OWL Talks

Westfield's Great Downtown Businesses Offer Much to Students

Posted by Kelly Hart on Feb 9, 2017 11:10:00 AM

Performance Music

Contributed by Tyler Hastings

performance.pngPerformance Music – Your full service, family owned music shop. Since taking over in April of this year, Jack Dos Santos has taken a local business in danger of closing and turned it around to be the one-stop-shop for all kinds of musical needs. Performance Music deals in supplies, instruments, accessories, equipment, and repair services, all at a low price. Name brands include Seagull, Yamaha, and Orange. All practice space needs for everything from an individual piano lesson to a band rehearsal are available. Music lessons are a specialty at Performance. Instructors teach anything that plays a note.

Jack sees great potential not only for Performance Music but for the city of Westfield as a whole. His reasoning is that since music is a luxury good and people (not just regular customers) are spending more on it, there is a positive economic trend in Westfield but it is very fragile. The key to making Westfield thrive is entrepreneurial efforts of people like Jack. Businesses and jobs are what make a community viable and the entrepreneur creates both.

Jack applauds the redevelopment that has already taken place in Westfield. “One key thing for getting people to spend money is comfort in their environment,” Jack said. Not only is this his assessment of the restoration of the riverfront and other areas of the city, it is the reason that he cited for moving Performance Music to its current location at 347 Elm Street. “There’s way more opportunity here,” Jack said talking about the new riverfront area. The riverfront area is very scenic and the store is much more visible where it is now.

So if your band needs a place to practice, if your strings need to be replaced, your amps won’t turn on, or even if you want to prank a roommate with a kazoo wakeup call, Performance Music has everything you need. Hours are convenient and the environment is welcoming to all.


Fast Feet

Contributed by: Andy Rosario

fastfeet.jpgEver feel as if you could use better footwear, whether it be for athletic purposes, walking, or even simple support shoes? If so, Fast Feet--The Running Specialists, located on 26 Elm St, in Westfield, Massachusetts, has you covered! Fast Feet opened its Westfield shop in 2007, and has been serving the greater Springfield area ever since. The shoe-filled store is owned and operated by a non-profit running club called the Springfield Harriers. This western Mass. running club was founded in 1978, and has been hosting several races each year in the greater Springfield area. Some of their most famous races consist of the big fourth 5K peach festival classic, and the Walter Childs Memorial Race of Champions. Their passion for running and community involvement is noted all over the area, and rooted in their running specialty store: Fast Feet.

Fast Feet welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds and serves to accommodate your specific needs, whether it be pain due to running/walking, or even just finding the most comfortable shoes. Zack Patrice, a sales associate at Fast Feet, describes the store as an “educator,” emphasizing their knowledge and expertise in helping people find the best footwear that will help them for all occasions. The management and staff at Fast Feet all come from running backgrounds, so they know the sport really well and focus heavily on identifying the customer’s specific needs when it comes to footwear.

The running specialists at Fast Feet strive to provide you the proper footwear that will enhance your recreational activities, which in turn can also help improve your overall health. The running specialists will fit you into several different shoes until you find the best shoe that fits your foot structure. In order to get you the proper footwear, Fast feet running specialists take into account “your arch type, degree of pronation, foot size and shape, and any previous or current injuries” explains Patrise. This will ensure that you get the best footwear that you’re your specific needs.

In addition to shoes, Fast Feet The Running Specialists sells the latest athletic wear and top brands as well. From Nike, Adidas Under Armor, to even Saucony and Asics, Fast Feet has it all. In addition, the running specialists also accommodate those with running-related injuries and provide injury prevention equipment, to help them improve their health. Fast Feet offers military, student, and senior discounts. So never worry about getting professional advice, come on down, spend some time in your local running heaven to get the latest running footwear, information on upcoming races, or even some professional advice on choosing the best shoe for your specific foot structure.  


Ezra’s Mercantile

ezra3.jpgContributed by  Mitchell Benedetti

Imagine walking into your grandmother’s house. It’s warm, cozy, and there are trinkets galore. It’s a place you love to be, somewhere that makes you feel like you’re home away from home. This is what walking into Ezra’s Mercantile was like for me. Located at 34 Elm St., Westfield MA, Ezra’s is surely a hidden treasure. I found myself downtown one day at Two Rivers Burritos (which is directly next door), and noticed a beautiful storefront, so I had to walk in.

