SBA Offers Disaster Assistance to Small Businesses in Berkshire, Hampden, and Worcester Counties in Mass. Impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Release Date: 
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Release Number: 20-5
Contact: norman.eng@sba.gov, 617-565-8510 / 202-853-5792

Boston – The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Connecticut small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced today. SBA acted under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, to declare a disaster following a request received from Gov. Ned Lamont on March 15, 2020.

The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of Connecticut; and the contiguous counties of Berkshire, Hampden, and Worcester in Massachusetts; and Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester in New York; and Kent, Providence and Washington in Rhode Island.

“SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist Connecticut small businesses with federal disaster loans. We will be swift in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19),” said Administrator Carranza.

SBA Customer Service Representatives will be available to answer questions about SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and explain the application process.

“Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred,” said Carranza.

“These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Disaster loans can provide vital economic assistance to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing,” Carranza added.

Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov(link sends e-mail) for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.

The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 16, 2020.

For more information about Coronavirus, please visit: Coronavirus.gov

For more information about available SBA resources and services, please visit: SBA.gov/coronavirus

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About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.

Original story here.

Restaurant/entertainment complex at Davy’s site is moving forward

At last week’s Planning Board meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve the site plan for Cisco Kitchen + Bar, proposed by Stephen Silverstein, the founder of Not Your Average Joe’s and owner of the Black Whale and his partner Jay Harmann of Cisco Brewers in Nantucket.

According to Director of City Planning Tabitha Harkin, they are drafting the decision on the site plan and once it is signed it will be in the appeal period for 20 days. After that, Harkin said they can obtain building permits.

It was the second time the site plan had been before the Planning Board, and based on recommendations from the first hearing and their interaction with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Steve Gioiosa, President of SITEC Engineering, said some changes were made. Gioiosa was presenting the plan on behalf of Silverstein and Harmann.

The biggest changes to the original plan includes changing the surface of the entertainment area, which will have a space for live music and portable kiosks offering food and beverage service, from a turf surface to sand.

“We settled on going with a sand surface, the idea is to establish more of a coastal feel for the site,” Gioiosa said. “We have a beach area that exists to the south of the site.”

They also worked to make the space more accessible to cyclists, with bike racks offering spaces for 66 bikes, according to Gioiosa, and pulled pavement away from the shoreline to comply with environmental protections.

“I do feel that the Planning Board’s comments took us to a better place,” Silverstein said when reached for comment, saying their recommendations made the site more user and environmentally-friendly.

The Planning Board also said they would support the project as it pursued permission from the Zoning Board of Appeals to put in a seashell parking lot at the site.

At the Planning Board meeting Silverstein did say he and his partner were getting “fatigued with this project” because of the delays which were costing them money.

“The economics and the delays will make this a project that we’re not able to go forward on,” Silverstein said, if they didn’t get the necessary approvals soon.

Since the Planning Board voted to approve the site plan, Silvesterin said, “We fully intend to go forward. We still have to get through the Conservation Commission, we need our final approvals from the DEP, so there are a couple of things hanging out there, but I don’t expect any issues.”

Silverstein said he doesn’t think the approval process he’s gone through is atypical but he decided to say something at the meeting because, “I just needed them that night to not delay us any further, so I made a statement that we need approval otherwise the deal’s going to die.”

Now that they’re receiving site plan approval, Silverstien said, “It’s not a done deal but we are gaining momentum. I would be disappointed and surprised if it didn’t go forward.”

Silverstein said they expect to start site work construction on the estimated $5 million project in January, which would allow them to open in May.

Kathryn Duff, Chair of the Planning Board, said she imagines the project is going to be quite successful and told Silverstein at the meeting “I love how the plans were updated, really nice job.”

However, Duff did bring up a concern about pedestrian safety since they will be leasing a parking lot three blocks away for overflow and event parking.

“We’re proposing a deep use on this site and we need to think of many people walking from a parking area that’s three blocks away,” Duff said.

One of the conditions that the Planning Board added to their approval was that the applicant works with the Department of Public Infrastructure on delineating the pedestrian path from the additional parking area to the site.

Ward 6 Councilor Joseph Lopes attended the meeting and said he doesn’t see any traffic issues arising from the project.

Lopes said he had neighborhood meetings to discuss the project and said “Not one of the neighbors expresses any concerns related to [pedestrian travel to the parking area]. Their main concern was no parking on the west side of East Rodney French Boulevard.”

Lopes said he is already working with the appropriate groups to get no parking signs on that side of the street.

The neighbors of the site have been supportive, Silverstein said.

Something was going to go on that site, Silverstein said, and “The neighbors have decided that this operation under my oversight is the best it can be.”

The site will be based on Cisco Nantucket, and Silverstein said, it’s just a place where everybody feels good, with music, food, beverages, and sunshine.

“If Jimmy Buffett were to open a place, this is kind of what it would l like,” Silverstein said of the New Bedford project. “Sand and flip flops and fish sandwiches, outdoor cooking with pigs on rotisseries, and lobsters steaming, and oysters being shucked.”

Original story here.

A “Capitol” investment in New Bedford’s north end

By Steven Froias

NEW BEDFORD, MA – There may be no building more poignant on the urban streetscape than a former movie theater shorn of its original purpose and left to fend for itself in a world which has relegated it to oblivion. These noble structures dot the landscape of cities across America as symbols of obsolescence – yet retain a powerful hold on the collective imagination and help form the emotional infrastructure of any given place.

The former Capitol Theater in New Bedford, Massachusetts is just such a building. Its position in the city’s history as a destination location and community incubator on the commercial corridor Acushnet Avenue is legendary.

