Hot Chocolate, Hot DTL

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City of Lights in front of the 1826 Store

It’s been three years since we last wrote about Lowell’s annual post-Thanksgiving Parade, City of Lights. The highlight (in our humble opinion) of City of Lights is the annual hot chocolate competition. Businesses across downtown offer tiny cups of cocoa for 25 cents each, all for a shot at the coveted hot chocolate competition award. We chose Café Pastiche’s Brazilian cocoa, which sadly didn’t place… and Café Pastiche was closed a year later.

The other competitors that year were Rosie’s Café, Brew’d Awakening Coffehaus, Sweet Lydia’s, and Time Out Café. Coincidentally, those four businesses all competed this year, along with veteran Cobblestones and newcomers Hypertext Bookstore, Coffee and Cotton, Gallery Z, and UnchARTed.

That same year, the Lowell Small Business Center did a huge push for Small Business Saturday, and we talked about other cities’ small business campaigns. In that spirit, we want to talk about each of the businesses that competed, and even reached out to them to get their thoughts on the festival, Lowell’s business scene, and what people can do to support small businesses.

Rosie’s Café

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Rosie Suprenant

Rosie’s has been holding down the JAM District since before the City started calling it the JAM district. Rosemarie Surprenant launched her café twenty years ago on 10 Hurd Street, between what is now Element Care and UTEC. Her supplier was Peak Coffee, a Billerica business launched in 2006 by Peter Kagunye, a Kenyan immigrant. Back then, it was Batian Peak Coffee, named after the highest mountain in Kenya. When Mr. Kagunye decided to move on in 2012, Rosie’s bought Peak Coffee, and began roasting coffee and distributing tea themselves. In 2014, she moved to her current location next between Jackson and Middlesex, near Mill No. 5 and Garcia Brogan’s.

So what about the hot chocolate? She’s been doing the contest for six years, and this year she made an amazing, subtle caramel hot cocoa. I say amazing, because Rosie’s was our last stop, Aurora and I had a gallon of chocolate each at that point, and we still loved Rosie’s. Rosie loves the festival, too. She reported that business was good, and we aren’t surprised—her coffee is great and a bag of fresh-ground coffee makes a great (fair-trade) gift.

I like seeing the families, happy and stopping by with their baggies of quarters. -Rosie Suprenant

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Brew’d Awakening Coffehaus

If Rosie’s is the anchor of the JAM district, Brew’d Awakening is the anchor of Market Street. I’d hazard a guess that Andy Jacobson has won the hot chocolate contest more times than any other business, and has been competing since the contest started eight years ago. This year, it was a French Toast hot chocolate with a tiny piece of French toast in every cup. The special extras always put their cocoa over the top.

Baristas working at Brewd Awakening Coffehaus

Brew’d Awakening crew doing what they do best, with Andy Jacobson (right)

Andy opened Brew’d Awakening in 2005, leaving the world of finance to create a unique gathering place and choosing Lowell’s downtown to reflect that uniqueness. I admit, I end up at Brew’d just to listen to the music, Freeverse Open Mic Night every first and third Tuesdays, see friendly faces, and get another mark down toward a free coffee. (Seven coffees, and then you can get any type of coffee for free!) Andy says that there have been a lot of recent changes for the good in DTL, including going from one to two-way, MCC and UMass Lowell’s growth, and a lot of new residents. City of Lights brings a spike of new customers as well—as long as the weather is good.

I have seen a lot of changes for the good. The fact that MCC and UML has more of a profile downtown has helped. Plus, the growing residents and two way traffic. So overall I have seen increases from the previous year. -Andy Jacobson

Sweet Lydia’s

If Brew’d isn’t the hot chocolate champion, then Sweet Lydia’s is. “Sweet” Lydia Blanchard ran a Kickstarter campaign to help open up her downtown shop in 2012 after three years of candy catering out of an incubator kitchen and years before that making candy as a hobby. I’m pretty sure she’s entered the hot chocolate competition with a different recipe and a signature marshmallow each time. This year, she had a dark chocolate, which is my favorite kind of chocolate.