Once inside I met Lou, the owner of the shop, and asked her to sit down for a few questions. We ended up chatting for over a half hour about her shop and the city itself, and we kept in contact through e-mail so I could get all the ins and outs of her small business. She was just as delightful as her shop, and really had a lot to tell me about, so I’m here to share her dream with you.

ezra.jpgEzra’s mission statement is “to successfully sell quality practical, decorative and gift items that project the warmth and comfort of home with the whimsy and good will of my friends and family while becoming an integral part of the community of Westfield, Massachusetts.” And quality is exactly what I saw while in her shop. Her table runners and wood signs are a couple of her handcrafted goods she offers, using only the best material for them, and when she can, she buys her materials locally! Those are her most favorite items to make, while her most popularly sold item are compendium books.

Lou also partners with Annie Sloan, a British artist who developed and copyrighted chalk paint, which Lou uses to refinish the furniture that she sells. If you’ve ever been interested in refinishing furniture, or making refashioning goods for on your own, Lou offers classes! She will teach classes for groups of four or more, and you if you’d like to schedule one, make sure it’s about a month in advance. Something to think about if your dorm room is looking a little barren.

Lou is a handy-woman from head to toe, and loves to refinish furniture along with being a graphic designer, landscaper, decorator, and more! She believes everyone has these talents if you’re willing to try them out, and she accepts all skill ranges for her classes. So if you’re ever downtown and want quality home goods that will make your house (or dorm) a home, check out Ezra’s Mercantile. Whether you’re looking for a new scarf, home décor, or gifts, Ezra’s has it for you.


Vivid Hair Salon

Contributed by Emma Rodriguez

vivid.jpgDo you need a new look? Or just want some time to relax and enjoy an amazing fascial? Then Vivid Hair Salon and Spa is best for you. As you walk into the salon you notice how clean and comforting it is. Once you speak to the receptionist, Marissa Clark, you will quickly fall in love with their passion, caring, and professionalism. The Salon is located on 99 Elm Street here in Westfield. Their services range from a traditional haircut to braids or an up-do. According to the owner, Basia Belz, “Vivid Hair Salon will assist you in achieving the perfect hair design to fit you and your lifestyle.” Belz along with her stylists, will make sure you enjoy your time and leave loving their service. They have been on a local television lifestyle program called Mass Appeal a number of times. According to a customer satisfaction survey, 98 percent of clients would refer friends/family to them. This summer they celebrated their ten-year anniversary.

vivid2.jpgThe stylists and esthetician at Vivid Hair Salon and Spa are passionate and have experience. The stylists are Basia Belz, Rose Godin, Jaclyn Peloquin, Frances Alvarez, Jena Nieves, Chiara, and esthetician, Jamie Roy.

The owner Basia Belz, does a little of everything in the salon. She is a hair colorist, hair extension technician, and Belz also has performed education classes to other salon professionals. Belz graduated from Dean Tech's Cosmetology program. She than attended Holyoke Community College, and graduated from Western New England College with a Bachelor of Art in Business Administration. Basia Belz still continues learning and travels around the United States to receive training from the best of the beauty business.

vivid3.jpgRose Godin has been with Vivid for about ten years. Godin’s specialty is hair coloring and extensions. If you are ever looking for a stylist to color your hair or give you more length, then Rose will be a great stylist to contact.

Jaclyn Peloquin specializes in color and makeup. She has been part of the cosmetology industry for four years. She is continuing her education by attending trainings and gaining multiple certifications.

Frances Alvarez specializes in Beaded Extensions and Keratin Smoothing Straightening System by Copola. Alvarez is very passionate and cares for her clients. If you have been wanting to get your hair straight and smooth, then Alvarez is your best choice!

Jena Nieves is stylist of the month. Nieves is the youngest at Vivid Hair Salon, and she is very passionate; her specialty is Balayage, Ombre, and highlighting. Nieves is continuing her education and she is very excited about her future.

Chiara is the newest member of the Vivid family. Chiara loves creating unique looks for her customers. Vibrant colors, and edgy cuts are what she loves to do. If you are in a need of a new outgoing look, Chiara will do a magnificent job!

