Archive for December, 2009

Local New England Business Success Stories: Amelia Maes and Company, Strafford, N.H.

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Very Berry Jam

Editor’s note: Dagne Goodwin, owner of Amelia Maes and Company (offering jams, jellies, barbecue sauce, vinegars and “dribbles”), of Strafford, N.H., recently shared her inspiring New England business story with us at We think you will appreciate the family’s will to overcome job loss and injury, and, ultimately, change their lives around (including the possible loss of their home) by turning a hobby into a job with passion. For those unemployed by this terrible economy and the greed that has hurt “Main Street,” know that you have the power to change your situation. We can look to people like Dagne and family as a model on how to make that change.

We hope you enjoy this “good news” story. In conclusion, we say “Shop Local, Buy Local, New England!”

Amelia Maes and Company LLC was born out of the sheer determination us Yankees are famous for.

It was a slow long process for them to find what gifts and talents they had that would one day become Amelia Maes. Keith is the master of barbecue in the family and I’m not talking about throwing some steaks on the grill, I’m talking about real barbecued ribs that take all day to cook on a charcoal fire. The one problem for him was the sauce. For years his family had been bringing sauce back from Kansas City but when his favorite sauce was discontinued he started the quest for another sauce, eventually developing his own recipe. Meanwhile, the family struggled with finances and with little money for Christmas the couple brainstormed ideas of what they could sell at a local craft fair called “Christmas in Strafford” (NH).

Dagne had long preserved food for her family from their small garden and decided on making jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles and the like. Keith cooked up cases of barbecue sauce, Dagne cooked up cases of all manner of items and they had to think of a name. Dagne and Keith decided on Amelia Maes, using the middle names of their two daughters. Christmas in Strafford of 2008 was a great success and made nearly $700 in one day. Christmas was saved for the family and though exhausted they were able to buy gifts and have a wonderful family Christmas.

The company wasn’t truly born though until the next year when Dagne was laid off from work. With Keith home from work with an injury and Dagne with no job at all, tough times were about to become tougher. Dagne felt as though if she waited for someone to give her a job they’d lose their small home and so she put herself to work. She researched how to get her kitchen licensed, created an LLC and started cooking in earnest. Literally on a shoe string budget the company was born and immediately began selling at Farm Stands and at Farmers Markets throughout New Hampshire.

The company is still small; all the products are made in the family’s home kitchen and sold to local shops at farmers markets or on line at The line of products now includes Goodie’s Barbecue Sauce, Apple Maple Dribble, Blueberry Pie Dribble, Raspberry Dribble, Very Berry Jam, Pear Apple Jam, Crimson Jam, Spiced Blueberry Jam, as well as three hot pepper jellies; Raspberry Thai Jam, Golden Hot Pepper Jelly and Emerald Hot Pepper Jelly.

Dagne had actually never had hot pepper jelly but her mother had told her that if she was making jam and jelly then she just had to make hot pepper jelly. And as Dagne says “That just goes to show you, that you should always listen to your mother”.

Amelia Maes & Co. LLC
Tel. 603 664-2472
916 Province Rd.
Strafford, NH 03884

The Customer Service-Oriented Natick Outdoor Store, Natick, Mass.

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

P1020103.JPGArticle and photo by Eric H.,

For quite some time, we’ve been on a losing streak by shopping at the big box sporting goods stores.

You might receive a scripted “Welcome to our store” greeting by the often trendy, disinterested storefront greeting crew, but from there you’re on your own. With a little luck, someone might be able to help you but without the solid knowledge of the product or whether that merchandise is right for the customer.

This disturbing trend actually started quite some time ago when I asked a chain store, sporting goods store employee about the quality of a tennis racket. With the smile of Alfred E. Newman and the look of rock singer Meatloaf, he pounded the racket on his knee and said with a laugh, “I dunno, it’s seems pretty good to me!”

The other day this longtime streak of bad sporting goods store shopping luck ended with a trip to the Natick Outdoor Store. The minute we walked into this store — that reminded us of where we shopped in the 1960s and 1970s — we knew something good was going to happen. Looking for skates, two young employees with intelligence, personality and knowledge fitted us for the right CCM brand. They also had the honesty to tell us not to buy the more expensive skates that really wouldn’t help at our level of skating skills. During this terrific shopping experience, we talked about local and national sports, and the towns where we live with some good opinions and laughs. The two employees didn’t leave us until they knew we had the right product. We exchanged pleasant “thank-yous” and saved a few dollars — great news, in this economy. Saving those dollars also made it easier to dine on some delicious Italian food at Augustino’s around the corner.