Customers at Sweet Lydias Candy Shop

Sweet Lydia’s is another Lowell success story, as she’s branched from the shop with a stall at the new Boston Public Market. The newest, coolest project was a pop-up shop last spring in Newton.

Time Out Café

Customers at Time Out Cafe in Lowell MATime Out Café is perhaps the least well-known out of this list to some, but a new Lowell institution to others, especially our Hispanic population. I know I stop here for Empanadas often. The small storefront at 72 Merrimack Street has a wide variety of Dominican, Afro-Puerto Rican, Spanish, and American fare, along with breakfast, great coffee, and (at least during the competition) really great Hot Chocolate. Their Mexican-style cocoa with cinnamon was a clear frontrunner in my mind. They’ve been doing this since we moved here—for three years!

Time Out Cafe in Lowell MATime Out opened in 2010, and Yvette Anil has seen her business grow over the last six years:

We are family business, is not easy, is a lot of work, but every year is better than the last one, and we hope still for many years more. -Yvette Anil

Check out a great review of the restaurant on Life as a Maven.

Cobblestones

We admit it. We didn’t make it to Cobblestones in time. We didn’t try their hot chocolate, but I’m sure it was as delicious as their Truffle Fries. That’s right—you can get amazing fries flavored with truffle oil at Cobblestones, along with all sorts of other fine dishes. The restaurant opened in 1994 in the Yorick Club building, which was built as a home for mill managers in the 1850s but spent most of its life as a young gentleman’s club. The restaurant retains its upper-class Victorian charm, and each year submits an equally classy cocoa selection. The owners, who also operate Moonstones, generously contribute to a number of Lowell causes and the restaurant is highly-regarded in the Merrimack Valley.

UnchARTed

Lindsey Parker of UnchARTed Gallery in Lowell MA

Lindsey prepares the special Almond Joy Hot Cocoa

Depending on your perspective, UnchARTed is either brand new or a Lowell institution. Mike Dailey and Lindsey Parker have been running gallery/studio space under the name for more than 5 years, but the impressive Market Street location—and the bar and pizza—have been a great new addition to the downtown this year. If you have not tried their pizza, sold by the slice or whole, you are missing out on one of the best things to happen to downtown this year. The music and their striking gallery shows are matched only by their awesome community spirit: Mike and Lindsey are happy to work with folks running a fundraiser or putting on a Skill Share (not that we haven’t done both!)

This year for the cocoa challenge they had vegan almond joy cocoa, which is a good peek at their playful and progressive spirit. They said they doubled their dinner business the night of City of Lights. We asked what folks can do to help downtown business, and Lindsey said:

Spread the word ya heard?! If you love us, shout it from the rooftops! Also, defend Lowell when you are talking to someone from “outside” who is spewing garbage about it. Lowell is a cool place to be and on the up and up and not in a pretentious way either. -Lindsey Parker

Coffee and Cotton

Mill No. 5 is a constantly evolving source of Lowell cool and excitement. We last wrote about Mill No. 5 about two-and-a-half years ago, and it’s added a yoga studio, a market, a toy store, a vintage bookstore, the “Hi-Hat” stage near the elevator, and most famously, the Luna Theater in the meantime. Coffee and Cotton opened there in September, 2014, and it might have the most youthful crowd of any of the coffee shops, a haven for college students.

Young women serving hot chocolate at Mill No 5

The Coffee and Cotton crew serving up a keg of cocoa

For their very first cocoa contest this year, they offered matte cocoa with meringue, and that’s the kind of unique specials they often feature. In addition to coffee, they serve gourmet grilled cheese, breakfast sandwiches, Kombucha tea, and a variety of other drinks and danishes. Strangely enough, they do not serve cotton. We asked about how we can support them, and they had an interesting answer:

Besides shopping/eating locally, a great way to support local businesses is to provide valuable feedback to the owner/general manager. Our guests are our most valuable resource when it comes to making decisions about what direction we’d like to take our business. -Addie, manager

Hypertext

Books at Hypertext with hot cocoa

Monkey Jungle Cocoa!

