Photo: Marblehead Current Board President Virginia Buckingham speaks to the team at a recent retreat. She held a brick as she talked about building on foundations in the community. COURTESY PHOTO
Tell us about the Marblehead Current and how it got started. The idea for launching the Current was borne out of the financial decision by Gannett Co., the media giant which owns the Marblehead Reporter, to strip our beloved local paper of almost all its local content and staff, turning it into a shell of itself. Former Marblehead Reporter journalists and editors got together and decided they wanted to fill that void. Other community leaders got involved and the Current was launched online in June of 2022, right before the town elections. We’re coming up on our first anniversary!
Who are the people involved with The Marblehead Current? We have folks with deep experience in journalism and in covering Marblehead specifically. Kris Olson was the editor of the Marblehead Reporter for 14 years and serves as the Contributing Editor. Will Dowd, our Community Editor, started his journalism career at the Reporter and was the Editor of the Cambridge Chronicle. He’s a fixture at important Marblehead events. Leigh Blander, the Associate Editor and Senior Reporter, has significant experience in TV, radio, and print. Joe McConnell, on the sports beat, has been covering local sports for 25 years and has won many awards. We have numerous contributors and volunteers, too, many well-known to Marbleheaders. Our other founders and co-chairs are Ed Bell who retired as New England bureau chief of the Associated Press after a 50-year career in print and broadcast journalism and Jessica Barnett, who is on the faculty in the Communications Department at Salem State University. My background is primarily in state government, where I had a keen appreciation of the importance of the media in shining a spotlight on issues while working by the sides of two governors. I also was Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Boston Herald and I couldn’t be happier to be back in the mix of a newspaper’s mission. There are so many more folks involved, I can’t name them all. The energy and enthusiasm has been off the charts. What brings us together is that we believe local news is such a critical part of what makes a community.
Why was a non-profit business model chosen for the paper? In the past several years more than 2500 newspapers have closed in the United States. Their closure was driven by a for-profit model that is no longer sustainable. We want the Current to be around for the long haul. We believe the local control, with no profit incentive, will allow us to focus on delivering great journalism or as Ed Bell likes to say, to be “the best damn news source we can.”
What sets you apart from other newspapers in Marblehead? We are the only print newsroom located in Marblehead. We think the quality of the journalism speaks for itself. We were so proud to bring the Town Meeting Guide to voters and to partner with the League of Women Voters and MHTV to make sure people were fully informed. Now we are presenting a Guide to the Election (www.marbleheadcurrent.org/election2023) with the same partners. In addition, we don’t have a parent news company driving our decisions. All our decisions are made with the principle that we are performing a public service, not trying to turn a profit. And because we’re non-profit, all our financial resources are invested right back into the newsroom and our mission of delivering trusted news.
As the Marblehead Current’s President, what would you like to achieve with the paper over the next year? The whole team – the newsroom journalists and editors, the board and all our volunteers just met for our first retreat to talk about just that! We have so many exciting plans to expand our news and event coverage, and share it everywhere our readers are – in print, online and on social media. We just launched an out-of-town subscription service so we can broaden our reach and make sure Marbleheaders, or simply those who love our town, wherever they are, can stay close to what’s happening in the community. We’re so happy to be the presenting media sponsor of the Festival of Arts and in the coming year we want to broaden our role as a convener of events focused on news-related programming and issues of town interest. To do all that though, we have to significantly increase our donor base. Our funding comes from individuals through donations, as well as from advertising. Nonprofit newsrooms like ours are picking up steam all over the nation, allowing communities access to free, independent news from experienced journalists. But the model doesn’t work without your support.
Since it’s our first birthday, we are launching a fundraising campaign this month to celebrate the anniversary of our first story. We’re so grateful to our generous advertisers and donors who made our first, landmark year possible.
Now is the time to fund Year Twowith a tax-deductible donation to the Current. For a limited time our Board of Directors will match any first-time donation of $20 or more with an additional $10, up to $2000 total. Visit marbleheadcurrent.org/donate to pledge your support.
We like to say two newspapers (The Messenger and The Reporter) covered Marblehead for the last 150 years and now we want to provide the best local journalism has to offer for the next 150! We can only do that with your help
For More Information:
President, Virginia Buckingham
Tell us about Driftwood Garden Club and how it got started. The Driftwood Garden Club was founded in 1952 as a volunteer, non-profit organization by a group of women in Marblehead who were looking to offer a social service making and delivering floral arrangements to hospitals and dwellers of tenement buildings in Boston. Throughout the ensuing years, the club engaged in many different civic beautification projects including sprucing up Town properties for the Bicentennial in 1976.