But its role into the future has long been in doubt.

Until now.

THE CEDC BUYS THE CAPITOL THEATER

The Community Economic Development Center (CEDC), a non-profit organization dedicated to enabling opportunity for all segments of society, has recently purchased the former Capitol Theater. The CEDC has also entered into a partnership agreement with Waterfront Area Historic League (WHALE), which will rehabilitate the building for adaptive reuse. Together, the two will return it to center stage in the civic life of the City of New Bedford.

The impressive effort will see the Capitol Theater repurposed into office space, affordable housing units, street level retail and a new home for the CEDC with enhanced economic development and vocational programming. When complete, the $5.7 million project will prove transformative in scope for this revitalizing north end neighborhood.

“There’s a reason theaters occupy a hallowed place in preservation history,” explains WHALE Executive Director Teri Bernert. “They were and are centrally located to have maximum impact on a city’s commercial and cultural well-being. The Capitol Theater is a perfect example of that in the past, and now into the future.”

An initial feasibility study for the project was funded with a Local Initiatives Support Corporation grant. LISC is one of the country’s largest organizations supporting projects to revitalize communities and bring greater economic opportunity to residents, according to its website, lisc.org.

When the economic resilience of the property and project was judged sound, the CEDC then secured Community Preservation Act Funding in 2019 in the amount of $350,00 to help purchase the Capitol building, which sold for $450,000. The application for CPA funding was the first in the City of New Bedford to utilize those funds for a project that includes affordable housing.

REPURPOSING HISTORY FOR THE FUTURE

WHALE’s mission is to foster historic preservation and continued use of the city’s architectural heritage to enhance community and economic vitality in New Bedford. The non-profit development corporation accomplishes this through the restoration and reuse of historic structures which provide commercial development, affordable housing to low and moderate income individuals and families, promotes arts and culture, and educates on the importance of the historic and architectural culture of New Bedford’s diverse people.

WHALE entered into the partnership with the CEDC after completing its usual feasibility assessment for any project. The conclusion was reached that not only was the project feasible, but also necessary to further promote the CEDC’s mission in the north end of the city.

The Community Economic Development Center, currently located at 1285 Acushnet Avenue, fosters economic justice in the local economy through people-centered development, with a focus on community members who have recently immigrated here. They connect youth and adults to skill-building opportunities and resources. They also help foster community networks and collaborations to promote cooperative action for social change. The CEDC will relocate to a refurbished Capitol and expand their efforts when construction is complete.

“Ensuring that everyone in New Bedford is engaged in every facet of its economic and civic life is our primary goal,” says Corinn Williams, Executive Director of the CEDC. “With this project, we can realize that mission for years to come while anchoring Acushnet Avenue in the city’s future as well as its past.”

Preliminary plans include offering a mix of programs in an opportunity center that can accommodate demand and meet the needs of the diverse North End population. Uses under consideration for this center include textile and culinary incubator spaces, arts and culture studios and workshops, and vocational training programs in Spanish. The greater Acushnet Avenue neighborhood has a large population of Central American, Latino and Hispanic residents who are critical to stabilizing urban areas.

The entire project will also include six retail storefronts and six affordable apartments. Several of the retail locations have already drawn interest; future tenants may include a Vietnamese restaurant and an attorney’s office, joining an existing bodega. When complete, the project will, in effect, return the building to its former prominent place as a commercial destination.

THE CAPITOL TAKES CENTER STAGE ON THE AVE

The Capitol Theater building at 1418-1440 Acushnet Avenue was constructed in 1920 in an early twentieth-century American commercial style. It is a two-story brick building and was originally designed as a multi-use building to include street-level storefronts, second-floor office spaces, and a single-screen, 1500-seat movie theater.

According to research compiled by WHALE, The Capitol Theater building contributed both to the growth and development of the twentieth-century entertainment industry and to the rapid late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century development of the Acushnet Avenue commercial corridor, affectionately known as “The Ave” in New Bedford.

As several mills opened to the north of the old city boundaries of development, hundreds of houses were built along the intersecting streets of the thoroughfare, and hundreds of businesses opened and developed in turn along “The Ave” to provide services and entertainment to the growing population.

The Capitol Theater was constructed for Allen-Charrette, Inc., a local theater company owned and operated by theater proprietors George W. Allen, Jr. and Thomas J. Charrette. Today, the building still bears their names in concrete on the facade of the building.

Much of the block has been vacant since the theater closed in the mid-1970s, and the second floor of the commercial block has been largely vacant since the 1970s/80s. Some of the first-floor storefronts have been occupied until more recently, but four out of the six storefronts are currently vacant. A redemption center is located in one of the storefronts and uses the vacant theater as warehouse space, and a market is located in another storefront.

The commercial block section has undergone a patchwork of interior renovations, and the building has suffered overall from vacancy, lack of maintenance, and, particularly in the theater block section, considerable water infiltration. The building currently ranges from fair to very poor condition.

Still, the Capitol Theater is one of only a few surviving theater buildings in New Bedford. While over twenty theaters opened here during the first quarter of the twentieth century, the Capitol Theater building is one of only five surviving theater buildings in the city, and one of only two located in the north end. (The other is the former Strand Theater, now also under WHALE’s care and under renovation for use as a fully-functioning Cape Verdean Cultural Center.)

The Capitol Theater’s location on Acushnet Avenue is significant as you travel the street. It’s renovation will have a large visual impact on the streetscape. Yet, it is the project’s social and economic impact which will make it transformative in this neighborhood, as WHALE well knows from its impeccable planning before beginning any project.