We’ve had a special place in our hearts for Hypertext ever since they moved in and we got to help them decorate their window for last year’s City of Lights with DIY Lowell. They missed City of Lights, but opened just in time for 2016 Winterfest. Sam and Sheila, the sisters that run it, are extremely fun and added a much-needed missing element to the downtown. Their jungle cocoa came with a tiny plastic monkey! Because the recipe had bananas.

The sisters opened the bookstore/café combining their passions of coffee and fiction—and their desire to get away from a 9-to-5 job with a commute to Boston. Although they’ve reported that running an independent business is truly demanding, they’ve made it their own with poetry readings, book clubs, and even a funky (literally) underground movie showing during Halloween.

Hypertext Bookstore in Lowell MA

Gallery Z

Baristas at Gallery Z

Putting the finishing touches on Bailey’s Hot Cocoa at Gallery Z

The only reason Gallery Z should be last in any list is alphabetically. The former Zeitgeist Gallery, under new ownership, has downtown’s newest café in the back. Zeitgeist’s owners “felt they had taken it as far as they could,” according to new owner Patty DiStefano in a Howl interview, and she wanted to take it to a new step with performances and a cozy, quiet 1960s-style coffehouse. We hadn’t made it there yet, so the cocoa contest managed to introduce even us seasoned downtown residents to something new. They offered a Bailey’s inspired cocoa that was very tasty indeed; we’ll have to go back again soon and check out their other options.

Tables and chairs at Gallery Z in Lowell MA

1960s-inspired cafe space at Gallery Z

Local Business in Lowell

As always, the holiday season is an amazing time to support local business, but we asked each of the cocoa competitors what Lowell boosters can do besides shop locally.

Spreading the word online and in person came up from every single person who answered—downtown Lowell’s still fighting a bad reputation. It’s hard to believe, since the only Lowell we know has been clean, low on crime, and filled with innovative businesses. Yet the business owners said a negative perception is still there.

An interesting point was brought up that local businesses have to pay credit card fees, so save the credit card for Target and use cash at local businesses when possible. Don’t be afraid to use a card if you have it, though—every business we visited accepted both cash and cards.

Each also reported that business had only been getting better year-over-year, and that festivals like City of Lights didn’t just boost business that day, but exposed new customers they had never met to their cafés. As we talk about what we can do to keep Lowell an active place seven days a week, let’s not lose track of showing our best side whenever we throw a party.

Finally, one thing that was especially notable—many of the business owners talked about their high school crowds in their emails or in newspaper interviews, from kids getting mystery-flavor coffee at Rosie’s to Brew’d Awakening talking about their teen crowd just being themselves. It’s notable that Lowell’s young people make such an impact on the downtown in a lot of great ways.

A follow-up post may explore the best way to spur economic development with festivals—perhaps just in time for Winterfest. Until then, leave a message about your favorite hot chocolate or local eatery!

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Lowell Makes shop

Hot Cocoa

You can even take Sweet Lydia’s Hot Chocolate home!

Emanuel Boutique in downtown Lowell MA

Emanuel Boutique dressed up for the holiday

Zen Foodist in downtown Lowell MA presenting hot dog

The Zen Foodist braves the weather for his signature hot dogs

Decoration at Persona Lowell MA

Holiday Rocket (?) at Persona Goods

Angela Ales and Roneld Lores in their duo exhibit " A Cuban and a Colombian walk into a Bar"

Lady at UnchARTed clearly uninterested in hot cocoa

Lamps were fire extinguishers now they light up the place

Awesome upcycled lamps at Gallery Z

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Singing at the holiday marketplace on Merrimack

Gingerbread House

New meaning to “small” business owner!