The Natick Outdoor Store has brought this customer-service oriented approach to its large store since 1947. From time to time, we’ve heard local, older generations talk about how special the Natick Outdoor Store is, and that “it’s the only place to shop,” for sporting goods. Growing up in this area, I had never been to the Natick Outdoor Store, but plan on doing so many times in the future. The layout is like something out of a 1940s movie with large, plain rooms showcasing, in a modest, slightly disorganized way, basketball, baseball, camping , canoes, kayaks, clothing, fishing, fitness, fly fishing, footwear, hockey, hunting, rentals, soccer, and work clothing merchandise. Much like that space ship in the opening scene of Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs, the store seems to go on and on forever, and with as much merchandise packed in as possible.

The Natick Outdoor Store reminds me of an Adirondack Mountain store that has a sunny, country feel and carries everything under the sun. Now Boston suburban Natick isn’t exactly the country, but, thankfully, the Natick Outdoor Store does seem to carry everything under the sun when it comes to sporting goods. What a victory it was for us, the often forgotten and neglected shopper!

Natick Outdoor Store
38 North Ave. Natick, MA
Phone: (508)653-9400

The Restaurant in Woburn, Mass., Is More Than Just A Restaurant

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Article by Eric H.,

The Restaurant in Woburn, Mass., could stand on its food and friendly, efficient customer service alone to make our list of the best locally-run businesses in New England, but owner Peter Mamakos makes this Greek-style cafeteria much more than just another dining spot.

On past Thanksgivings, Mamakos has opened his restaurant to the homeless to offer free Thanksgiving meals. What a wonderful act of kindness, giving up part of one’s own Thanksgiving and personal business profits to help those in need. Absolutely heartwarming, and so relevant given the toll the economy has taken on so many more people during these challenging times.

With that said, The Restaurant is worthy of a visit any other time of the year for those who are blessed to be able to afford dining out. Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, The Restaurant seems to hit a culinary home run every time out, especially with our favorite — the ultra-tender baked lamb with a nice fresh tomato and spice sauce and some very tasty rice pilaf. Other reports of standout dishes from its long, diverse menu: eggs benedict, chocolate chip pancakes, spinach pie, lemon soup, pasticchio, chicken pot pie and homemade macaroni and cheese with fish cakes.

Kudos to The Restaurant for serving comfort food and Greek-style hearty meals in a comfortable, moderately-sized dining room setting, but also by doing so with a sensitivity to community challenges. Reaching out to others, is, after all, one of the tenets of traditionally great locally-run businesses by placing the customer and community first. This is ultimately the type of restaurant we are happy to spend money on — and have a great meal, in the process!

The Restaurant
489 Main Street
Woburn MA
Tel. (781) 935-2511

A Mom and Pop Market and Deli, Vermont Style

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009


Article and photo by Eric H.,

Kerrigan’s Market and Deli in West Burke, Vt., opened in late December 2007, and ever since then has faithfully met the needs of West Burke and surrounding Northeast Kingdom Vermont communities that previously had to travel distances for certain grocery needs and made-from-scratch, take-out food.

Kerrigan’s is reminiscent of the old-time neighborhood markets with a sunny, friendly feel and lots of perfectly lined-up inventory jam-packed into a few isles. Like the old-time markets, Kerrigan’s not only fills a community niche but is also interested in building relationships with the customers, many of whom the staff knows in this sparsely populated rural area. Kerrigan’s also provides a valuable service to those travelers visiting for the fall foliage season, skiing during the winter at nearby Burke Mountain and hiking at Mt Pigsah or swimming at pristine Lake Willoughby during the summer.

Owner Judi Kerrigan says that “everything here is made from scratch,” including homemade pizza and a special pulled pork sandwich that is baked for six hours with a special rub — then hand-pulled and topped with Kerrigan’s “special” barbecue sauce.