A Capitol Theater restoration deserves a capital fund-raising effort, and 2020 will be devoted toward bringing this vision to life on “The Ave.” In addition to historic tax credits, additional CPA funding and other preservation funding, an appeal will be launched for private donations.

The CEDC is one of a handful of community development centers that was chosen by Massachusetts to receive tax credit allocations. What this means is that as a donor of $1,000 or more, you will receive a 50% state tax credit on top of the federal tax deduction. Effectively, a donation of $1,000 is reduced to an out-of-pocket $325 contribution due to this tax provision.

WHALE, too is a beneficiary of this tax credit. In partnership with the CEDC on the Capitol Theater project, a variety of fundraising measures and appeals will help each reach their goal of a restored Capitol Theater community hub for New Bedford’s north end within two years.

MassINC Loves The Ave

Published November 24, 2019

In an annual event that is now in its seventh year, the Boston-based public policy group MassINC recognizes individuals, groups and organizations who are employing innovative strategies to revitalize the state’s Gateway Cities.

This year, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, MassINC acknowledged the work of Love The Ave for its work along the commercial corridor Acushnet Avenue and in the City of New Bedford’s north end. Love The Ave was given a MassINC Gateway Cities Innovation Award at Worcester’s DCU Center for its efforts.

In recognizing Love The Ave, MassINC wrote, “Love the Ave is a community-driven group of engaged residents, dedicated local business leaders, and partner organizations working collaboratively with city officials to catalyze New Bedford’s revitalizing north end commercial corridor, Acushnet Avenue.

“To date, the effort has led to infrastructure and streetscape improvements, including wider sidewalks to accommodate cafes and provide space for benches, bike racks, and pedestrians, and improved lighting. Also, as components of a broad marketing campaign to brand Acushnet Ave’s ‘International Marketplace’, the Love the Ave team has organized two restaurant week promotions, created murals and other public art, and hosted cultural festivals.

“Building on this momentum, the Community Economic Development Center and WHALE are transforming the long-dormant Capitol Theater into a mixed-use resource hub for the community. Launched with organizing assistance from the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance’s Great Neighborhoods Initiative, this collaborative undertaking epitomizes the kind of multifaceted partnership needed to achieve equitable transformative transit-oriented development in Gateway City station areas.”

Traveling to Worcester to accept the award were team members Angela Johnston, of the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC); Corrin William and Brian Pastori of north end’s Community Economic Development Center (CEDC); the artist Tracy Barbosa of Duende Glass, Inc.; and Love The Ave Community Media Manager, Steven Froias.

Also representing New Bedford at the event, which consisted of policy panels as well as the awards luncheon, were Derek Santos, Executive Director of the NBEDC; Tabitha Harkin, Director of City Planning for New Bedford; and Colleen Dawacki resident, School Committee member and Working Cities Challenge Manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

“Being recognized by MassINC was a terrific validation of the work we’ve been doing in New Bedford’s north end,” commented Love The Ave’s Steven Froias. “The goals of our group and their organization align perfectly.”

MassINC’s mission is to promote the growth of a vibrant middle class in Massachusetts, with a focus on its Gateway Cities like New Bedford. They seek to achieve impact by moving ideas to public policy through civic engagement.

#NorthEndNB Mission

Love The Ave personifies that mission in New Bedford.

Love The Ave is a committee of diverse community members dedicated to promoting the equally diverse commercial corridor, Acushnet Avenue and all of New Bedford’s North End.

Its mission statement states, “Love The Ave believes Acushnet Avenue has a beloved past, dynamic present and thrilling future as the heart of the North End.

“The commercial corridor and surrounding neighborhood is home to the city’s International Marketplace – a collection of cultures reflected in its many restaurants, businesses, services and opportunities – and vibrant Riverside Park among other unique destinations.

“Its residential population enjoys the area’s most walkable neighborhood. From dawn into the evening, The Ave, as it is affectionately known, is a hub of activity.

“Up and down The Ave and throughout the North End you’ll find a community of civic and private enterprises of all backgrounds working together to create a destination like none other on the South Coast.”

#LoveTheAve in New Bedford

Launched with the help of the MA Growth Alliance’s Great Neighborhoods program in conjunction with the CEDC, Love The Ave has brought public art to the walls and streets of the north end; sought to support and engage small business owners and social equality groups throughout the area; promotes cultural events celebrating a diverse community; and organizes an annual Restaurant Week to define the north end as a regional dining destination and promote New Bedford’s unique cuisine.

“Receiving this Innovation Award at this particular time is especially gratifying as 2020 will see Acushnet Avenue reach the tipping point,” Froias says. “Significant projects underway like WHALE’s renovation of both the historic Strand Theater, which will showcase the contribution of Cabo Verde residents in our city as the Cape Verdean Cultural Center, and the Capitol Theater, which will become a one-of-a-kind mixed-use community hub, will represent a new milestone for north end’s revitalization.”

Love The Ave welcomes any and all engaged partners to the group. You can follow news and events through its Facebook page here, and contact Angela Johnston at ajohnston@nbedc.org for more information about upcoming meetings.

Original story here.

Groundwork celebrates 5 years with expansion plans in New Bedford, Fall River

Posted Nov 16, 2019 at 8:00 AM. Updated Nov 17, 2019 at 11:16 AM

Groundwork is about the unique inspiration and creative synergy that comes from bringing people together.

You may be used to the traditional idea of an office: rows of desks of cubicles with company employees banging away at a keyboard.

But in the 21st century economy, “the office” for many means their kitchen table or couch or a table at a nearby coffee shop where the Wi-Fi is free.