What are some of the gardening projects you work on in Marblehead? In 1990, the Abbot Public Library did a building renovation and club members saw an opportunity to create beautiful gardens in what had been a construction debris dump site so the Library grounds became our main civic project. Within the brick walls, the Secret Garden came to life offering a space for quiet retreat and a safe haven for children. Max’s Garden and an aquarium garden followed a few years later bringing much enjoyment to children and their families visiting the Library. In 2018, the Old Marblehead Improvement Association presented the club with an award for “Outstanding Non-Profit Organization” in Marblehead. For over thirty years, the club has continued to renovate, plant and maintain all the outdoor landscaped areas of the library property using funds we raise at our annual Plant Sale in May. While the library is closed during the current renovation project , the club is providing landscaping and garden maintenance help at Farrell Court for the elderly and disabled residents who live there. We also recently planted hundreds of daffodils at Memorial Park.
What are some of the programs and events the Club works on throughout the year? Are there any events coming up soon we should know about? Throughout the months when we cannot work outside, the club offers a wide variety of educational programs presented by garden experts. We also join with the other garden clubs in town to decorate the King Hooper Mansion of the Marblehead Arts Association for the holidays in December. In the summer months , some of our members make floral arrangements for the Marblehead Museum’s Lee Mansion. Before our Plant Sale on May 13 at the Masonic Hall, club members will join in “Dig and Divide” when we take plants from gardens all over town to offer them to the public.
What are the benefits of being a member of Driftwood Garden Club? And how does one become a member? We have a wonderful website people can visit at driftwoodgardenclub.org to learn about all our programs and fun events as well as find information about becoming a member. Member benefits include making many new friends while working together to provide beautification of our town properties. Our popular social events include the annual Cocktail Party with spouses and partners, special workshops to learn flower-arranging and DIY projects and participating in travel opportunities to visit gardens elsewhere. For our 65th and 70th birthdays, the club celebrated with two trips to England to experience stunning gardens and the world famous Chelsea Flower Show.
As the current President, why is the Driftwood Garden Club so important to you? As Historian and current President, I have thoroughly enjoyed my many years in the Driftwood Garden Club. I have learned so much about gardening and environmental issues and made lifelong friends with a love for making the world more beautiful. What better way to enjoy life than getting our hands dirty in the garden, having fun learning about the natural world , socializing with old and new friends while offering service to our beloved community of Marblehead.
For More Information:
Driftwood Garden Club
Current President: Ginny von Rueden
Tell us about Living Swell and why you started it. In 2015 I decided to open a design studio/boutique in Marblehead as an extension of my interior design business. I wanted to create a place where people would be inspired by my unique design style and discover an extraordinary selection of hand chosen curated collections. The boutique, Living Swell, embodies a timeless coastal vibe, while always being on the forefront of style. Our interior design services include kitchen and bath design, home renovation, project management, yacht design, bespoke window treatments, upholstery and products, interior decoration and design.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? Some of the best advice I’ve ever received during my career include “design with intent”,” trust your instincts” and “own your style”.
What is your favorite spot in Marblehead, and why? My favorite spot has always been the north side of Fort Sewall, looking out over the water to Beverly and Manchester.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? People might be surprised to learn that when a good song comes on at Living Swell, we break out into total dance mode.
Tell us about All Chic At 152. All Chic At 152 is a boutique with clothing from the USA, Canada, and Europe. We sell trendy and affordable clothing and accessories for women. You’ll find our store in downtown Marblehead at 152 Washington Street. One of my favorite things to do is shop for unique pieces for my customers/clients. We have new merchandise arriving daily and I love every minute of it!
What made you decide to open your store? I started in business in 1992 with my first store Rags to Riches which I owned for many years before it was destroyed alongside my shoe store Funky Feet, and many other businesses, in the devastating fire on School Street on February 19, 2003. Shortly after the fire, I went into real estate but within about a year, I decided to reopen Rags to Riches on Pleasant Street. When I began heading in the direction of selling new clothing, I moved my store to 41 Atlantic Avenue. Not long after that, I opened All Chic Boutique and moved down the street. After many years at that location, we relocated to Florida, where I continued to sell real estate. When I returned to Marblehead, an overwhelming number of people requested that I reopen. So, in October 2021, I opened All Chic At 152 and I am so happy I did!
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? My parents always told me, “If you work hard, you will be rewarded.” I can truly say they were right.
What is your favorite spot in Marblehead, and why? My favorite spot in Marblehead is Washington Street. The foot traffic is awesome, and I love all the customers and their pets who pop in to do some shopping and visit with me.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? Something some people may be surprised to know about me was I was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland and I love to get my hands dirty in my garden.