Float in front of City Hall

MCC’s float shows off Lowell’s diversity, while Old City Hall shows off its history

Big crowd listening to Santa's wise wods

City officials reported the crowd was one of the best of recent years

Learning Lowell Anniversary Totally Terrific Top Ten Countdown

As Aurora pointed out in Learning Lowell’s anniversary post, it’s been a year since we’ve been blogging in Lowell! She talked about why she (and I) started blogging and the benefits we’ve gotten from it. I thought I would take a look back on some of our posts and a look forward on what we hope to do. I thought reflecting on our little corner of the internet would be very timely, as the Lowell Social Media Conference is coming up tomorrow, December 6.

Our blog is hosted on wordpress.com, a free (ad-supported) service with some great tools. One of those tools lets us see how many people are reading our blog and which posts get more clicks. We reached 2,000 views a month when we first started, but we’ve settled into about 1,000 views a month. This is way more than we ever thought: we figured our families might read an occasional post and that would be it! I thought it might be fun to review our top five posts, then talk about a few we wished had hit bigger.

Top Five Posts

5. An Engaged City Manager Recruitment Process

citymanagerposition-01-01Almost a year ago, the Lowell City Council began the process of selecting a new City Manager to replace departing Bernie Lynch. We reviewed guides made by groups such as the International City/County Managers Association, who recommended allowing 60 days for candidates to apply, and 30 days to interview candidates. During those 60 days, they recommended sending letters to qualified candidates identified knowledgeable sources inviting them to apply.

It’s interesting to compare this to the timetable the council ultimately used to solicit and screen candidates. They allowed a bit over a month for applications, and I believe they only advertised in a few publications and websites. The interviews focused quite a bit on the council’s hot topics: safety/security and economic development.

4. A Historic Preservation Story Unfolding: Bowers House, Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, and the City of Lowell

Updated Concept Perspective Drawing

Around the same time, another surprisingly controversial issue was unfolding: a proposed razing of the Jerathmell Bowers House. The issue prompted us to write a series of posts, culminating in the blog’s longest-named and fourth-most-popular post. We talked about how, in 2010, the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust worked unsuccessfully to find a new owner but brought a lot of attention to the oldest house in Lowell. Then, in 2013, Kazanjian Enterprises bought the property and proposed a commercial structure to replace the house. The City of Lowell and Kaznjian worked to find a solution that retained the house and the structure.

As far as I know, this final proposal is the one moving forward, although a tenant still has not been found for the Bowers House. We suggested a themed restaurant, although I would expect that the house could service as offices for a real estate or insurance agent as well. If anyone has updates, let me know!

3. Quite a Task: Downtown Lowell Task Forces

Lot to Like PostcardFebruary, 2014, Councilor Belanger motioned to request that the Mayor appoint a downtown economic development task force. This prompted me to do a review of all the different groups who are active in downtown planning and all the different plans created for downtown. I still hope one day to do a follow-up on each plan, as some of them are very interesting historically and others still have great suggestions we could advance.

In April, that task force was formed, including councilor Corey Belanger; Deb Belanger, Executive Director of Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau; Danielle McFadden, President and CEO of the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce; Jim Cook, the Executive Director of the Lowell Plan; and Adam Baacke, Director of Campus Planning at UMass Lowell. Additionally, the council formed a Downtown Redevelopment Subcommittee at the request of Councilor Kennedy, which includes himself, Councilor Leahy, and Councilor Milinazzo. I wasn’t able to find any meeting minutes for the Task Force or Subcommittee, so if anyone has any updates, let me know!

2. Mill No. 5: Local scene blooms where once there were power looms

Mill #5 sign is hungI feel a bit proud that we were among the first talking about Mill No. 5, which has gained a lot of traction since last March, when we wrote about the history of the building, which was built to take advantage of Steam Power, about Jim Lichoulas III’s flexible plans that change based on feedback, and about the way Amelia Tucker recruited vendors for the monthly “Little Bazaar” marketplaces.