But some of the workers are eager for some fresh air and fresh ideas. Not to mention some social interaction.

In its fifth year, Groundwork is creating a community within the community with a concept known as coworking, which has taken off across the country as more people work remotely or from home.

Groundwork has experienced enough success so that they are making plans to expand their New Bedford office and open another in Fall River in the coming year.

“Groundwork is a community-oriented environment of collaboration,” said Donna Criscuolo, executive director at EforAll, a local non-profit agency that has held a membership at Groundwork for four years and has played an important role in its development.

“It goes beyond just getting work done, you’re around other people exchanging ideas and socializing as well. It’s friendly, upbeat, and there’s good energy. There’s always something going on that’s meaningful.”

Coworking could benefit businesses from the interaction of its members along with the opportunities to socialize and start friendships, officials say. It can be a receptive and comfortable approach to networking into which entrepreneurs can immerse themselves.

“We strive to create a welcoming feel,” said Groundwork owner and co-founder Sarah Athanas. “You don’t feel that you’re in a stuffy office with cubicles and dropped ceilings — you just show up with your laptop. Everything’s here for you that you would want in an office and more.”

The New Bedford expansion will see Groundwork add more private offices with an announcement expected soon on the details surrounding that plan, Athanas said. “Our Fall River expansion will be part of the Creative Class project, a mixed-use development that will include residential units as well as coworking and other commercial space,” she said. “That is currently slated for the end of 2020.”

Groundwork provides members with free Wi-Fi, printer access and bottomless coffee, tea and snacks. There are “phone booths” for those people who want privacy for their phone calls.

In addition to traditional tables and chairs, there is a kitchen area as well as an art gallery featuring the work of local artists. There is a new opening at the gallery every month or two and the public is invited to attend the openings. Yoga classes are held each Wednesday.

Depending on your membership, you may have 24/7 access to the facility, with opportunities to use any of the three meeting rooms. They also offer private offices, a locking file cabinet and a personal desk via tiered membership plans.

There are also “soft seats” and tables for relaxation and conversation.

Located in the Quest Center building at 1213 Purchase St., the space boasts 6,000 square feet. It is spacious, well lit, polished clean with high ceilings that serve to create an open, airy environment.

“It’s a unique, beautiful space with a great vibe,” said Ed Craven, a regional marketer with the bookkeeping company Supporting Strategies. He has been with Groundwork for two years.

Groundwork currently has 85 members working in an array of industries. Clientele include a variety of professions in fields such as education, design, web developing, software and app development, real estate, legal work, accounting and financial planning. There are also consultants including one person in the spirits industry working with a vodka brand.

The organization also hosts a number of local non-profit companies. In addition to EforAll they work with Civic Support, Gnome Surf, Leadership SouthCoast, Southeastern Mass Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP), South Coast LGBTQ Network and the New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program.

Athanas said some companies will pay for employees’ coworking memberships.

“Large organizations will pay for people to do coworking because they see it making them more productive,” she said. “A lot of companies think that it’s a perk that helps with retention — employees are more likely to stay if they’re benefiting from being able to come into a fun environment.”

In an effort to bring people together, Groundwork hosts frequent events for both its members and the public. Athanas employs a time-tested approach to social interaction – food.

Some of Groundwork’s events include a trail mix social every Tuesday afternoon.

Athanas said “it’s very basic, but it gives people an opportunity to wander over from their desk and chat and interact.”

Each November during the week before Thanksgiving, Groundwork kicks off the holiday season with a pie contest. “We eat a ridiculous amount of pie and drink a lot of coffee,” Athanas said. “People are invited to bring their family and friends.”

A new event held monthly is called “Breakfast of Champions.” Breakfast is served to members that morning before listening to a member give a 10-to-15 minute “lightning talk” about their current project. The event serves to solicit feedback and support from other members.

Anathas said that “it helps people really understand what other people are working on and it can become a subject to discuss.”

Groundwork also hosts workshops that are available to the community for a small fee. The workshops are run by professionals and deal with topics such as using social media, marketing your business, legal issues, financial planning projections and being more creative.

The organization also opens its doors to the public on AHA! Nights every second Thursday of the month, allowing for free open house coworking. They also offer day passes.

Opportunities for non members also include being able to rent one of their three meeting rooms. They have seating for eight, 20 and 30 people and may include a whiteboard, a flat screen TV, a digital projector, a Polycomm phone, and a USB microphone. The offices are paid for hourly and may be rented for half days or full days.

But in the end, Groundwork focuses as much on the intangibles of interpersonal interaction as it does the hardware of the office space.

“What really excites me about this business is that it’s really about knitting the social fabric in society, something that has been missing with all of our digital communications and devices,” Athanas said. “The most important thing to see happen is when there’s some social interaction, when you see members talk to each other who’ve never interacted before. At the end of the day it’s about working together and developing relationships so that people care about each other.

“When people care about each other they work harder, they work together and everyone rises together.”

Groundwork is one chapter in an internationally expanding industry. According to the Coworking Resources website, these businesses have “unique features and, at the moment, are extremely successful. They are experiencing tremendous growth, utilizing various business models from franchising to more boutique, customized services.”

A native of Bourne, Athanas was introduced to coworking while living in Buenos Aries, Argentina and working as a freelance marketer and consultant. She has a degree in art from the University of California — Santa Barbara.

“When I returned to the U.S., I found myself working at home in the winter. I felt isolated,” she said. “I wondered how I could interact with peers or find people that are working in the same areas as me,” she said. “I thought ‘This is a need that really needs to be filled in this area.’ It was time for me to step up and do something.”

