Column

Woonsocket

It's been an up and down period of good and bad in Woonsocket business circles  this year. Among the closings were Club 77 and Vintage Restaurant. In April the Moulin Building had to close due to code violations scattering tenants across the city. Most displaced business owners ended up better off than they were. In a WNRI interview Councilman Roger Jalette announced the closing of his flower shop on Greene Street. Jalette says he will close by week's end. Adjacent towns like Bellingham witnessed the closing of Vercelli's and Cumberland saw Tuck's Food and Spirits on Mendon Road  give up the ship.  Gia's Restaurant in Uxbridge suddenly closed last weekend to a very surprised loyal clientele.
It's not all bad.  Among the recent openings were Koto's Japanese Steak House on Clinton Street and Winston's Beef, Burgers and Wings on Cumberland Street.  Wayne and Keith Beauchamp, operators of Champs Liquors for Keyway on Clinton Street, tell me their business in Woonsocket is brisk. The brothers just celebrated their first year in business and said opening a new business in Woonsocket was good move. The owners of Olly's on South Main Street continue their renovations and investment in Woonsocket while Gary Fernandes continues to move forward with his expansion with a reconstruction of former Woonsocket Supply building into a multi-purpose business building next to waterfalls on lower South Main Street. So it's been a mixed bag this year as Woonsocket tries to work itself out of  the business doldrums. I spend a lot of time talking with business owners  around town and most are cautiously optimistic better times are coming.

Montreal, Quebec

Woonsocket drew the attention of a Canadian publication last week.  A story appeared as part one of a three part story on the Franco Americans in New England. Written  by Marie Joëlle Parent for the "Le Journal de Québec" which circulates in the entire Province of Quebec. The story talks about Woonsocket as "the" most French City in the USA.  It talks about the arrival of Canadians in Woonsocket to work in the textile mills.  It goes on to say that by 1930,  70% of the population of Woonsocket was French Canadian and that there are still those who display the Canadian or Québec flag on their lawns. It says that it is remarkable and heroic that there are still those who continue their fight to preserve their language and it goes on to say that there is a even a  radio program of Franco phone music with Roger Laliberté and his wife Claudette on the airwaves of WNRI.  A program of Franco-phobe music been on the air for more than 50 years.  The article points to the Museum of Work and Culture located in the heart of the city as a as a key attraction and speaks of Ray Bacon who was associated with the museum at the time the article was written and speaks of Ray's Canadian ancestry.  It also featured a photo of the looms at the museum. Le Journal de Québec is a French-language daily newspaper in Quebec City, Quebec (Canada). The newspaper is printed in tabloid format and has a the highest circulation in Quebec City.

Woonsocket

(Lincoln Town Adminstrator T. Joesph Aloond at WNRI Wednesday)

Lincoln Town administrator T. Joseph Almond came by WNRI to offer an update on Lincoln issues. Almond is his eight year as Lincoln's leader.
On Twin River Casino, Almond says on some days up to 20,000 patrons parade in and out of the facilities for concerts, dining and gaming. The casino sends plenty of money to the town coffers including 6.9 million this year in gaming percentages and 3 million in real estate taxation.  Lincoln allocates 30% of yearly revenues to town infrastructure projects like road repair and reconstruction. The rest goes into the general operating expenses. Lincoln expects a marginal tax increase of less than 1/2 of 1%.
On fire districts, the six fire districts continue to operate separately and tax separately. Almond says the slow process of merging them will outlast his tenure of service indicating a single fire department is more than five years away. Rescue service which is town operated and town staffed is separate from the fire departments.

Almond expressed relief that the school funding formula is finally directing a higher percentage toward Lincoln. This year's percentage is going from 14% to 18% this year; 2015 the figure will rise to 20%.

On Lincoln Mall, Almond says "is turning into a great success story enjoying a great resurgence." The restaurants are all booked with Chilli's being one of the highest grossing in the whole region. At Cinema World a new expansion program includes a bowling alley, restaurant lounge and family recreation.

On state roads running through Lincoln, Almond is very frustrated with department of transportation's progress of fixing them. Citing Old River Road and Railroad Street as two examples, Almond describes situation as "deplorable, inexcusable and awful" referring to the the 7 and 8 year waiting period to fix them.

Hyannis

There are two ways to spend a day in Hyannis; the short way by automobile; the long way by train.
I opted to torture myself last Saturdays and travel by rail. If you care to invest 17 hours of the day, here's how. Leave Woonsocket by 6:15am and travel to Forge Park Franklin MBTA station and pay $4 to park all day. Board the 6:40am train to Boston and arrive at South Station at 7:45am. Walk off the train platform and transfer to the Cape Flyer 8:00am departure down to Hyannis. Franklin/Boston  round-trip fare for seniors is $8.70; round-trip Boston/Hyannis is $20.00. The Cape Flyer operates on Friday,Saturday and Sunday with only one round-trip leaving about 8 hours to explore Hyannis. The scenic ride includes the urban setting of Boston to the cranberry bogs of Middleton to the historic Buzzards Bay train station to the scrub brush  of the cape leading to Hyannis. The Cape Flyer arrives 2 hours and 18 minutes later at the Transportation Center at Main Street  in downtown Hyannis.
There's plenty to see but be prepared to walk. Close by is the Cape Cod Maritime Museum ($5.00)  dedicated to  preserving and interpreting Cape Cod's maritime past. The exhibits show how the sea continues to shape Cape Cod. Further down Main Street the John F. Kennedy Museum which focuses on JFK's Cape Cod life; lots of photos and videos. Senior admission $6.00.
A walk to the Hyannis waterfront to check out the yachts, fishing boats and ferry boats is also worth checking out.
Of course my concern is food and the Bistrot de Soleil, 350 Stevens Street off Main Street was my final choice but there are more than 40 restaurants from which  to choose. This french/Italian restaurant offered a "prix fixe menu" and for $25.00  wine, appetizers, entree and dessert was included. My featured wine choice was the Honoro Vera, Jumila red organic Monastrell from Spain; appetizer was baked oysters sauteed with garlic and Italian parsley. Entree was short rib of beef braised with red wine dimiglace. Mashed potatoes and haricot vert round out the plate. Chef's dessert was a creme brule.
With plenty of time to spare before heading back to Boston, I stopped by St. Francis of Xavier Church for 4pm service. The pastor, The Reverend Daniel Lacroix was celebrating his last mass at the parish. He was frustrated in his farewell thoughts: "little progress has been made with any attempts to integrate the Brazilian and Hispanic communities with the parish. Those communities wish to retain their cultural, social and spiritual independence. they see themselves as a distinct apostate and not as parishioners."  Father Lacroix has been re-assigned to Seekonk, Massachusetts. The Brazilian and Spanish influence is clearly evident as you walk the streets of Hyannis.
The Cape Flyer left the central station at 6:30pm with a return to Boston for 8:50pm. Some beautiful sunset scenes were pleasing views from the train as it headed back North. A 9:20pm departure from South Station returned passengers to Franklin by 10: 25pm.  I pulled into my Woonsocket driveway by 11:00pm. 
An MBTA day-trip by commuter rail to Hyannis?  Not for everyone.