Since then, the Luna Theater and Coffee and Cotton have both opened, along with a number of smaller shops. Mill No. 5 has some exciting programming going on during December, including a Farm Market each Sunday, 10-2:30; Holiday Shopping Pop-Up shops every weekend; a 12/13 OtherWhere Market featuring fantasy and sci-fi goods; and the second annual Totally Bazaar tomorrow, 12/6, at noon!

1. Bicycle Lanes, Data-driven Decisions, and Community Visions

Truck in bicycle lane in Lowell, MassachusettsThe most popular post was something we had to write very quickly, as it was in response to a City Council motion we had learned only days before: removing the bicycle lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard. We showed some pictures of the lanes, looked at the goals as articulated in several city plans, and examined the design of the lanes in relation to National Association of City Transit Official (NACTO)’s comprehensive Urban Bikeway Guide. Our conclusion was that two lanes should be enough for the small amount of vehicular traffic on Father Morissette, that the bike lanes conformed to recommended design but could be improved (with more money), and that we constantly need to show our support for the plans we made together.

Councilor Mercier suggested she worded the motion in such a provocative way as to determine if there was support for the bicycle lanes and encourage cyclists to come to the meeting. The council passed an amended motion to “call for the city manager to review the configuration of the bike lanes and traffic lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard, and report back on ways to make the road safer for vehicles and cyclists.” The City’s former transportation engineer, Eric Eby, invited the community to a public meeting to discuss options, and I have heard the City finally settled on painting “Bicycles Only” in the lanes. There was discussion of forming a public Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee as well, but that has unfortunately not occurred, even as several pedestrians have been struck, with one fatality, in recent months. I hope to make a follow-up post on bicycle and pedestrian issues in Lowell in the coming weeks.

My Personal Top Five

I also wanted to highlight posts that I thought were especially important or interesting, but never got as many views as the more popular posts. I suppose this is my personal top five:

5. Lowell’s Buried Past: The Cemetery and Beyond

Dick Howe in front of Bonney Memorial

This was a short post that Aurora and I put together, but we felt that there was so much to say about Dick Howe’s cemetery tour beyond that it’s simply fun. We wanted to suggest that all of Lowell can be like the very-popular cemetery tours. It can surprise, educate, and make us reflect on ourselves in ways other cities simply can’t. I hoped to start a conversation on how we can bring that side of Lowell forward with the same strategy Mr. Howe uses, and I still hope that conversation starts.

4. The Buzz about UMass Lowell Fuzz

Community members and police officers speak at Coffee and a Cop event in Lowell MAWe didn’t see too many community members at the Coffee with a Cop event in October, but everyone there seemed to really have a great time. It felt as if it advanced the goal of creating community between police and residents, and we learned quite a bit behind the philosophy of the UMass Lowell Police. We were surprised that some officers were attracted to UML so that they could interact with people beyond the usual roles of “criminal” and “victim” and that officers feel that things have improved only in the last few years. We hoped to share some of those benefits with our post.

3. A Tale of Two Cities: Salem and Lowell

salem3Aurora made an amazing comparison of Lowell and Salem, which attracts thousands upon thousands of tourists. She noted that Lowell had similar advantages to Salem, including roughly the same distance from Boston and a walkable core, but didn’t capitalize them in quite the same way. As the city talks about marketing, I think the suggestions in this post are a great way to think about how to package Lowell as an immersive day experience for visitors and residents alike.

2. First Thursdays: Art Battles and Big Pictures

Live Art Battle in Lowell on First Thursday artists painting

Our post about Lowell’s First Thursdays wasn’t just a description of our experience at the fun summer event, it was also about how a single, key person was instrumental in bringing a great event to Lowell; about how a series of events might have to build over time; and about what goals we’re trying to meet and what audiences we’re trying to attract when we talk about “downtown revitalization.” I have thought about this post quite a bit when thinking about the own Lowell projects I’m helping organize.