Mindy Wallis moved to New Bedford from the Chicago area three years ago. She was soon to be a member at Groundwork thanks to a suggestion from her realtor. She is an instructional designer for CareAcademy in Boston.

“I work from home, but I wanted to meet people,” she said. “I knew that if I didn’t find some place to work outside my home that I would have a hard time meeting anyone. I went to Groundwork hoping to find some people and it’s worked out great.

“At the time I started, they were having a holiday party and they said ‘Come along, it’s pot luck.’ I told them that we hadn’t even unpacked our dishes yet, and they said ‘It doesn’t matter, bring something or don’t, whatever works for you, just come on along.’ They told me to bring my husband even though he isn’t a member. They were exceedingly welcoming. It allowed me to get to know people rather quickly.”

Athanas co-founded Groundwork with Dena Haden, who left the company to become the program manager at the Co-Creative Center in downtown New Bedford two years ago. Early on, they approached the New Bedford Economic Development Council and earned their support.

They eventually received a grant from Mass Development to cover their startup expenses while the city offered them a discounted rent opportunity. EforAll was eventually recruited to become a member and they assisted with expanding the Groundwork community, mostly through small businesses.

Angela Johnston is the director of business development, marketing and communications for the EDC.

“The city invested in Groundwork and Groundwork is now giving back by lending their support to the coworkers and entrepreneurs in the region,” Johnston said. “They realized that folks who are coworkers come to a space wanting to feel a part of something, and they have created that something.”

Athanas is teamed at Groundwork with the full-time contributions of community manager Caitlin Joseph.

“Caitlin and I have a weekly meeting every Monday morning and one of the agenda items is our members,” Athanas said. “We spend a lot of time discussing in depth what’s going on with the people who do their work here. If someone is going through a hard time, perhaps they just had a surgery, we may discuss sending them a care pack. We really want to be there and provide them with what they need so they feel that they’re appreciated when they come here.

“We put a lot of effort into learning about each new member,” she said. “We’ll find some people to introduce them to who might have common interests, and we make sure to invite them to our social events. We want people to feel comfortable from the start.”

“With such a wide variety of people and industries every day is different,” Joseph said. “You’ll see a lot in a week.”

Original story here.

Women rule — the downtown New Bedford business scene

Posted Nov 9, 2019 at 4:00 PM

NEW BEDFORD — Women rule. Obviously.

And while you’re thinking of all the ways they do, here’s one more: They’re rocking the business scene in downtown New Bedford.

From cafés and clothing shops to fitness studios and salons, the compact center of the City that Lit the World has them all — many run by women.

“I always just wanted to be downtown,” said Lori Gomes, easing into an upholstered chair at Beauty Union, her salon next to Custom House Square.

A West End native, Gomes had a flair for hair as far back as high school, when she did hairstyling for friends in the bathrooms at New Bedford High. She got her first salon position in the city’s Times Square Building in 1989, and later went out on her own, opening L’Atelier Boutique Salone in a second-floor space above what is now dNB Burgers.

Still, she craved a location even closer to the city center, and a year ago, she moved to a first-floor spot on Acushnet Avenue, in the Co-Creative Center, under the name Beauty Union.

One of the things that surprised her about going into business was how much working capital she needed. A plumbing problem — a big deal at a salon — delayed her opening by two months, and she had already been paying rent on the space for three months before the delay.

Her stylists are young. Gomes likes the idea of giving them a chance to succeed in New Bedford, without moving away.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

With help from Elissa Paquette, who owns the women’s clothing shop Calico and is president of Downtown New Bedford Inc., The Standard-Times recently connected with more than 30 women making waves downtown. Most of them own businesses. A few lead cultural institutions, such as the New Bedford Art Museum.

Paquette first came to New Bedford one summer when she was a student at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, in Boston. She sublet an art studio from a friend. They ate Mexican food at No Problemo and checked out the Solstice skate shop.

She felt awed to see local business owners in their 20s.

“I had never seen that outside Williamsburg (Brooklyn),” she said.

Paquette had dabbled in selling vintage clothing on eBay, and she decided to make a go of it with a brick-and-mortar store in the Whaling City. She opened Calico as a vintage clothing shop in 2005, in a second-floor location over a nail salon.

After three years, she moved to a first-floor shop. But filling the larger store with curated vintage merchandise wasn’t easy. So she spent $1,000 to stock new clothing in a handful of styles. People bought them right away.

“That’s when I knew I was on to something,” she said.

One of the best things about being the boss, she said, is creating a culture and being in charge. But it means you’re in charge of everything.

“It’s the best thing, and the worst thing,” she said.

She jokes with employees that if the store needs a new vacuum, they’ll have to ask corporate — which, of course, is her.

Although she loves her job, she said leaving behind a 9-to-5 schedule may not be as freeing as some people envision.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said.

Paquette and Standard-Times photographer Peter Pereira, intrigued by the number of women who own businesses downtown, organized a photo shoot. More than 30 people showed up. Twenty-five subsequently answered a Standard-Times survey designed to give a broader view of women’s experiences doing business in the city center.

UPS AND DOWNS

Jenny Liscombe-Newman Arruda, co-owner of the art and craft gallery TL6 the Gallery, opened the shop with a friend, Arianna Swink. They studied metalsmithing together at UMass Dartmouth. At first, they made jewelry in a basement studio and sold it at other shops. But when the former White Knight Gallery became available, they decided to go for it.

“We were like, ‘This is our chance,’” she said.

It’s a labor of love. Both of them have other jobs, Swink as a tax accountant and Liscombe-Newman Arruda as a waitress at a downtown restaurant.

