By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – For just over 100 years, Tufts Machine Co. was located on East Main Street, employing over 50 people during the height of its busiest time during the 1950s. After it was sold in 1985, the building was the site of another manufacturing company for a number of years until that company closed, leaving the building empty and falling into a state of disrepair. Now, the property, located on one of the town’s busiest commuter roads, will become home to a new 24-hour Cumberland Farms store.
The East Main Street property itself was once the town’s old “car barn,” a type of trolley garage for the trolleys that once ran through the center of town, before it became one of Westborough’s most enduring businesses.
The story of Tufts is also the story of a family business.
An immigrant from Canada, James Tufts founded his eponymous company in 1914 in Roxbury, before relocating it to Brigham Street in Westborough in 1918 and then finally to East Main Street in 1930, according to “On the Beaten Path: Westborough Massachusetts,” the definitive history of the town written by Kristina Nilson Allen.
For 71 years, the company was owned and operated by the Tufts family as a manufacturing plant and office. James Tufts had five sons, three of whom worked at the company.
Bruce was the company’s president while Donald was vice president and Hugh was treasurer. In a promotional brochure, it was noted that the company had “about 30,000 square feet of floor space and ample yard space for trucks and parking on a four-acre lot.”
Its manufacturing facilities, the brochure noted, included CNC and NC machining capabilities, lathes, boring mills, milling, grinding and more.
During World War II the company had a number of government contracts. According to a Westborough News article from Sept. 16, 1983, the company also manufactured machines for customers such as Nortons, B.F. Goodrich and Morgan Construction. At its peak in the 1950s it employed up to 52 people.
When the company was sold in 1983 to Cosmos Enterprises, it retained the Tufts name but under owner Yong S. Lee, it took on a new type of manufacturing – automated machines that made fortune cookies.
A brochure from that time describes the Model Fortune III machine, which was 6 feet wide, 6.5 feet long, 4 feet high and weighed 2,500 lbs.
Ultimately Lee closed the business when the fortune cookie industry slowed down. Plans are now in place to develop a new Cumberland Farms store at the site. As part of that process, the former Tufts building was finally razed last month.
Throughout the years, the lawn in front of the build has been the site of numerous events sponsored by local nonprofit groups as the different owners graciously allowed them to use the space fronting busy Route 30. For years Westborough residents bought their Christmas trees from the Westborough Civic Club’s annual sale held there. Scouts also benefitted from the prime spot as they held yard sales, clothing collections and more.
In March, another piece of the Tufts legacy ended when Robert Bruce “Bob” Tufts, the son of R. Bruce Tufts, and the grandson of James Tufts, passed away after an illness. With his wife Anne’s decision to move, and the couple’s two adult children living elsewhere, for the first time in a century, there are no longer any members of the Tufts family living in Westborough.