1. What can Lowellians do about homelessness? LTLC Interview Part 2

ltlcI did an extensive interview with the former director of the Lowell Transitional Living Center, David McCloskey. Part 2 of that post and a follow-up about Living Waters didn’t receive the large number of views captured by Part 1. Mr. McCloskey discussed the difference between passive and aggressive panhandling, the discussions he had with former clients about panhandling, and his experience with Lowell’s cooperation with the center. Perhaps even more importantly, we discussed the problem with Massachusetts’s housing costs and how people can volunteer to help or even take political action. If I could ask everyone to read just one post, it might be this one.

What’s Ahead?

Writing this post, it makes me think of all the posts I still hope to write. We just released the first in a series about refugees, and more will be coming soon. Another series is also in the works: discussing Lowell High School’s location and the dilemma of moving or keeping it in-place. As I mentioned before, I hope to discuss traffic and transportation in Lowell: where the traffic is, how it can (or can’t) be addressed, and what is planned for Lowell. We also would like to talk about friends and family we’ve hosted and their impressions of Lowell.

We also go to a number of events and restaurants, and have a lot of photos and stories. We wonder how people like reading about them: should each event or restaurant be a very short post, should there be some sort of Lowell guide that we update each time we go out, or is there another good way to share our stories and photos? Please let us know in the comments! We try to respond to all requests as quickly as we can.

Mill No. 5: Local scene blooms where once there were power looms

Visitors at Mill #5

The mill’s 4th floor is transformed into an event-filled virtual indoor streetscape, with storefronts, lounge spaces, and a small theater.

February 11, Councilor Mercier requested a report for the current status and future plans for the building known as Mill No. 5 in response to a neighbor’s concerns. [1]

However, perhaps to their surprise, Councilor Mercier and Belanger “discovered the best well-kept secret that could be incubating in an old mill building,” when touring Mill No. 5. It’s a “secret” of which many of us have been aware for some time. Before it opened last year, a Boston Globe article called it, “at heart an office building for small businesses and technology start-ups… renovated with a kind of fun-house brio to attract the eclectic, off-beat, and hip.” [2]

I’m not sure if Aurora and I are eclectic, off-beat, or hip, but we’ve started attending every “A Little Bazaar Presents,” the monthly arts/crafts/more marketplaces at Mill No. 5. At March’s marketplace, “Pulp and Press,” Aurora and I bought a gift for friends and couldn’t resist buying a few “gifts” of our own. We purchased a clock and coaster set adorned with recycled maps and moon charts from Cadence Innovative Designs. To show off our finds, we decided to let you in on the Mill No. 5 “secret.”

There’s an indescribable energy in Mill No. 5, as if one could turn a corner and find anything. Friends bump into friends while DJs or live bands play anything from the newest alternative hit to smooth jazz. Permanent shops such as Vinyl Destination complement marketplace vendors or other events, and there’s always a niche to steal away to enjoy your cup of coffee and watch the people. It’s a clubhouse and a mall without the worst bits of either.

1896 Lowell Atlas detail, L.J. Richards & Co.

1924 Atlas of Lowell detail, Richards Map Company
1977 Lowell Sanborn Insurance Map
1896, 1924, and 1977 maps. Note expansions between 1896 and 1924 and demolition of many nearby buildings by 1977. (Cool atlases and more at Center for Lowell History digital map collection)

Mill No. 5 has history. It was originally part of the Appleton Manufacturing Company. Once called the “New Mill” to distinguish it from the original 1828 mills, it was built in 1873 and expanded in 1918. It is actually the oldest surviving Appleton Mill building, as the rest of the complex was demolished and reconstructed in the early 1900s.

