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MIRTH WATCH 2010! Downtown Haverhill edition

December 20th, 2010 by

I was doing my routine skim of the Eagle Tribune about a week ago when I came across a real bummer of a comment on the latest installment of My Haverhill.

“I visited from FL last week. Where are the lights on downtown buildings? Where are the lights across Merrimack Street? How about on the fire station down by the river. Where’s the pride? Haverhill looks like a sad, washed up and run down city.”

As much as it stung, I agreed with the sentiment. At the time, the last time I had hung out downtown was during the Christmas Stroll, and the experience was definitely a mixed bag. On the one hand, I’d never seen so many people strolling around downtown at night before, which was pretty exciting! On the other hand, while there were quite a few activities planned and plenty of people trying to get into the spirit,  the streets were dimly lit and only a handful of storefronts (mainly just those participating in the event) were decorated for the season. The lamp posts were bare. Several groups of children approached us selling candy, but it was too dark to tell who or what the fundraiser was for. I went home feeling kind of sorry for Haverhill, and wondering what could be done to bring a little more holiday cheer to downtown.

I guess the Christmas Stroll was just a bit ahead of the holiday mirth curve, because since then I’ve noticed a surge in festive downtown window displays. In fact, tonight I took a jaunt through the snowy streets and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Christmas has arrived in Haverhill! Let’s take a look:

Trio of white trees at Art and Angles

Beautiful window boxes and tree at The Inside View

Tinsel tree at The Clip Joint

Jennie's Inc.

It should come as no surprise that my favorite windows of all belong to Jennie’s Inc. The whole storefront is packed with Christmas cheer, including lighted wreaths, trees, plastic Santas and one festive doe taxidermy- all ready for you to bring home for low, low prices. In fact, if you REALLY want to know what I want for Christmas…

Oh, yes please.

I’d be happy with either the reindeer head OR the accordion. I’m not picky!

I really hope that next year we can get our acts together and have the downtown fully spiffed by the Christmas Stroll. As that anonymous commenter proves, you never know who’s going to be passing through and we should always be sure our downtown is sending the right message* to visitors and potential future residents. And these downtown shopkeepers show us that together it only takes a bit of something special in each window to make a big impact overall.

*the message is “we’re awesome.”

Bradford Depot late night espionage

December 18th, 2010 by

Last night, passing through downtown on our way to check out Busy Arms at Kelley’s Pub, we noticed a freight train rolling over Washington hauling some unusual cargo. We were pretty excited to see such a shipment pass through town, so after watching it lope across the Merrimack from the Comeau Bridge, we caught up with it at the Bradford Depot where I managed to snap a few photos.

Hmmm...what could it be?

As it quietly chugged along in the dark a handful of staff emerged from Bradford Skateland, not only curious as to what all this stuff was, but why there was  some strange chick running up and down the platform trying to document it.

Figured it out yet?

In fact, one of the staffers flagged us down and with a stern face straight up asked if it was some sort of crazy top-secret rocketry and if I was engaged in espionage. (Geez- first UFOs and now secret agents?) Highly flattered, I confessed that I was actually not a spy, but a lover of alternative energy and we had spent the last fifteen minutes ogling a wind turbine.

Why don't we slap a couple of these up by the solar farm?

Meanwhile off it went creaking and clanking into the night, ready to bring clean energy to some lucky town down the line…

R.I.P. Ice Cream

August 20th, 2010 by

It’s a very sad summer for the Shoe City.

First, Margot’s Gallery closes up – then J.J.’s (with their creamy, creamy hummus) – and now downtown mainstay England’s Microcreamery is shutting its doors after ten years.

Posted on the door

This one is probably the saddest of all! England’s is something other than a bar, salon, discount store, or barbershop in the downtown area.

Luckily, I grabbed a pint of their delicious apple ice cream the other day – but hurry down because flavors are moving fast!

The Farmers’ Market

August 10th, 2010 by

A couple weeks ago, the lady and I ventured out into the devastating summer heat to check out the second week of the Haverhill Farmers’ Market.

As you’ll remember, I’m a big fan of fresh, non-diseased vegetables and I was not let down by the market.

Main St. and Bailey Blvd.

These were very, very tasty onions.

Real good in veggie tacos, fyi

I was a little underwhelmed by the amount of tents, but the quality of the food from vendors such as Wally’s definitely met expectations. I highly recommend checking out the market while there is still a good amount of summer left.

The ubiquitous summer corn on the cob

Check out the official website to get the low-down on the upcoming musical acts and other festivities.

I prayed for delicious - and it worked!

Sweet Sweet Thing’s Baadasssss Storefront

August 9th, 2010 by

Certainly, some of you have noticed this delightful new storefront adjacent to The Tap downtown.