She said she feels some disappointment that city government hasn’t done more to help small downtown businesses. She also wasn’t satisfied with last year’s holiday parking program, which only allowed free parking for two hours. Anyone who got ticketed for parking longer had to present a same-day store receipt to get the ticket forgiven.

“That’s not welcoming,” she said.

She does approve of the newly extending parking times downtown, and she said the transition from the old Holiday Shops event at the Whaling Museum to the broader Holiday Stroll has been a success.

“I am a positive person,” she said. “But if we don’t speak up about problems, they won’t improve.”

WOMEN IN THE LEAD

Leaders working together to do better is one of New Bedford’s biggest strengths, and women are in the vanguard of that effort, according to Margo Saulnier, creative strategist for the city. From the founding of AHA! Night 21 years ago to the consortium of 27 people implementing New Bedford’s arts and culture plan, “it is the female leadership who are generating that collaboration,” she said.

What follows is a small sample of survey responses from 25 of the women who make downtown click. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

WHY NEW BEDFORD?

Abrah Zion, Miss Z Photography: I was born and raised in New Bedford. Downtown is a thriving hub. I wanted to be located in a central area and among other amazing business owners.

Cheryl Moniz, Arthur Moniz Gallery: Arthur (her husband, who died last year) and I were both born in New Bedford. We both loved the waterfront and New Bedford’s historical buildings and the rich history of downtown.

Cecelia Brito, Celia’s Boutique: I knew when I walked up and down Purchase Street, Union Street, etc., that I had to put “location” at the top of my to-do list. Location, location, location.

CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED?

Lara Harrington, Boutique Fitness: Other people’s livelihoods are now dependent on our dedication to the growth of our business. This can be a challenge but also a motivator (and a wonderful thing to celebrate).

Jessica Coelho Arruda, Tia Maria’s European Cafe: Finding work-life balance, and figuring out how to finagle it all, has been a challenge. The first couple of years were the hardest, but as the business has grown, it has become easier to manage. I make it a priority to plan ahead, work efficiently and schedule time off.

Alison Wells, Alison Wells Fine Art Studio & Gallery: The biggest challenge for me is that in my career, I used to wear one hat: the artist’s hat. When I became a business owner, I suddenly had two hats to juggle, and it has been a challenge to balance them and not let one area suffer.

Elona Koka, Cafe Arpeggio: The amount of time the business requires, especially as a new owner, takes away from spending time with my family. I don’t really get to spend too much time with my daughter.

ON BEING A WOMAN IN BUSINESS

Caite Howland, The Beehive: I’m a mom, and making my own schedule is a great blessing. I get the chance to take some extra time while my kids are still young.

Val Kollars, New Bedford Tattoo Company: The tattoo industry is very male-dominated and very difficult for female tattoo artists. It’s what pushed me to have my own business.

Alison Wells, Alison Wells Fine Art Studio & Gallery: We often have to work harder to prove ourselves in gaining recognition and resources in the male-dominated art establishment. Having my own art business has helped me to carve out a role and niche for myself as a female artist of color. I have learned that being a business owner is about relationships and offering something more than the product itself, and this, in fact, is a unique strength women have.

Original story here.

The Butcher Shop celebrates family, friends and food in New Bedford

Posted Nov 2, 2019 at 8:17 PM

Joe Pinaretta is excited to share some details about a recent vacation he and his family took to Spain. The food, the sun, the cities — Barcelona, Madrid — the European lifestyle that encourages one to soak it all up at leisure.

But when he’s asked, at 70 years of age, if he’s ever really contemplated retirement, there’s an almost incredulous note in his voice when he answers, “No. I take a few days off now and I can’t wait to get back to the store!”

That may be because that store isn’t just any business. That store is The Butcher Shop on Dartmouth Street in New Bedford.

The Butcher Shop is a rare and precious thing — an independent grocery that’s up and close personal. It has evolved over almost 40 years into one of those quintessential and now iconic establishments that help define New Bedford. It’s no cliche to write that it’s roots run deep into the community. In fact, it is the community so many seek.

None more so than its owner. “I love the people who come here,” he says. “Both the old people and the new people,” just discovering the shop and its authentic flavor. They’re why he never seriously thinks about retirement.

The Butcher Shop features locally sourced meat and seafood. That translates to made-on-the-premises linguica, chorizo and ribs, for example, and New Bedford scallops, for another. Patrons have the choice of either shopping for the ingredients they need to indulge their own culinary ambition, or to select lunch or dinner from their hot prepared foods menu.

The shop is renowned for several specialty items. That linguica and chorizo for starters. It takes two days to fill and then smoke. Also, the hundreds of pounds of cacoila sold each week — in sandwiches, by the plate, in platters or by the pound. The aroma of both fill the air as you enter The Butcher Shop.

Augmenting either option is a carefully curated market. Its shelves are full of familiar and also slightly exotic items — with an emphasis on products from Portugal, but impressive in its eclectic global range. The shop sells beer and wine, too — and its wine cellar is as thoughtful as its pantry.

Knowing just what to stock is a matter of experience, says Joe Pinaretta. But, the experience of over almost 40 years of business at The Butcher Shop includes more than just food. It’s full of family and friends, too.

His wife Maria Pinarreta and sons Ryan and Eric all work at The Butcher Shop. His daughter decided to pursue another career. Something her mom did, too, as a top executive at Luzo Community Bank and Bank 5 before she did actually retire — to The Butcher Shop.

There, she rejoined her husband in an adventure that has characterized their life together since they met and married. It’s also where she makes the shop’s signature rice pudding as well as select other baked goods that entice customers as they pay for their purchases.