The mill was built for a new technology: steam power. New inventions in the 1840s greatly improved steam engine’s reliability, allowing mills to be built away from the canals.[3] Although the mill’s boilerhouse was demolished in recent years, the turbine house is still viewable from Middlesex Street. I’m told it still contains the entire original steam turbines, like something from an H.R. Giger illustration.

Appleton moved production south in 1927, but leased its buildings to the Suffolk Knitting Company and other tenants. The properties changed hands several times,[4] and in 1975, Jim Lichoulas Sr. purchased the complex.[5] By then, Suffolk Knitting had gone out of business,[6] and it was difficult to find industrial tenants.[7] However, new types of tenants moved in. Over the years, Kronos Corporation, Lowell Community Charter Public School, TransMag Inc, and even, briefly the Revolving Museum.[8] However, the fourth and fifth floors of Mill No. 5 largely remained vacant. Many properties in Lowell had difficulty redeveloping prior to mid-2000s changes in the zoning which had previously prevented residences being built in many formerly-industrial sites.[9]

An old, neglected mill building is little by little transforming into an eclectic, state of the art, awe-inspiring establishment. -Councilor Rita Mercier

The current chapter of Mill No. 5’s story begins with Constantine Valhouli and Jim Lichoulas III.[10] They were kind enough to answer a few questions about the development. They describe Mill No. 5 as a dream project more than a decade old, and they had collected architectural salvage to create the indoor streetscape for nearly that long. They wanted to provide aspects they felt were missing in Greater Boston to bring dining, shopping, entertainment, and office space under one roof, allowing people to go from work to a yoga class or movie merely by crossing a hall. In addition, the space offers short-term leases for businesses just starting out.

Mill #5 sign is hung

Walk down a crooked alley. Look both ways—make sure you haven’t been followed. Then enter and be amazed!

We’re having a lot of fun taking the time to make sure that it feels right. Also, doing it this way allows us to adapt the design based on feedback, rather than sticking to a more rigid plan of development. -Jim Lichoulas III

The process has seemed slow and meticulous at times, and that is by design. They’ve opened in phases, allowing feedback to shape both physical and event development. Some of the key attractions are planned to open summer 2014, including a farm-to-table café, yoga studio, and movie theater. A small number of neighbors have complained of this uncertainty, but by and large, neighbors have been supportive and included in the process. It’s been a balancing act for the developers, who want to maintain a “sense of discovery” while being open and inclusive. Perhaps Councilor Belanger’s council meeting suggestion that “There was a bit of mystique about the building,” was appropriate.

There seem to be so many places that over-hype themselves and market themselves to the nth degree. There’s no sense of discovery with that, no feeling of adventure or mystery. Some folks have described coming to the mill for the first time as finding this unexpected oasis at the edge of downtown Lowell. -Constantine Valhouli

The physical space is only half the story, and the developers hope to fill it with “shopping, food festivals, farmer’s markets, film festivals, author lectures, theater, dance, poetry, and shows.” “A Little Bazaar Presents” is a perfect fit for the eclectic space. Amelia Tucker, artist/community organizer, wanted to create a market event for some time, and partnering with Mill No. 5 gave her an opportunity to “push the creative boundaries around ‘craft fairs.'” She and her husband plan events months in advance, secure vendors, organize live performances, and has even invited food trucks to the events.

A Little Bazaar came to be when I began planning my first event, Totally Bazaar. “A Little Bazaar presents Totally Bazaar”- I liked it, it made me laugh, and it stuck. -Amelia Tucker

Everyone I corresponded with recognizes the mill can have impacts outside its walls, and—all kidding about “uncovering secrets” aside—this is what the City Council recognized in their February meeting. Ms. Tucker reported that A Little Bazaar has had visitors ranging from college singles to families to seniors from Greater Lowell, Boston, and as far as Providence, RI and Western Massachusetts. She encourages these visitors to “make a day of it” and visit other nearby attractions. When I asked about Mill No. 5’s neighborhood context, Mr. Lichoulas spoke of the mill’s role in connecting the neighborhood with the downtown and credited the “efforts of the JAMBRA, and of Karen Bell’s leadership in particular” to address issues and increase the neighborhood’s desirability.[11]

We’re at the edge of downtown, and some people have told us that we’re playing a role in anchoring and connecting this part of the neighborhood to the stretches of downtown that have historically had much more attention.

