

The arrival of the beautifully restored yachts represented something of a coup for the city, Mr. Morrissey said.
Led by the 160-foot, three-masted, staysail schooner Arabella, the visiting fleet also included several Concordia yawls, among them the Captiva, owned by John and Laurie Bullard.

“New Bedford is known around the world as a commercial harbor, but as far as yachts go, it’s a secret,” Mr. Bullard said. “So when we bring in a fleet like this and they see the port and the services we have here and the nearby historic district, they are going to come back. New Bedford is an interesting and multi-dimensional port and, without interfering in any way with the working harbor, we have the potential to reap the economic benefit here that yachts bring to places like Edgartown and Newport.”

The classic yacht cruise is sponsored by the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, R.I., which is in the business of preserving old boats. This is their eighth cruise, but the first occasion the city port was included in the itinerary — and that came about fortuitously, according to Mrs. Bullard.

“I was at a nice dinner and met the man responsible for reviving the cruise, and I told him I would help him if he included New Bedford on the cruise track,” she said. “So he and James Russell, the vice president of IRYS, were able to convince the board of trustees to consider it. They came here in January and we took them out on the harbor and then they walked around the historic district and said, ‘We’re in.'”

Harbor Development Commissioner Kristin Decas accompanied Mr. Morrissey around the harbor, welcoming the crews and presenting each boat with a block of ice, Black Whale T-shirts, Port of New Bedford hats, and an impressive goody bag featuring a bottle of champagne with a customized label displaying the name of each individual boat, a glossy booklet describing the city and its attractions, a fleece top from Guy Cotten, Titleist golf balls and a flag from the Coalition for Buzzards Bay.

The gaff cutter Peggy Bawn, built in Carrickfergus, Ireland, in 1894 and still using cotton sails, was the oldest boat in the fleet, which included a number of extreme racing craft such as Nor’ Easter — an Alden “Q” boat — and the 1955 Concordia sloop Harrier, famous for winning all six races at Cowes Week in England that year, with the present owner Jesse Bontecou aboard.

“This is my first visit to New Bedford in about 60 years,” Mr. Bontecou said. “What a great welcome we’ve had!”
James Russell of the International Yacht Restoration School said the effort put forth by the city was overwhelming.
“We’re humbled,” he said. “The warm welcome the fleet received coming in with escort boats, bottles of champagne and all that the mayor and the Economic Development Council has laid on for us has been absolutely stupendous. We’re thrilled to be here, and I know we’re going to want to come back.”

After a gathering at Cork bar, the crews attended a dinner party at the Whaling Museum Wednesday evening and were scheduled to explore the waterfront and visit a fish processing plant today.

The cruise will end Friday with the fleet’s return to Newport.

By Wednesday evening, Mr. Morrisey was declaring the visit an unqualified success.

“The response we are getting is very positive. Everyone is saying that New Bedford is an undiscovered gem,” he said.
August 23, 2007

Another Film Company Comes to New Bedford

PBS Transforms Downtown New Bedford Into Walt Whitman’s America
By Philip Devitt
Standard-Times Correspondent

NEW BEDFORD — The men appeared dapper, the women, poised, as they strolled down Acushnet Avenue, dressed in Victorian clothing.

Several men walked hurriedly down the cobblestone street, perhaps late for a business appointment.

A woman in a hoop skirt seemed to glide along the sidewalk, cooling off her face with a folding fan.

An older man in less of a hurry smoked a cigar and pored over a book outside a store on the corner of Dover Street.
Throughout the historic district Saturday, people greeted each other with a smile, a curtsy or a tip of the hat.
This was Walt Whitman’s America.

PBS — not Doc Brown and his DeLorean — sent New Bedford back in time. The network was in town this weekend to shoot scenes for a documentary about Whitman, widely regarded as America’s most influential poet.

“Everything we’re shooting takes place in 1840s New York, so we did the research for what New York would look like at that time, cities that still have those qualities, and New Bedford was the perfect place,” script supervisor Sierra Pettengill said.

Acushnet Avenue on Saturday doubled as New York’s Broadway, where Mr. Whitman spent a lot of time, Ms. Pettengill said.
“When Walt Whitman wandered the streets of Broadway, he would identify with others. He saw himself in other people. He sort of loved that hustle and bustle of the city.”

About 15 extras, most of them local, worked on the outdoor scenes, dressed in period costumes.
For Alyn Carlson of Westport, Saturday was a chance to explore a new side of acting, and an old style of clothing, specifically the hoopskirt.

“It looks like it would be heavy, but it’s pretty breezy underneath,” she said.

Ms. Carlson works frequently with local theater companies and taught drama for eight years at Westport High School, but had not done much work in front of the camera before Saturday.

“It would be great to see more things filmed in the area,” she said. “Where else do you get cobblestone streets like this and gas lights?”

Amelia Ellert drove to the city from Reading to play a distillery maid. Carrying a basket, she braved the afternoon heat in several layers of clothing as she walked back and forth down the street.

“This is too fun to be a job. Work is supposed to be difficult, but this is fun. Two years of working in fast food shaped my opinion on that.”

Ann Marie Lopes, the city’s tourism director, watched the scenes play out Saturday, excitedly snapping photos of the action. She said the PBS crew purchased most of the props needed for the shoot from city antique stores.

“Its been a great experience, and the crew has been very nice to work with.”

Whitman is perhaps best known for “Leaves of Grass,” a collection of poems about nature and the human body and mind. He died in 1892.

Filming was scheduled to wrap up Monday and Tuesday. Ms. Lopes said the documentary is scheduled to air in January 2008.

Social worker Jane Flynn’s office at the Benjamin Rodman house on North Second Street was transformed into Whitman’s bedroom.

Socks dangled from the mantel above a fireplace in the office Saturday. A carefully placed curtain covered an air conditioner in the wall. And a modest twin bed, its sheets bunched up, gave the impression the poet had left in a hurry.

Ms. Lopes said she would like to see more film crews come to New Bedford and take advantage of the city’s resources.
“New Bedford is so unique, and it’s filled with all different kinds of people.”

August 27, 2007