Historic shoemaking building now a home décor store

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Historic shoemaking building now a home décor store
The building at 140 Main Street that houses a home décor store was built over 200 years ago and once was part of Northborough’s shoemaking industry. Photo/Normand Corbin

NORTHBOROUGH – The property at 140 Main Street was originally built as a private home with an attached workshop and is now the upscale “Purple Rose” home decor store.

This building was built for Captain Jeremiah Hunt, who was born in Northborough in 1785. The Northborough Historical Society has a floor plan for the building dated August 1817 so likely the building was built around that time. This property has historical significance because it was associated with Northborough’s early shoemaking industry. Jeremiah and his brother, Stephen, are credited with being the first in Northborough to make shoes on a large-scale basis. Part of the Hunt brothers’ early success may have been due to their holding a license for a patented method of attaching soles.

The brothers dissolved their partnership around the time this house was built. Jeremiah established a shop in the ell of his new home. The house was built just east of the location where he worked with his brother. The Hunts remained in business separately at least through 1860, and both are listed in the Massachusetts Register for 1853. At the time of the 1850 census, Jeremiah Hunt had at least three workers in his shop besides himself: George B. Chace, Richard S. Bruce, and his son, Winthrop Hunt. In addition to working in the shop, all three lived in the house with Jeremiah, his wife, Maria, and their three daughters. In 1850, when Jeremiah was 65, his company made 400 pairs of shoes for a total value of $1400. The 1865 census recorded that he was still working at 80 years old!

Historic shoemaking building now a home décor store
The building at 140 Main Street in Northborough once had a wrap-around porch, as is evident from this photo from the mid-20th century. Photo/Courtesy of the Northborough Historical Society

The building has only had a few business owners after the Hunts, including a florist, a real estate agent and a contractor. In 1997 the property was purchased by Vicki Martelli who still owns it with her family today. Vicki started out by selling antiques from the building but eventually her business evolved into a home decor boutique using all eight rooms for her displays. The name, “Purple Rose,” was recommended by her son because Vicki is a fan of the color purple and loved roses. Her daughter, Kimberly Reed, signed on in 2005. Kimberly focuses on general operations and marketing. Vicki’s preference is to interact with customers. Mother and daughter purchase the products for the store together which Vicki said is great fun. Their merchandise includes many small American crafters. The business has existed for 27 years and is still going strong, quite an impressive accomplishment.

When asked why she selected an antique building, Vicki said she likes the feel and character of old properties. When looking for a property, she focused her search on several historic buildings in Northborough. This Main Street property had many advantages, such as good visibility on a main road, good parking and lots of character. She simply loves all the features of the building including the friendly ghost who occasionally makes itself known. Every day when Vicki walks in the store, it is her happy place. The challenge with the property is the difficult intersection nearby which can make access to her parking difficult. When asked if she would make the same decision again, her response was a resounding “Yes!”

Thank you Vicki and Kim for preserving a historic property in Northborough.

Historic shoemaking building now a home décor store
The 1817 plan for the house at 140 Main Street, constructed for Captain Jeremiah Hunt, is on file at the Northborough Historical Society. Photo/Courtesy of the Northborough Historical Society

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