Published in The Stow and Bolton Independent Feb. 10, 2021
By Maura Rousseau Sieller
The holiday wreaths adorning the town’s Main St. have recently been removed, but the committee behind their placement will continue to do its work to highlight Bolton’s businesses.
Bolton’s Economic Development Committee (EDC), also known as Destination Bolton, was described by Committee Chair Erik Neyland as “like a local chamber of commerce to connect the businesses to the community.”
Committee member and local realtor Amy Balewicz added, “Our whole purpose, our whole mission is to welcome businesses to town and to give them a platform, to promote them, and to support them.”
The holiday wreath program, which has been decorating Main St. for multiple years, asks local businesses to contribute a donation to fund the decorative wreaths. In turn, the committee highlights the businesses in public thanks for their participation.
Neyland said that the project serves to “let the businesses give to the community, as a ‘thank-you for your patronage.’” The EDC uses the funds to cover the cost of the supplies, and Bolton’s Department of Public Works assists by hanging the wreaths.
Local business owner Wendy Harrop of Phineas Wright House was asked if she would be interested in decorating the Welcome to Bolton sign this year and answered with, “a quick and easy yes!”
Harrop said she had a long-held affinity for the tradition. “I love the festive look of each pole donning a wreath through the town center.” She said that so many wreaths were added over the last couple of years, the decorations reached to the utility poles in front of her house, at the corner of Main Street and Harvard Road.
Harrop, who utilizes her business as an event space and offers virtual classes, commented on the support she has received from the Economic Development Committee through its Destination Bolton outreach.
“Owning a small business is wrought with challenges,” she said. “Just knowing that there is a group of like-minded, heart-centered people cheering you on and welcoming you into their community is a huge blessing. Super encouraging, problem-solving, opportunity seeking, with a message of community over competition, is how I would describe my interactions with the committee.”
Another visible event organized by the EDC is the popular Backyard Bolton farmers market on the Bolton Common, which marked its third season in late summer 2020. Last year, the market featured 23 local groups consisting of small farms, backyard growers, small-batch producers, and craftsmen. Neyland estimated that the last day of Backyard Bolton this past fall attracted roughly 600 attendees.
“Our intent [with the market] was to highlight the small businesses and small farms,” Neyland said. “It’s another avenue for these businesses to connect with the community, and for the community to come together as a whole.”
Amy Balewicz said the event “started out as a way to allow small farms and the backyard growers to have a place to sell their things. People really loved the idea. It gave people a place to go,” especially with the COVID-19 pandemic last season.
In its effort to support the community, the EDC’s “Destination Bolton” Facebook page functions as a platform to highlight local businesses. Recent posts include a kid’s nature camp at Phineas Wright House, winter specials at the Bolton Bean, and a give-away with Eastern Propane & Oil with Kitchen Sink Candle Co. products.
The committee is planning to connect more with surrounding towns in the future. “We’ve been approached by Boxborough and Stow to collaborate to see what they’re doing to support their businesses and masterminding on how to take ideas from each other and help each other out,” said Balewicz. Neyland shared that the committee is also considering a holiday market later this year.
While the committee is there as a resource for local businesses, Neyland explained, “We are not a policy-making board.” He said that part of the work the committee does is to “bring up to the town issues that could help business in the community.” As examples, he mentioned that some local businesses have faced challenges with septic and water access, and the committee is working with the town to try to find solutions.
Above all, Neyland said he wants business owners to know, “Even if we can’t answer your question, we may have a better idea of who to go to. We appreciate you. We want you to stay in business.”
For those who may be interested in becoming involved with the EDC, Balewicz said, “We’re a volunteer organization, so the more people involved, the better. The more people you have, the more you can do. If anybody is interested in supporting, reach out to us. We’d love to have more people.”
For more information, visit http://www.destinationboltonma.com/ or Destination Bolton – Bolton Economic Development Committee on Facebook.