By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Formerly vacant storefronts in Hudson are now popular destinations filled with residents and visitors satisfying various culinary appetites. Concurrently, specialty shops are opening alongside several mainstays in the revitalized downtown.
Sarah Cressy, president and CEO of Assabet Valley Chamber of Commerce (AVCC), is pleased with the upswing in supporting local businesses.
“A number of people invested in downtown properties, improving the overall business community,” she noted. “The opening of new restaurants and bars created a buzz, and it’s combined with our older eateries.”
Many downtown revelers attribute the buzz to the entrepreneurs in their 30s, Michael Kasseris and Karim El-Gamal, who opened Rail Trail Flatbread Company in 2012. Named after the nearby Assabet River Rail Trail, the restaurant’s rotating menu features flatbread pizzas prepared in a wood-burning brick oven with locally-grown toppings.
Last year, the restaurateurs along with Jason Kleinerman ventured across the street and opened New City Microcreamery, an ice cream parlor using a liquid nitrogen freezing process. The spacious hangout offers seating inside and an outdoor patio. A chalkboard lists rotating flavors ranging from vanilla to blood orange tarragon with white chocolate. Coffees and pastries are also available. More recently, they introduced an old-fashioned speakeasy.
“It’s exciting to ride around the rotary and see dozens of people enjoying ice cream,” Cressy said. “We now have more choices of coffee shops: New City, Café 641 and Ariba Coffee. They all provide wonderful beverages and an atmosphere to meet with friends or business colleagues.”
Café 641 recently added hours and a dinner menu.
AVCC conducts networking events at downtown venues including Medusa Brewing Company, which handcrafts ales and lagers in its taproom. Medusa recently scored a gold medal at the World Beer Cup held in Philadelphia. Patrons sampling suds can bring their own food or have deliveries made from local eateries.
Among nearby downtown eateries are Finnegan’s Pub, Harvard Sweet Boutique, Horseshoe Pub & Restaurant, Hudson House of Pizza, Jade Chinese Restaurant, Old School House Pub & Restaurant, Peking Garden, Sofia Ristorante, T.C. Lando’s, Victor’s 50s Diner and Villa Pizza. Centro America Restaurante is open weekends 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Another recent honoree is chef Christopher Anthony Bairos of Amaia Martini Bar, who earned this year’s Judge’s Choice at Worcester’s Best Chef Competition. In addition to cocktails, its menu includes entrees, tapas and desserts. Sunday brunch was recently added.
Shortly after Hudson House Restaurant & Lounge opened, a post on its Facebook page shared that it was closing May 7 due to heath concerns of a co-owner. A June 2 post announced dinner would be served that weekend and added, “Grand opening following next week.”
The influx of eateries developed more foot traffic, benefitting new and established businesses. Last year, B. Barton and Company opened its doors to offer an eclectic mix of vintage, antique and repurposed home furnishings.
Early this year, Mullahy’s brought a new flavor to downtown with artisan cheeses and specialty foods. More recently, the co-owners of Paisley Boutique in North Grafton chose Hudson to open their second women’s clothing store. Meanwhile, Giggi’s Bridal and Mr. G’s Tuxedos outgrew its space, and moved into one of four renovated storefronts that formerly housed the Salvation Army Thrift Store.
Longtime downtown businesses include Robinson’s Hardware with various locations and names since 1874, Wright Jewelry since 1928, and Silva’s Bakery for over 70 years. Among other established businesses attracting shoppers are Assabet River Bicycles, Central Street Market, Hudson Art and Framing, and Serendipity.
Arthur Redding, president of the Hudson Business Association (HBA) and owner of Hudson Appliance Center, has observed decades of fluctuations in downtown activity. Located at Main and Broad streets, his store has undergone multiple expansions since its 1972 opening.
“When I first went into business, two police officers walked the beat on Saturdays,” he recalled. “Police directed the traffic lights instead of them turning automatically because there was so much traffic. Now, we’re getting the traffic back with people coming from out of town and bringing business to us. When HBA started several years ago, we had a lot of empty stores and our goal was to help fill them. We’re darn close.”
Redding is looking forward to an expanded downtown shopping district with businesses at the lot on Main between Manning and High streets.
“Activity will broaden on Main Street with the openings of Rite Aid and Marlborough Savings Bank,” he said. “Hudson’s downtown has come a long way and I honestly believe it’s only going to get better.”
Photos (unless noted) – Ed Karvoski Jr.