Kerrigan's Market and Deli Owners, Dave and Judi Kerrigan

Kerrigan's Market and Deli Owners, Dave and Judi Kerrigan

“In today’s rush-rush society, we felt a need to serve food made from scratch, and close to home,” says Kerrigan. “For many people around here, it was 15 miles to another pizza place. By the time you brought the pizza home, it was all cold and hard. Our food is all fresh, and close to home. People are sincerely appreciative of our business and have embraced it since we opened.”

Some other specialties: a delicious steak and cheese sub with shaved black angus steak mounded with grilled onions and green peppers and cheese with mayo or mustard, and cinnamon rolls, muffins, cookies, donuts and cakes — all made on the premises. Kerrigan’s also sells beer and wine.

Kerrigan’s Market and Deli is a family business venture with Judi, husband David (a local EMT), daughters Keri, Melanie, Jennifer and Judi’s Mom, Pat, working at the market. There’s a beautiful feel to the modest-looking store, where people come in, order, sit in chairs, relax, and enjoy local conversations.

While running Kerrigan’s Market and Deli consumes most of their daily time, Judi feels the business is a dream-come-true.

“I spent years making money for everyone else,” said Kerrigan. “We felt is was time to do something for us. We’re doing just that and creating a business that our customers have really enjoyed.”

Kerrigan’s Market and Deli
Open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m.-9p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-8p.m.
4080 US Route 5
West Burke, VT
Tel. 802-467-8800

Cheers to Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge, Mass.!

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Editor’s note: We are always interested in your feedback on the best locally-owned places to shop in New England. Today, one of our readers, Pam, writes in to tell us about Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge, Mass — thanks, Pam!:

Yankee Spirits has been in business for more than 30 years in Sturbridge and have grown in the last 15 to include locations in both Attleboro, Mass., and Swansea, Mass. Locally owned and operated by Sturbridge native Michael Cimini, Yankee Spirits is also a family business, previously owned by Mike’s father. Yankee Spirits, especially its Sturbridge location, has been a destination. Its stores are huge and offer great discounts on beer wine and liquor and a selection of product unparralled. They are a community staple and every year donate and raise tens of thousands of dollars to local community organizations and non profits. Their staff is super-helpful and don’t mind answering even the most naive or most complicated of questions. They have some fantastic experts on staff like Joe, the wine guy in Sturbridge, and John H., his Attleboro counterpart.

Yankee Spirits
376 Main St.,
Sturbridge, MA
Tel. 508-347-2231

New Age Meets Country Store at Mmm-Marcia’s Sweet Shop, Wrentham, Mass.

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

marcias-wrenthamArticle and photo by Eric H.,

Once upon a time, Mmm-Marcia’s Sweet Pantry, in downtown Wrentham, Mass., served as, primarily, a classic, old-fashioned candy and baked goods shop.

Now the experience is even sweeter with all the tasty goodies still intact, but also with an interesting mix of bulk foods, crystals, teas, aromatherapy necklaces, Webkinz toy pets, doll clothing and accessories and even acai berries and sprouting seeds!

The mix is quite eclectic, but never cloying or annoying as so many new age shops can be. The overall feeling when visiting Marcia’s Sweet Pantry is still old-fashioned — the type of place where kids park their bikes and run in the store for some penny candy, whoopie pies, or brownies (the picture above says it all).

We love the local feeling of Marcia’s and the homemade treats –especially the truffles. Marcia takes great pride of baking daily, and really focusing on the customer, thus meeting our criteria on what makes a great local business and passing with honors at our “Shop Local, Buy Local New England” blog!

Marcia’s Sweet Pantry
38 South St.
Wrentham, MA
(508) 384-7100

Great New England Christmas Destinations and an Old Country Store…

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

P1080740Article and photo (Adams Farm, Cumberland, R.I.) by Eric H.,

Our latest feature articles at center on the best New England Christmas Destinations, as well as the Old Country Store and Emporium in West Mansfield Village, Mass.

While the choice of holiday events in New England is seemingly endless, we picked some local businesses that we feel represent the best of Christmas fun in the six-state region. This includes, but is not limited to, Enchanted Village at Jordan’s Furniture in Avon, Mass., Edaville Railroad Annual Christmas Festival of Lights, Carver, Mass., and Christmas at the Newport Mansions, in Newport, R.I.

