Anyone thinking that mom and pop downtowns are a thing of the past should take a stroll down Main Street in Hudson, Mass.
Downtown Hudson always had a nice, small town USA look but
as recently as 10 years ago, nearly 40 empty storefronts
created a blighted scene that seemed insurmountable to overcome. The
chain stores nearly killed off downtown Hudson, but the reality is that
the two business worlds can peacefully co-exist and prosper as proven
in northeast United States towns like Melrose, Mass., North Attleboro,
Mass., Exeter, N.H., Dover, N.H., Old Saybrook, Conn., Guilford, Conn.,
and Oneonta, N.Y.
It seems that Hudson folks understood this concept and reality.
Instead of doing nothing or thinking the situation would
correct itself, many elected and appointed town officials, as well as
business owners, decided to create a vision for the downtown and, more
importantly, act on it. Once a
prosperous shoe manufacturing town, Hudson has become well-heeled in a
different way in the 21st century.
Starting around 2008, Hudson elected and appointed
officials, residents and
business owners -- believing in the power of small business and the
importance of a downtown district -- went against all jaded mindsets
together, miraculously created a downtown
that, to this day, not only brings people downtown but brings them
Always a pleasantly walkable Main Street, locals now have
a purpose in their step to utilizing the downtown featuring an
impressive blend of new and older stores and
restaurants. What's more, the transformation didn't turn the
downtown into another generic, faceless, sterile "Anytown USA" place as
the historical elements and charm remain intact and often restored to
wonderfully co-exist with novel 21st century small businesses that fill
a niche in town. The quaint feel still abounds with a beautiful,
town hall, library and fire house, as well as stores that meaningfully
back to the 1800s. The natural appeal of Liberty Park and views
of the Assabet River help enhance the town's unique flavor even more.
The Hudson Business Association has clearly helped craft a
downtown that many small towns can only dream of and the Assabet River
Rail Trail multi-use path helps bring even more locals and visitors
central district. There's also a restaurant scene that has virtually
popped up overnight, putting Hudson on the map as a foodie destination
with many novel dining out spots saturating the central district.
As a prime example, the Main Street Bagel Factory draws in crowds for
bagels, breakfast and lunch.
Main Street Bagel Company in Hudson.
New City Microcreamery (28 Main St., 978-333-7144, http://www.newcitymicrocreamery.com) offers exceptional, innovative ice cream flavors and coffee. Medusa Brewing Company (11 Main St., 978-310-1933, http://www.medusabrewing.com/) sells handcrafted ales and lagers in a handsome atmosphere.
New City Microcreamery in Hudson.
The Rail Trail Flatbread Company (33 Main St., 978-293-3552, http://www.railtrailflatbread.com) has become a local legend in no time flat with its flatbreads, pub fare, craft beers, wines and cocktails. The list of quality restaurants seems to grow on a regular basis, but also includes old time favorites like T.C. Lando's at 127 Main St. with its beyond-the-norm subs and pizzas.
The Rail Trail Flatbread Company in Hudson.
The test of a great small town downtown always goes beyond restaurants, however, and comes down to whether a local could do all his or her shopping within a few blocks. Hudson is approaching that gold standard with stores selling clothing, art and crafts supplies, art work, jewelry, antiques, sweets (Crave) and specialty foods (Mullahy's Cheeses and Specialty Foods), as well as having a Rite Aid Pharmacy. A book store, toy shop and a neighborhood grocery store would bring downtown Hudson to almost a full-service commercial downtown district; let's hope that happens soon!
A stroll down Main St. in Hudson.
Even if without an impressive downtown, Hudson would always be one of those towns that feels like home. It is tight, close-knit, friendly, feels safe, offers many year-round community events and features many grand old homes. The restored, re-energized downtown, however, brings a purpose, a passion and a highly entertaining and much needed element, as if it was a barometer of the town's overall health and prosperity. Other towns should take a field trip to Hudson to see what can be done about their downtowns in need of a revival!
Historic buildings in downtown Hudson.
It's amazing that in just a short amount of time, downtown Hudson has seen a transformation from a central district with few signs of life to a thriving place with lots of foot traffic -- even into the night. Call it a "center of attention" and an inspiring movement in progress that gives hope and faith to locals that anything is possible when community passion, creativity and productivity take a front seat.
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