For More Information:
All Chic At 152
Owner/Buyer: Siobhan Phelan
152 Washington St in Marblehead www.allchicat152.com
Tell us about Creature Comforts & Pawsitively Marblehead. Creature Comforts & Pawsitively Marblehead (CCPAWS) are businesses that are centered around your pets! Creature Comforts is our pet service side of the business, which includes our doggy daycare (and adorable dog buses!), dog walking and in-home pet care services – where we’ve cared for everything from cats to bearded dragons to chickens!
Pawsitively Marblehead is our boutique shop, located on Atlantic Ave, that features toys, accessories, and gifts for the pets and pet lovers in your life! We focus on carrying quality, local brands that you wouldn’t typically find in larger chain pet stores and we love collaborating with other local businesses to create unique pet products.
Both businesses were started by Brooks and Ned Williams over 20 years ago, and James and I happily took over the reins (or leashes in this case!) from them in 2019. As an employee of theirs for 7 years before this transition, I knew many aspects of the business already, but it has certainly been quite a learning experience to be on the owner’s side of things now. We love working directly with the animals we take care of, as well as with our customers and clients to figure out the best products to help enrich the lives of their pets…and getting to drive a dog bus now and then isn’t a bad way to spend the day either!
What is the best piece of business advice you ever received? The most important piece of business knowledge that I’ve received is how important it is to have reliable staff – they truly are the core of our business and we wouldn’t be able to do what we did without them. When dealing with people’s pets, it really is like dealing with a member of their family, so being able to trust and rely on our staff is critical. This was especially important when James and I welcomed our son Everett last year – we relied heavily on our manager Amy and the rest of our staff to hold down the fort as we adapted to life as first time parents. We are so thankful for our awesome team and their never-ending enthusiasm for the animals we care for!
What is your favorite spot in Marblehead? James and I can both say hands down that our favorite spot in Marblehead is Chandler Hovey Park. We just love everything about the lighthouse, and actually have quite the collection of different photos, paintings, and trinkets of it around our house … so much so, that we often joke that we live in the Marblehead Museum! I grew up sailing from Marblehead along the Maine coast and have always appreciated how different and unique our lighthouse is compared to the traditional white lighthouses you see in most places.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? You may already know that prior to owning CCPAWS, I worked at the New England Aquarium for 10 years in both the Rescue & Rehab Department and the Marine Mammal Training Department, but what you may not know is that part of my job in the Rescue Department was driving an ambulance (yes, an actual medical ambulance!) that we had outfitted to respond to animals including sea turtles, seals, and stranded dolphins and whales. And I have to say, driving a dog bus is actually easier…go figure!
Tell us about your business. Work Loft is an oasis for independent professionals and remote employees looking for a convivial and focused environment to get their work done. Whether it’s a private desk or a private office, our members enjoy amenities that help them sail through the work day comfortably and successfully (beverages, snacks, amazing wifi, printing, breakout spaces for phone and zoom calls, a wonderful conference room for meetings, and more). Besides offering an amazing environment for a successful and focused work day, we offer members ultimate flexibility with no long term commitments or unpleasant notice periods. We keep it easy and fair – isn’t that how we all want to be treated as valued customers?
What made me want to start your business? Working from home for 15 years drove me to start Work Loft! At first, working from home was a dream. I could stay in sweatpants all day long, I could walk to the fridge whenever I felt like it, I could do a bit of work then a bit of personal things to break up the day. Then I realized – I was in sweatpants all day, hanging out at the fridge, and getting distracted by personal things that ended up dragging the work day longer and longer. Soon, my kitchen island became my office….that I never left! It was always there and I was constantly checking mail, putting out fires, helping colleagues. I lost my work/life balance, I never saw anyone else, and it’s really no surprise that the fridge/sweatpants combo led nowhere good. Realizing how many other people there were like me in Marblehead, I started looking for a great location. It had to be in the heart of town, surrounded by other businesses that people wanted to visit during the day, with a good vibe and plenty of parking. When the building at 1 Spring Street (across from Starbucks!) became available, I jumped on it.
What do you love most about Marblehead? The village lifestyle. I’d been living in Europe for fifteen years before coming ‘back’ to New England. When shopping for our new home town, I insisted on a location where I could walk to almost everything. That combined with the beautiful quaintness of the homes, historical buildings and small footprint drew us to Marblehead. Ten years later, and we’re still loving it. The people we’ve met, the connections we’ve formed with the town, have all made Marblehead our longest ever stay in one place.
What hobbies/interests do you have? Food and travel. And I love combining these – eating like a local wherever we go is an important part of experiencing the spirit of a place.