Jamie Roy, the esthetician at Vivid Hair Salon, graduated from American International College in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, and in 2013 from Marinello Schools of Beauty. Roy’s mission is to have you leave Vivid Hair Salon and Spa with the best possible skin care experience you have ever had.

Vivid hair salon services are: Hair services, hair extensions, bridal and special occasion up do’s, spa services, xtreme lashes extensions, California spray tan, and waxing services. They have bridal packages for the groom as well. By the way they also accept Owl Bucks! Finals will soon be coming up, go on over and get yourself what you deserve!


Come One Come all to The Barber‘s Parlor

Contributed by Miguel A. Maria

barber.jpegThe Barber Parlor is an establishment in236 Elm Street downtown Westfield that is owned and operated by Jimmy Ahearn. As soon as you step foot in the Barber Parlor you are hit with the sweet smell of clubmen aftershave. The shop gives off the feel of a classic barber shop with a modern twist. Upon entering you are greeted by welcoming staff, a furnished waiting area for customers, a television usually running a movie, and plenty of reading material to keep you entertained.

The 236 Elm Street location has been a barbershop for approximately seven years. The barbershop is quite profitable according to the employees, and the owner Jimmy sees on average 20+ clients a day. They attribute their success to their great customer service and convenient business hours.

As far as the clientele, each barber gets a mixed bag of individuals made up of walk-ins and regulars, and they encourage Westfield State students to patronize their establishment. 

In order to facilitate more support from Westfield State students The Barber Parlor does try to entice more students by offering generous discounts. For example on Mondays and Tuesdays the Parlor offers haircuts for $9.99. The Barber Parlor can also be found on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. If a student would like to see some of the artistic haircuts and stylish looks offered, they can check them out on any of the shop’s social media sites. The Barber Parlor is a great small business in Westfield owned and operated by a Westfield resident. Not only does it appeal to Westfield residents but also appeals to Westfield State students looking for a nice place to get a haircut on a college student’s budget. The business is highly recommended, located in a great area with available street parking. With an experienced hair stylist at every chair the Barber‘s Parlor is the go-to place for an affordable and great looking haircut.


The Westfield Whip Manufacturing Company

Contributed by Connor Jackson

whip.jpgIn 1884, right here in Westfield, a business started that is still in operation today: the Westfield Whip Manufacturing Company, a tie to history that many (including myself) may have never known of but may find truly fascinating to investigate.  I already knew some details from their website and some word-of-mouth.  For example, the whip industry gave Westfield its nickname of “The Whip City.”  I wanted to know more, however.  What exactly keeps this business running today?  Where did they do business?  What was the relationship like with the city and with our University?  To shed some light on these questions and more, Carol Martin, the current owner, was kind enough to sit down with me. 

The instant I crossed the threshold, it felt like I was stepping back into history.  Here I was in a 131 year old business that still thrived today.  How is that possible?  According to Carol Martin, a lot of that has to do with technique.  Westfield Whip may no longer use rawhide or whalebone, but the techniques they used – techniques that put them on top in the 1800’s – are still in use to produce the best equestrian whips possible.  Ms. Martin recalls hearing numbers as high as 95% in regards to how much of the world’s whip production Westfield Whip has been responsible for.  They do business all over the world, which led to another question of mine; where are some of their biggest customers?  The question, Ms. Martin stated, was a tricky one.  Basically, it fluctuates depending on circumstances.  For example, the financial crisis in 2008-2009 made business within the United States more difficult.  Ms. Martin attributes their continued success during this time to their business dealings in Europe.  Now, our economy is starting to come back and the European Economy is going down, making the reverse true.  I asked about their production, and thought that surely they must have other facilities where they manufacture whips to support such business, but Ms. Martin corrected me.  The building I visited at 360 Elm Street is it.  All whip manufacturing is conducted under that one roof, and yet the business deals all around the world.

