In recent weeks, I have noticed an increase in the number of guests from Boston here in town. The other day I spoke with a couple who have lived in Boston for 20 years, who were in Marblehead for the first (!) time. I find that remarkable. Don’t you?
Covid-19 has changed the way we do a great many things this year, including, for many, vacationing: People tend to travel locally during times of economic instability. Add to that the current travel bans and other restrictions and it is easy to see why I, along with many other travel experts predict an increase in domestic and local tourism for the next year or two. Or five. I have heard countless stories of canceled trips to Europe and elsewhere, with people left State-side to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and other important events. So instead of jetting off to some far flung destination we are forced to stay close to home, like my example of the fine folks from Boston. But why does it take a pandemic and economic turmoil to make us take a staycation?
People have traveled since the beginning of time for a variety of reasons including exploration, war, business, and pleasure. Today, international tourism is a global industry accounting for “9% of global GDP, 30% of services exports and 1 in every 11 jobs” (UNWTO, 2014). The state of Massachusetts welcomed 31 million domestic and international visitors in 2018. These visitors spent $24.2 billion, a 5.6% increase of $1.3 billion over 2017, and generating $1.6 billion in combined state and local taxes for MA and its municipalities, an increase of 5.1% from 2017. Domestic travel spending in MA grew to $19.9 billion, a 6% increase from 2017. There is clearly something that brings people here. Yet we often book vacations away from here.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge proponent of sustainable travel, e.g. travel that takes into account all stakeholders, including the local community as I have seen it transform people, young and old, myself included, in the most amazing ways. I too travel abroad frequently, both for work and for pleasure, however two years ago, at a career crossroads, I made a conscious choice to not take a job as an international tour guide simply because I didn’t want to be away from here for 6-8 months per year. That’s when the penny dropped and I instead decided to form a company promoting local, sustainable, community based tourism. Right here. But that’s not what this blog post is about. This post is about the goldmine we call Marblehead and Cape Ann.
My point is that as we are now forced to make vacations staycations, we might as well truly embrace it, relative to our own comfort zones and economic means. Tailor your staycation accordingly, but do embrace it, however that looks to you: Book a private fishing charter; buy lobsters from a local lobster fisherman and cook them up at home; support your local restaurants and servers; engage virtually or in person in the many events in town; stay in a local hotel or bed and breakfast for a night or two; buy a new outfit, local piece of art or jewelry, or go hunting for the best lobster roll in Marblehead and beyond – bring a scorecard for fun!
Not only will you discover more of what Marblehead has to offer; you will also support those who make a living off tourism, many who lost two or three months of business already this year. If you need inspiration, spend some time on the Discover Marblehead site and start planning! Just no matter if you are in Marblehead or Beverly, please remember to respect the locals and follow the seven Leave No Trace principles, including carry in/carry out. We live here.
Tell us about Forever A Nomad and why you started it. I absolutely adore traveling! I take pleasure in exploring both popular tourist spots and hidden gems. However, many people feel overwhelmed and uncertain about planning their own trips, which can prevent them from traveling altogether or cause them to stick to the same destination repeatedly. That’s where I come in! I provide comprehensive itineraries for complete trips as well as specific cities and locations, making it easier for anyone to travel the world confidently and enjoyably. I also share the latest tips and insider tricks to help you score the best travel deals. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or a first-time adventurer, I have something for everyone!
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? “Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” ~Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire. If you have something valuable to offer to the world, then it’s imperative that you start working towards it. I must confess that it’s easier said than done, but I relish the idea of setting objectives and striving to achieve them. If I succeed, it’s because I worked hard for it, and if I fail, it’s because I let self-doubt get the better of me. This quote is both motivating and humbling for me.
What is your favorite spot in Marblehead, and why? Old Town! I love walking the streets of Old Town, reading the signs on the homes to know about the people who lived there, and exploring the unique shops located therein. The history of this amazing town has captivated me since the moment I first came here several years ago with my family on a vacation. I am now proud to call this incredible place home.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? I worked as a licensed private investigator for over 15 years, mostly in the criminal defense field. My husband and I owned and operated a firm that specialized in investigating murder cases, DUIs, drug matters, and other criminal charges. We collaborated with our clients’ attorneys to provide the best possible defense. Recently, we transformed our business into a nationwide TSCM (technical surveillance countermeasures) company that utilizes advanced technology to locate hidden audio and video devices that may have been placed in a client’s home, business, or vehicle.
Tell us about Chestnut Sweet and why you started it. We started Chestnut Sweet in 2013, after deciding that the structure behind our house that had served for years as a three-bay garage and full workshop might have more practical uses and even some revenue potential. We spent about eight months converting half of that building into a two-floor space that could be used either for our businesses (our original thought), for family overflow or as an in-law apartment. We purposely designed the interior with comfort and simplicity in mind, and eventually we formally registered the space with the state as a B&B. People rent from us mostly in the summer, sometimes purely for pleasure and the enjoyment of Marblehead and the North Shore, and sometimes as an off-site/distance workspace. We’re now seeing many return visitors who have begun to feel like family.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? Read widely, listen to your gut, and keep things simple.
What is your favorite spot in Marblehead, and why? That’s very tough, since there are so many sweet spots in Marblehead! The Red Steps, at the top of our street, is certainly one (there’s a secret bench there). The view from that spot, either night or day, is just spectacular; and so are Fort Sewall and the lovely quiet walking trails behind Seaside Park.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? OK, two things: I’m a trained Scuba diver and I’ve worked as a professional tailor and dressmaker.
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.
Melissa Stacey learned to love Marblehead and all its history and foibles from her grandfather and she has spun that passion into a business, Discover Marblehead, aimed at passing that love along.
When Stacey was growing up she would come to Marblehead every summer to stay with her grandparents, Donald and Mary Stacey. As the local postmaster, a member of the Board of Selectman and the board of the Marblehead Historical Society, Donald Stacey went out of his way to ensure that his young granddaughter shared his love of the town and its quirks, even down to the 18 public rights of way that the Selectmen walked once a year.
We can’t think of summer in Marblehead without thinking about the Festival of Arts. For over 50 years, the festival has been a celebration of all things art related, attracting incredible artists from near and far. Whether you enjoy film, music, writing, painting, photography, there is something for everyone to enjoy!
Marblehead is a community bursting with arts and culture and it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate that on such a grand scale every year. We appreciate all the hard work the volunteers and board members do to create such an amazing event. A lot of time and dedication, all year round, goes into making the Festival of Arts the great success it is!
The 2019 festival runs from July 4th – July 7th. To learn more about all of the events happening around town during the week of the festival, go to our culture page – https://discovermhd.com/culture/