Joe Pinaretta was born on San Miguel and then went to Canada. It’s there where he met Maria, and from where the two immigrated to New Bedford to be near family.

At first, Pinaretta worked as a laborer in various capacities, but soon felt the urge to be an entrepreneur. Although, he didn’t care much for his first venture, a fish market in New Bedford’s North End, where he still lives. It lasted a year.

But then, The Butcher Shop on Dartmouth Street was soon born.

Its first location was at 87 Dartmouth St., where Hawthorne Florist & Gift Shop now resides in a building that Pinaretta still owns. That’s across the street from Vasca Da Gama Restaurant, which he also owns, though it is run by one of his sons now.

About 10 years ago, The Butcher Shop moved to its current location at 123 Dartmouth St., a corner store that provided more room for the business to grow. It needed it. Pinaretta says that last year was The Butcher Shop’s best ever, and this year looks to beat that record.

From 123 Dartmouth St., the crew of five in total not only runs the store but prepare an average of 40 hot meals a day for lunch and dinner take-out. They also cater special events, and even offer holiday fare such as prepared Thanksgiving turkey dinners.

Busy days now begin to blur together as the holiday season approaches. It is not uncommon for Pinaretta and company to begin one day at The Butcher Shop … and then see it turn into another before it’s quitting time.

The decades-long success of the business isn’t what Joe Pinaretta is most proud of, however. Nor is it the fact that he is almost a one-man neighborhood stabilization plan, due to his long commitment to investment on Dartmouth Street

For Pinaretta, it’s all about those people he longs to continue the conversation with every day at The Butcher Shop. Some of those customers have, over the years, come to feel as if they were family themselves, he says.

“There’s nothing like waking into The Butcher Shop,” he declares, “and hearing ‘Hey, Joe!’ from the people I know so well.”

“It gives you energy,” he says. “And I appreciate them every day.”

Original story here.

True Value Hardware and Marine proposed for Popes Island

Posted Oct 21, 2019 at 5:39 PM. Updated Oct 21, 2019 at 6:24 PM

NEW BEDFORD — Popes Island could be getting another True Value Hardware.

Shoreline Resources LLC, managed by father and son Michael and Charles Quinn of Quinn Fisheries, has submitted a site plan to the city’s Planning Board to convert 143 Popes Island “from a dedicated fabrication facility to a True Value Hardware and Marine Store with areas for retail, item storage, and a machine shop.”

Fairhaven True Value Hardware was located at 23 Popes Island and closed in March of 2018 after 46 years at that location when owners Bob and Mike Chandler retired.

Michael Quinn said they decided to open a True Value because, “They have a very deep inventory and a great business model they actually…contacted me about taking over the presence here after the Fairhaven Hardware shut down.”

The fact that a True Value closed down in a location nearby doesn’t worry Quinn, he said, “If anything, that made it a stronger case to reopen a hardware store in an area that it thrived in for so long.”

The new proposed location is on a property that includes 137 – 143 Popes Island and has two existing buildings, associated parking, and a large open-air storage area in the rear.

A Standard Marine Outfitters store is in the 10,065 sq.ft. one-story building, but according to the Planning Board’s staff report, no improvements or alterations to it are proposed.

The 34,785 sq. ft. building located behind the Standard Marine Outfitters currently houses East Coast Fabrication Inc, a company also owned by the Quinns, and its layout will be modified.

Quinn said they will only be using about 15,000 square feet of the facility for the True Value and East Coast Fabrication will use the remaining portion

The staff report says the face of the East Coast Fabrication warehouse will be remodeled to include a True Value entrance architectural feature, an automatic double door entrance, and a handicap ramp.

Other site improvements that were listed included re-stripping and re-paving existing parking areas to meet city zoning regulations, which will create a total of 73 parking spaces.

Since the site borders the Acushnet River, Conservation Agent Sarah Porter commented in the staff report that a Notice of Intent needs to be filed with the Conservation Commission.

According to Porter, a Notice of Intent for the proposed hardware and marine store was filed by Scott Taber of Shoreline Resources, and the Conservation Commission has sent the project to their consulting engineer (Nitsch Engineering) for a review of the proposed stormwater design to ensure it meets the MA DEP Stormwater Management Standards.

The site plan says the improvements on the site will not be phased over more than one year.

The Quinns recently purchased the old Revere Copper and Brass site and said they plan to turn into a commercial shipyard and their long-term goal is to build new commercial vessels and barges.

“The plan is to eventually move the ship building over to the new property at Revere over time and utilize Popes Island as a more of a supply hub…for more commercial and recreational outfitting,” Quinn said.

The Quinns also recently purchased six of Carlos Rafael’s 11 scallop vessels, they already owned six of their own scallop boats.

As for why they’ve chosen New Bedford for their businesses, Quinn said, “I would say I grew up in New Bedford, this is our home. We’ve got tight-knit relationships within the city. It benefits all of our companies to strengthen New Bedford and strengthen the area around us.”

A representative from Shoreline Resources will be presenting the site plan for the TrueValue Hardware and Marine store to the Planning Board on Nov. 4, according to the city’s website.

Original story here.

Quinn Fisheries buys six of Carlos Rafael’s scallop boats

NEW BEDFORD — Quinn Fisheries, a father and son who own six city fishing boats and who are expanding into their other waterfront operations, has purchased six of Carlos Rafael’s 11 scallop vessels.

According to Undercurrents, a fishing industry publication, the acquisition was confirmed by Michael Quinn, the operations manager and co-owner of the company with his father Charlie Quinn. The purchase doubles the size of their scallop fleet to 12 and will cost the company about $40 million.