I also wanted to know some information that students at Westfield State might find relevant.  I asked about involvement with the University, and whether or not employment of students or internships had happened before.  Her response was very encouraging.  She said that no, nothing like that had happened before, but that she would “love to do something like that.”  She recalled being involved with Hoot Day, and was impressed by the students pitching in the way they did.  She said they are very interested in working with people (such as students of the University) who want to learn a little about what they do in the process.  As Ms. Martin put it, “new eyes bring new points of view.”  And in general, she asserted her belief that good involvement and good communication between the University and the Community can only be good for both parties.

Next, I wanted to know her perspective regarding the community.  I asked what she thought about the relationship Westfield Whip had with the leadership in Westfield, and she had much positive to say about the support they have received in their more recent historical endeavors.  While the Westfield Whip remains in business selling whips, they also intend to make the building into a museum, and that some of the museum could be up and running in as little as 12 months. 

My interview with Carol Martin was very fascinating.  In our studies, we have seen the history of what Westfield was and what it is today, and we have speculated on what it could be in the future.  In our interview, Carol Martin displayed an optimism that I would call contagious, evident in her hope for a once-again thriving downtown Westfield and her enthusiasm for student involvement in her business.  In the future, perhaps we will see internships in the Westfield Whip.  Perhaps we will see newly invigorated interest in Westfield’s history sparked by a new museum.  Whatever we see, I feel confident that there is one thing we won’t see: the Westfield Whip Manufacturing Company is not going away any time soon.


Westfield on Weekends

wow.jpgContributed by Christina Lankarge

At the intersection of Elm and Thomas streets is a brick building with blue trim called the Rinnova Building. An “Open” flag waves in the breeze and two decorative flower pots sit on either side of the double doors, and creations from local artists can be seen in the large glass window. Walking inside reveals more art, from paintings to jewelry and rings made from spoons to hollowed-out gourds painted for decoration.

The Rinnova Building is home of two volunteer-run, art and community based programs: Westfield on Weekends, or WOW, and Westfield Creative Arts. Both have homes in the Rinnova Building, and both aim to bring the community together through various programs they host. Westfield Creative Arts is a series of art-related classes, ranging from painting to knitting, sewing to basket making, and nearly everything in between. The classes are all run by volunteers who have much experience in their particular craft, and many of the classes do not require that a participant have any prior experience. Many of the classes run once a week for a set number of weeks, but there are options for day-long workshops as well.

Westfield on Weekends, in contrast, aims to be out of the building and knit the community together through various programs that it hosts. WOW had its beginnings back in 2003 when Bob Plasse and James Homan began a program called “Dicken’s Days,” revolving around displaying the beautiful and historic architecture of Westfield homes that were decked out to look like certain scenes from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Since then, this event has exploded into a month-long affair, including the classic house tours with volunteers who dress up in costume and perform scenes from the novel, a lantern parade and a tree-lighting done by the mayor, a chance to purchase hand-made gifts made by local artisans at “Fezziwig’s Faire Shoppe,” visits with Santa, and much more!

The other huge community event that is hosted by WOW is the Westfield Music Festival, a series of concerts held in the summer on the Green in the center of Westfield. The 2015 Festival featured many nationally- known acts, including “Waterloo Revival”, “RaeLynn from ‘The Voice’”, and “Bruce in the USA”. The festival was a huge success thanks to the panel of volunteers that gave their time to make sure things ran smoothly, and through the help of sponsorships from businesses and organizations, such as Baystate Noble Hospital, Westfield Bank, iHeart Media, and The Tavern Restaurant.

WOW is not bound to only these two programs, however. There are many smaller events that take place during the year that are either put on or supported by WOW, including a “November After 5” event that promotes networking among local Westfield businesses, a Children’s Toy and Book Sale, and a workshop that will teach how to make lanterns for the parade that marks the beginning of the Dickens’ Days celebration. The community calendar, located on their colorful and eye-popping website, is packed full of events that appeal to just about everyone.

If you are looking for something to do, be it a way to spend time with family, community members, or do something for yourself, WOW programs and classes held by Westfield Creative Arts are excellent options, and a great way to connect with people in the community. If volunteering is your passion, WOW is always looking for extra hands and smiling faces to help their programs run smoothly. Even if you’re simply looking for a unique gift for someone this holiday season or something to spice up your home with, the Rinnova Building holds many one-of-a-kind gifts that are sure to please!

Have a spot we forgot? Let us know below, what's your favorite spot near campus?  

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