Washington Street

No word on when the grand opening date will be yet – but progress is definitely coming along nicely.

I like cake.

Downtown fill in the blank…with a Trader Joe’s?

July 12th, 2010 by

Is 61 Locke St. ready for a "unique foods grocery store?"

Over the weekend, one of my earlier downtown fill-in-the-blank posts received a comment so exciting, that hit so close to home, I nearly fell out of my chair. Says Patrick:

“I think we should start a campaign to bring in a Trader Joe’s. It would answer the need for “necessities” near the lofts/train station with a really hip and affordable business.

The location is barely 1.5 miles from exit 50 of I-495, with only one traffic light (Lafayette Sq). The route looks good, except the rusty train bridge by the Haffner’s. The town just paved the giant parking lot.

Trader Joe’s has a much smaller footprint than a full-sized super market. I think 61 Locke St is a perfect place for the ONLY Trader Joe’s within 20 miles (Tyngsborough I think is closer than their Danvers store.)

The food at TJs is really AFFORDABLE, in addition to be healthy. They make a lot of pre-packaged, non-frozen prepared food, which is great for the urban life style of loft-dwellers.

What do you think of this idea?”

Well, I don’t know about you guys- but I, for one, LOVE this idea. Not that I don’t enjoy getting more for my dollar, but I would really enjoy some food shopping variety, as well as easier access to Pirate’s Booty. And it seems I wasn’t the only one getting all revved up by Patrick’s ideas. New reader/commenter Momma D piped in with support and conspiracy theories!

“I have been craving this type of discussion…why not reach out to Forest City who owns Hamel for their support…it would be a huge plus for them…not sure if there is truth to it, but I heard that the Demoulas/Market Basket owners were in bed with city government…thus that is what we are stuck with…granted the Downtown Market Basket can be quite entertaining.”

High on civic discourse (if not a bit of sunstroke) this weekend I tramped down to Locke St.  to investigate Patrick’s claim that the parking lot next to the train bridge had been paved. Sure enough, it has, but I’ll have to admit, I’m a bit skeptical that this will do the trick, parking wise. It’s a few blocks away from Locke St. and who’s going to be the poor sap who has to wrangle all the shopping carts down Essex?

Then, I got really excited, remembering that the former Radio Market was a tiny island in a great big sea of parking…that is now part of the Hamel Mill Lofts. Bummer!

Overflow parking for Hamel Mill Lofts

And on the other side of the street there’s a huge lot that’s part of the Cordovan. Rats! Still, there could be some sort of compromise between the loft developers and Trader Joe’s if things ever got that far.

Which leads me to ask: what do you think of having a Trader Joe’s down in the loft district?

Be sure to check out all of Patrick’s insightful comments and let us know! Anyone have any information or expertise that might help further the cause? I’ve got a serious hankering for some aged white cheddar puffed corn product!

Downtown bakery gets a little less Enchanted, hopefully a little more OPEN.

July 2nd, 2010 by

Enchanted Bake Shoppe: Closedde for Renovationsse

Allow me to be blunt here, folks. The Enchanted Bake Shoppe was one of those downtown businesses that always left me frustrated. I’d heard some really intriguing things about it, (namely tales of how they won the GREAT CUPCAKE WAR OF 2009) yet the countless times I passed by with hopes of snagging an after meal (or even afternoon) treat I was left disappointed by a dark interior and empty looking display case.

When this sort of thing happens to me,  I start honing in on tiny nit-picky details, like how much I hate places that add extra letters to words in order to sound more magical….*cough* shoppe *cough* (This is what happens when you deprive a girl of a cupcake, people.)

Despite all this, I was more than a bit shocked to see the windows covered in paper. I hunched down and took a peek to see what was going on inside…

A peak beneath the paper

Now, having never been inside the place while it was still Enchanted, I can’t say for certain, but it looks like the walls have been painted, and is that a new floor? Regardless, it’s looking pretty sharp in there.

Having learned my lesson from 12 hours ago when I was prematurely fretting about having a Subway downtown, (no permits have been pulled so it’s not official) this time I checked in with Assistant City Clerk Rick Barber FIRST to see if he had any insight into what’s going on at 108 Washington. And he did! After renovations the bakery will reopen under new ownership and a new name.

Best of all, the word on the street (my new nickname for Rick- what do you think?) is that so far, the new owners are planning on keeping later hours to cater to the after dinner dessert seekers like me! Awesome!

IMPORTANT BUSINESS IDEA: I would like to propose some sort of arrangement between this new bakery and England’s Microcreamery where if you buy a slice of cake you can run across the street and have a scoop of ice cream plopped on top. Genius, right?