Mayor Jon Mitchell announced the purchase at a hastily announced 3:30 press conference Wednesday afternoon. The mayor had sought to keep the bulk of Rafael’s boats in New Bedford after federal courts ordered the fleet owner to get out of the fishing industry after he was convicted of falsifying fishing records. He is currently serving a nearly 4-year federal prison sentence at Fort Devens.

“With the Quinn family’s acquisition of Carlos Rafael’s scallopers and related permits, New Bedford can be assured that a major piece of Rafael’s fishing business will remain here, as we have advocated all along,” Mitchell said in a statement released later in the afternoon. “The Quinns are a widely respected local fishing family that continue to reinvest in the port, and create and retain good paying jobs.”

The Quinns made news in July when their company, Shoreline Resources, LLC, purchased the 14-acre Revere Copper Products property on the waterfront for $50,000. They plan on turning the former copper products factor on North Front Street into a commercial shipyard for both shipbuilding and repairs.

According to Undercurrent, the Quinns had a previous deal to buy seven of Rafael’s vessels for nearly $46 million in August. BASE’s seafood auction owners Richie and Raymond Canastra attempted to block the agreement as part of an apparent attempt to acquire the same vessels, according to Undercurrent News. A Bristol County court associate judge blocked a restraining order, freeing up the Quinns and Rafael to complete their purchase.

The new vessels acquired include the Acores, Athena, Apollo, Gypsy Girl, Hera II and Villa Novo Do II, according to Mitchell’s statement.

Original story here.

Downtown business women boosting confidence and commerce at Shimmer and La Vie est Belle Apothecary

In the heart of downtown, two women are revolutionizing the way we think about beauty.

With the growing fad to use natural and ethical beauty products, two new store fronts have found a home in New Bedford, and thanks to the passion from their owners, they’re aiming to outlast any trend.

Wellness and happiness with one’s self is closely tied to beauty at each store, and the women who operate them each take their own original spin on the idea. The result? Two one-of-a-kind experiences where the customer is put at the front of mind.

Take Shimmer, located on 187 Union Street, owned and operated by New Bedford native Katherine Lowe. The store itself is fresh and minimalistic in nature, clean white walls and natural wooden shelving. Inside, Lowe has tactfully arranged her curated collection so that a customer new to the “clean beauty” trend does not feel overwhelmed, but rather captivated and excited to try something new.

“I wanted the room to reflect the products, clean and understated,” explained Lowe, who with a background in business came up with the idea for Shimmer after her sister developed severe allergies, and she began researching “clean” product options. Clean products are ethically sourced, never tested on animals, and made with our wellness and the environment in mind.

“I did so much research on what is actually clean, non-toxic, and ethical, and wanted to create a place where people could find these products and know that what they are using is safe,” said Lowe.

According to Lowe, as the concept of clean beauty has grown popular, the trend has not been particularly regulated, and just because something says “organic” does not necessarily mean it is ethical. “It’s really important to me that all the products I’m selling are things I would recommend to my sister,” she said.

In addition to beauty products, home goods such as laundry detergent and all-purpose cleaners are available at Shimmer as well. Lowe recommends and reminds her customers not to feel pressured to switch to all-natural products all at once, but rather try a few products at time to find what works best for you.

Just a couple of blocks down away on 30 North Water Street is La Vie est Belle Apothecary, owned and operated by Dr. Tammy Gleeson, a thoracic surgeon with SouthCoast Health.

The store is a romantic dream with a French eclectic flair. The dark wood, mirrors, and accent pieces like the fabulous pink sofa by the register transports customers back in time to the days of the original apothecary.

“My focus is to make people happy, and feel good about themselves,” said Gleeson, who has lived downtown herself for the past three years, after running her own private practice in Michigan for a bulk of her career. “I realized I’m not getting any younger, and it was time to do something different. You can’t take life too seriously,” she said.

La Vie est Belle, or “Life is Beautiful,” is the perfect name, and the tiny details made by Gleeson add to the store’s artistry.

The apothecary, which is described as a “fortress of relaxation and peace” on its website, features all-natural beauty products including perfumes, essential oils, and a table full of soap selections. Furthermore, Dr. Gleeson offers aesthetic medicine such as facials and botox, and will soon offer cool sculpting.

Expanding the treatment and wellness component to the store is a goal for Gleeson, who specifically researched skin-care products that could help with acne, scarring, and wrinkles. Everything available at the store has been researched and tested by Gleeson, including the all-natural dog shampoo, thanks to the help of her English bull-dog, Salvadaor.

Both Lowe and Gleeson explained that the support they’ve received from the downtown community has been wonderful.

“The small business community has been so supportive. There’s such a sense of community downtown,” said Lowe, who has deep ties with the community as her father is a long-time teacher at New Bedford High School, and her mother served as an admissions clerk at the Whaling Museum for 30 years. “I always knew I’d open a boutique downtown someday.”

“I love downtown New Bedford,” said Gleeson, who although is newer to the area, explained how much change and growth she’s seen just in the few years she’s lived there. “The neighbors have been extremely supportive. It’s been a fun adventure, and will continue to be as we grow,” she said.

“It goes hand and hand with the wellness industry,” said Lowe, sharing that a goal of hers is to one day offer make-up application and product consultation at Shimmer. “Younger generations are paying close attention to what is in their products, and how safe it is for their bodies and the environment.”

“When people leave the apothecary, I want them to feel comfortable, happy, and confident,” said Gleeson, who further explained that looking and feeling our best can boost our confidence and overall happiness. “They deserve to feel a step closer to who they want to be,” she said.

Original story here.