Let’s get down to business. This column is a place for just about anything related to business in Plymouth, from comings and goings to announcements and events to an examination of the gears that drive the town’s economic engines.
We’ll start downtown, which technically is in the northeast part of this sprawling community, not anywhere near the center. It’s one of the many quirks of Plymouth’s geography and naming conventions that confuse newcomers. (Another one: Route 3A slices through downtown, but over that stretch its name changes from Court Street to Main Street to Main Street Extension to – depending on your definition of downtown – Sandwich Street.)
Downtown and the waterfront are just a block away from each other, but to some business owners it can feel like miles. Figuring out how to get tourists to wander up from Water Street to Main has long frustrated downtown proprietors. It’s a problem I wrote about in the 1980s and ‘90s, when I was editor of the Old Colony Memorial. The difference today is that the downtown area is more vibrant and diverse. Back then, there were plenty of parking spots because there were plenty of vacant storefronts. Honestly, it was depressing. Now there’s a tangible buzz on the street. Possibilities outweigh pessimism. But challenges remain. Where is downtown headed and who’s steering its growth? Is there a good mix of businesses? And why do so many business owners feel frustrated by their dealings with town government?
More on all that down the road, but for now, here are three small businesses that are part of the new downtown scene. Their owners – all women – are part of a growing group of entrepreneurs bringing new ideas to an old town.
64 Court St. – heydaysupply.co
Step into this tiny shop and you’ll quickly get the sense that someone had a vision and executed it with aplomb. That would be owner Jordan Berry. She packs a lot of products into the space, but it all makes sense and doesn’t feel cluttered. The mix of home décor goods, self-care products, specialty books, and more is carefully curated – a modern collection that reflects Berry’s personal aesthetics.
“I love antiques. I love the tourists that come, but I wanted to create something for folks that are younger, not just in age, but in spirit and in heart,” says Berry, who opened her shop in 2022 after working as a commercial photo and video producer. Incredibly, it all happened in less than eight weeks. “I’m focusing on artists who make the products directly and brands that give back to the community.” That means many of her products are from environmentally-conscious businesses and artisans, and that some proceeds go directly to causes she believes in. For example, Berry sells candles that are part of a campaign to fight human trafficking.
“Ideally, money is going directly back to a person or a cause that’s trying to benefit the greater good,” she explains.
Berry’s challenges include getting noticed. The store is across the street from Pilgrim Hall Museum, a section of the commercial strip that is often overlooked.
“Getting the word out has been the hardest part. But the most uplifting part has been the community support. It’s really true what they say – 20 percent of your customers do 80 percent of your business,” she says. “In general, people want Plymouth to succeed. They want it to kind of branch out a little bit from just the tourism.”
E Knits 4U Studio & Gifts
Elaine Kassam’s E Knits 4U, across the courtyard from Heyday Supply, requires a little further searching. Like Berry, Kassam is the sole proprietor of her shop, which she opened after moving to Plymouth from Acton two years ago. “I’m a Canadian girl at heart. I was born in Canada,” she says.
E Knits is “basically hand knits and crocheted items that I make for those that don’t do it themselves,” Kassam says. “I do a lot of custom orders. For instance, I had someone come in from Boston College who wanted to get a [crocheted] eagle made in the colors of the BC eagle.” She also sells handmade soaps, seasonal goods, candles, and jewelry.
Like other businesses at this end of the downtown district, E Knits struggles to attract attention. “I have repeatedly been told by people who have lived here 15, 20, 30 years that they had no idea there were businesses here,” Kassam says. “They’re like, ‘Well, where are you?’ And I start listing. I’m by Vela Juice Bar. I’m by Artisan Pig. I’m by Style Unlimited. Do you know where Pilgrim Hall is? And they’re like, ‘um, no.’ One morning I went to grab a coffee and I was leaving Keegan’s [Kreations] and there’s two women in front of town hall looking down this end of the street. One says to the other, ‘We won’t go that way. There’s nothing down there.’”
But Kaasam is counting on that to change, partly because of downtown’s “phenomenal” restaurants, especially compared with Acton. “People don’t realize how good the restaurants are here,” she says, “so that is something we definitely have in our corner. People want to come out and eat. What we need them to do, though, is wander around and find more of Plymouth.”
1 Main St. – www.sprezzatura.com
Christine de la Torre was living in Austin, Texas, and working as a high school science teacher when the pandemic arrived. By January 2021, she was done with remote learning. “I promised myself if I was ever burnt out as a teacher, I would switch careers,” she says. That switch also included a major move. During visits to Plymouth with her boyfriend, “a New Englander,” de la Torre found the town “very supportive” of small businesses. “So I thought, if I can open a small business anywhere, it’s probably here.”
Sprezzatura, on the corner of Leyden Street, focuses on women’s clothing, along with some home goods. “I have a little bit of everything,” de la Torre says. “I have things for going out, things for special occasions, big life events. But I also have everyday clothes, too. I try to find comfortable clothing that works for many different situations.”
Her customers range from teenagers “all the way up to grandmas… the majority of people are probably in their late 20s to like early 40s.”
For downtown to prosper, de la Torre says, it needs more retail stores to make it more of a shopping destination. “We have great restaurants, but we need a balance,” she says. “That’s a big part of attracting tourists and also locals [to] downtown.”
One problem: Who’s going to help make that happen?
“Plymouth is a gigantic town. And no one entity focuses on just the downtown businesses and helping promote and support and deal with problem solving,” de la Torre says. “We’re all small-business owners who are already busy.”
Still, she envisions more special events like the annual town tree lighting festival, when the street is closed to vehicles and becomes an outdoor gathering place. “We can put it out there that Plymouth is not just a town to come to for dinner, but also for shopping and events,” she says. “How cool would it be to have a fall festival down here, in Town Square, right up the street? Just have an excuse for people to get downtown and enjoy it. Let’s not just coast off the Rock or the Mayflower and the Pilgrims. Let’s find other reasons to celebrate our hometown.”
The Plymouth Independent wants to hear about local businesses, from out-of-the-gate startups to sole proprietor operations to long-established corporations. We ask that your submission be brief and not overly promotional. Please include contact information, your precise location, and – whenever possible- a good quality photo. We probably won’t publish your release word for word, and we don’t guarantee publication, but we’ll do our best to get the word out about your company or organization. Plymouth businesses only, please. Send your news to: email@example.com.
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