We also have written about “Christmas at Adams Farm” in Cumberland, R.I., a special destination (and a family business around since 1900) with hay rides passing by a wonderland of holiday lights and beautiful rolling farm land, as well as other highlights like apple cider, hot chocolate, farm animals (cows, horses, goats), background Christmas music, visits from Santa Claus and healthy-looking trees and wreaths for sale. We strongly recommend calling ahead for hours before embarking on this fun destination at 401-333-1727.

The Old Country Store and Emporium is located in southwest suburban Boston — not a place you’d expect a country store that looks like something out of a Vermont village scene. What a tour de force of what makes country stores so much fun, featuring several rooms of home goods and furnishings, food (including sweets and freshly ground coffee, maples products, Vermont Common Crackers and a peanut butter machine), toys, player pianos, bird feeders, books, crafts, hardware, antiques and memorabilia, an amazing collection of grandfather clocks, cosmetics, and locally made furniture.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas — we hope you enjoy these special destinations, powered by some of our favorite locally-owned and operated businesses in New England!*

* Editor’s note: Bass Pro Shops, mentioned in our “great New England Christmas Destinations” is not a locally-run business,” but a wonderful one, nevertheless!

Focusing in on Myopic Books in Providence, R.I.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

myopicArticle and photo by Eric H.,

If you enjoy visiting used book stores, then Myopic Books in Providence, R.I., will serve as a great new chapter in your search for wonderful rare and new used books.

Myopic Books, located in the quaint Wayland Square “East Side” neighborhood, truly epitomizes the “neighborhood” book store with its stacks of books in a modestly-sized, non-cookie cutter storefront. The feeling is casual — the perfect place to browse for books, and not feel like employees are constantly looking over your shoulder. Specializing in art, architecture, local history, philosophy, modern firsts, gardening and cooking, Myopic Books fits in nicely with the Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design crowd, and, really, any book lovers, for that matter. The more than 20,000 volumes could have you staying an extended time, and returning to this local book store gem again and again!

Myopic Books
5 South Angell St.
Providence, RI 02906
(401) 521-5533

Some Locally-Owned New England Stores You’ll Love

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

P1020289Article and photo by Eric H.,

“Shop Local, Buy Local New England!” is our latest blog, but our writing about locally-owned New England stores started many years ago. We have always enjoyed visiting and writing about locally-owned New England stores, whether they be household names or “hidden gems.” While you can expect articles to be written here on a regular basis, we also thought you might like to read some stories on local New England shopping from the past. Without further delay, here are some independently-owned stores in New England that we think you’ll find quite interesting:

Chutters Candy Shop, Littleton, N.H.

The Lighthouse Depot, Wells, Maine

West Concord 5 and 10, West Concord, Mass.

Antique shopping in Putnam, CT

Vermont Country Store, Weston, Mass.

Wayside Country Store, Marlborough, MA

Lords Department Store, Medfield, MA

New England destinations to satisfy your sweet tooth

The Shire Book Shop, Franklin, MA

Maynard Outdoor Store, Maynard, MA

Kittery Trading Post, Kittery, ME

A visit to Stonewall Kitchen in York, Maine

Just An Old-Fashioned Children’s Clothing Store…

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009


Article and photo by Eric H.,

The old-fashioned slogan, “You can always find it at Brenner’s” translates to a great variety of children’s clothing and Girl and Boy Scout uniforms, insignia, basic handbooks and crafts.

Brenner’s Children’s Shop, located in Norwood, Mass., looks like something out of an old-black-and-white movie depicting small-town America. Joyfully stuck in time with mannequin window displays, long narrow somewhat disorganized isles, and a good-natured, helpful elderly couple who add up total costs the old-fashioned way — by pen or calculator — make Brenner’s a one-a-kind children’s clothing store.

This type of store wasn’t always “one-of-a-kind,” but formerly a staple of many of our New England communities when growing up “back in the day.” The fact that Brenner’s can survive amongst the larger department stores and “superstores” is heartwarming, but really not surprising. Locals love supporting the owners and their up-to-date merchandise, and have so for more than the past 30 years.

Brenner’s Children’s Shop
694 Washington St.
Norwood, MA
Tel. (781) 762-2276