It’s also clear that this is just the beginning. Ms. Tucker has said she is considering outdoor markets with warmer weather and happily accepts theme suggestions for future events (Email lilbazaar@gmail.com)! In response to a question about whether Mill No. 5 is seeking additional events, Mr. Valhouli said, “Oh, hell yes.” They encourage folks with ideas both large and small to contact them. (Email hello@millno5.com)!

We would like to have a full calendar of events at the mill. Something every day. We’d love people to be able to come to the mill after work, and be able to say to themselves, I haven’t even checked the website but I know that there must be something awesome going on there. -Jim Lichoulas III

More info at https://www.facebook.com/millno5 and http://alittlebazaarpresents.blogspot.com

Upcoming Mill No. 5 Events

  • Saturday, March 15: Goodies and Games. An afternoon of fun hosted by chocolatier The Dessert Yurt. Noon-8pm. Victorian Lounge.
  • Saturday, March 29: Super Robots and Giant Monsters.  A toy and art show hosted by Collection DX, Onell Design, and Incubot. 11am-7pm.  Hallway, Amaryllis Café, Victorian Lounge.  Collectiondx.com/srgm.
  • Saturday, April 5: Digs: a home and garden marketplace. One of our ongoing First Saturday marketplaces hosted by Amelia Tucker and A Little Bazaar.  Noon-7pm.  Hallway, Café, Victorian Lounge.
  • Saturday, April 12: Chords for Cancer fundraiser.  Theater.  4pm-9pm.
  • Saturday, April 19: Thread & Groove Record Show. Hosted by Vinyl Destination and A Little Bazaar.

Mill #5's iconic winding staircase

Mill No. 5’s iconic winding staircase (Courtesy Mill No. 5 facebook)

Two visitors examine vendor table inside a "storefront" at Love Buzz

Inside one of the “storefronts” at Love Buzz

Greeting Cards from http://www.trifectaeditions.com/

Unique greeting cards for less than the price of a Hallmark from http://www.trifectaeditions.com/

Map Clock and Coasters

Clock and Coasters from Cadence Innovative Designs @ Pulp & Press

Visitors shop in the hallway of Mill #5 during "Pulp and Press"

Visitors shop in the hallway of Mill No. 5 during “Pulp and Press”

Cartoons on theater screen during Mill #5's "Pulp and Press"

I think Aurora and I could be convinced to go to classic cartoon screenings at least once a week.

[1] For Dick Howe’s report on the City Council meeting from which I quote, click here.

[2] Boston Globe, 4/8/2013.

[3] All this information and more are found in the 1979 Lowell Cultural Resources Inventory, digitally archived courtesy of UMass Lowell. The historical report is here, the individual report on the boilerhouse is here, and the report on Mill No. 5’s extension is here. I was unable to find a report on the original 1873 building.

[4] Lowell Sun, 9/30/1944.

[5] Lowell Sun, 6/4/1975.

[6] I learned a bit about what happened to the Appleton Mills after Appleton left from an oral history transcript from the “After the Last Generation” project (Leni Joyce, informant; Mehmed Ali and Gray Fitzsimons, interviewer).

[7] Lowell Sun, 8/8/1977.

[8] The Revolving Museum folded in 2010. Lowell Sun, 6/15/10.

[9] As I say in many posts, this is short-changing the subject. I really could write a whole story on the 2003 Master Plan and subsequent zoning revisions.

[10] Although his family’s business owned the property for decades, Mr. Lichoulas III became the head of the company’s Lowell efforts only in the late 2000s.

[11] Mr. Lichoulas is a member of JAMBRA’s board of directors.