I know some of you really loved Enchanted Bake Shoppe, so before you mourn the demise of what was (by all accounts other than me) a really great business with tasty confections, chin up! Enchanted Bake Shoppe is still around and happy to take your order…it’s just moved to a less retail-oriented space. I found this explanation on their Web site:

We opened our storefront in downtown Haverhill in September of 2007. After enjoying much success there, our lease came due and proprietor Kristen Eastman felt that a change was necessary and therefor the business will be moved in May 2010 to a non-retail commercial kitchen space. Despite enjoying the daily banter with regulars, we feel that our work will be better focused on custom work and projects that can reach further than our storefront. Our focus will continue to be on quality, attention to detail and creativity. We pride ourselves on creating confections that make your guests say “WOW”. We invite you to try our products and see for yourself what everyone is talking about!

Sounds like a win-win for downtown Haverhill and dessert lovers everywhere!

Downtown fill in the blank: 38 Washington…and an update!

July 1st, 2010 by

A couple months ago, I told you about a really cute storefront available at 15 Washington St. Well, this evening I was taking a stroll downtown and noticed signs of a new business taking shape!

At first I was really excited. (There may have even been a little jumping up and down- I will neither confirm nor deny.) But, then I noticed there was something peculiar about the paper in the windows.

A sandwich wrappered 15 Washington St.

I ran across the street to get a good look up close and sure enough…

Fresh and fit, maybe. But not quite what I was hoping for.

Um, wasn’t anyone listening to me when I said, and I quote myself here:

So, I’m thinking maybe another food-centric business at this location isn’t such a hot idea.

Or how about when I suggested:

…a cool vintage clothing store like Modern Millie in Salem and Newburyport. Or maybe some sort of home decor/gadget shop where I could run to and grab a nice gift in a pinch. Wine shop? Yarn store? Another coffee shop? Art house movie theatre? (not sure how big that second room is) Why, the possibilities are endless!

I have to admit, I’m kinda happy to see a fast food place I actually like popping up a little bit closer to home. But, I’d still have preferred to see an actual shopping district develop on the main drag. And, now I worry what impact this development might have on local sandwich shop, Heather’s. I’m just saying, it better not get in between me and my macaroni salad, or there will be hell to pay.

Okay, so let’s try this again…

No whammies no whammies...

Now available for lease is 38 Washington St. It comes complete with gorgeous flower boxes, a brick wall for extra interior pizazz, and plenty of space to open something that is NOT A RESTAURANT OR HAIR SALON PLEASE.

Annnnnnnnnnnd GO!

Haverhill Brewery: Hoptimus Prime

June 29th, 2010 by

Sure, you’ve enjoyed a pint out on the Tap’s deck on a hot summer day, or secretly swigged directly from that growler you keep stowed in your fridge when nobody’s looking. But, have you ever wondered how exactly our delicious hometown brew came to be?

Well, wonder no more, fearless readers! Recently, I found myself with a thirst for knowledge (not to mention beer), so I  headed straight to the Tap Brewpub where Haverhill Brewery’s charming (albeit sweaty) head brewer, Jon Curtis took a time out from the sweltering brew house to show me around the brewery.  He explained the entire process, from barley to bottle, and we caught it all on camera. Take a look:

Ever the perfectionist, I made sure we did plenty of takes of the beer tasting scene. I wanted to be sure we got it juuuuust right! (I have to say, sometimes being a blogger really pays off.)

Thanks to Haverhill Brewery’s head brewer Jon Curtis for showing us around the brewery while indulging my Laverne & Shirley fantasies, and as always thanks to the Firg for shooting and editing all the footage.

(Incidentally, you can follow Jon on Twitter, where right now he promises to brew another batch of delicious Berliner Weisse if he gets @ replies requesting it from 15 people. So get following and start tweeting- Mommy needs her medicine!)

Yahd Sale Roundup: 6/26 – 6/27

June 25th, 2010 by

Once again this weekend, Bradford is the place to be for yard sale action! These dayglo signs caught my eye as I was making my way down Salem St. this evening. But, there are some pretty great looking Craigslist listings on the other side of the river, too, including:

145 WARRENTON RD Saturday 8am to 1pm. Billed as “Gran’s cleanout,” this sale promises “lots of antiques/collectibles and old stuff.”

266 HYATT AVE Saturday 8am to 10am. They must figure it’ll only take 2 hours to unload the giant pile of “old stuff” they have pictured in the ad.

544 W. LOWELL AVE Saturday 8:00am to 1:00pm. Yet another person who can’t spell the word collectibles is forsaking a bunch of their material possessions.

MEARS FARM RD Saturday and Sunday 8:00am to ??? Multi-family with different stuff each day, including baby stuff, kids stuff, and high end stuff. Stuff to fulfill all your stuff needs!

As always, if you have a hot tip on a cool yard sale, email us and we’ll be sure to update this post.

Happy bargaining!