Bringing back the downtown
Business owners team up to grow opportunities
Launching a business can be a daunting prospect, doubly so in an area known for years as a ghost town.
But downtown North Attleborough has become a thriving business scene, with restaurants, shops, and much more—and this is just the beginning.
Matt Slobogan is part of the Downtown North Attleborough Revitalization group, and for the last year and a half has been running meetings of approximately 20 business owners to find new ways to cross-promote and generate increased foot traffic in the area. For example, an artistic business may lend its talents to crafting a sign for another owners, as is the case at the Whisk and Paddle, which features Slobogan’s work.
“The way you see downtown right now, even though it’s not fully developed, you rewind to 2008, it’s much better,” said Slobogan at his business, Preservation Framer. “It used to be tumbleweeds. We would look out and it would be a ghost town. It’s only up from there.”
In addition to assisting one another with promotional efforts, the owners also organize fundraisers to help the community. In December, they ran a Holiday Stroll and raised $500 for the World War II Memorial Pool. The Downtown Associates of North Attleborough has also been a force with a number of events, including the annual Chocolate Stroll, Strawberry Festival, and School Shuffle.
Social media has become one of the best tools for the businesses to help with promotion. The DNAR has its own Facebook page with more than 4,000 followers. Slobogan takes photos of new and existing businesses and watches as the posts receive traffic in the thousands. In 2018, the hashtag “downtownNA” could be seen on many empty storefronts, which Slobogan said helped increase interest in the area. A recent post for the Mad Moose Saloon reached more than 10,000 people. For a small fee a user can “boost” a post, ensuring it reaches far more people than normal, and Slobogan has done this numerous times, and that it translated into improvements to foot traffic.
“We want to see how we can push that even further,” he said.
Walking around the downtown
North Attleborough’s downtown area sees a number of people during the day and in the evening. It’s what led Alyse Leonard and her friend Cathy Didick to open Whisk and Paddle across from the town library. Leonard said she had her eye her location on North Washington Street for some time, and already had a following from a smaller location down the street.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to grow,” said Leonard.
The two met while working at a bakery and spent five years planning their business. In between talking to customers and taking orders, the two thought about what would make this area even better. They agreed that an arts or music offering would complement the many eateries.
Down the road is the Mad Moose Saloon, which opened last fall. Owner Ceil Weeman has been living in the area since 1955 and said it has maintained it’s small-town ambiance through the years.
“It’s starting to become what it used to be,” said Weeman as she prepared to open on Friday morning.
Challenges to growth
Slobogan said one of the biggest issues has been getting the word out to the residents of the town. He’s had a few encounters where people will tell him they’ve lived in the town their entire lives and never knew about the downtown area. It also suffered a downswing in 2008 with the Great Recession and from the malls and increased numbers of people shopping online.
Weeman echoed this sentiment that the people of North Attleborough need to make the trip down Washington Street to see what it has to offer. Slobogan hopes that in the near future more people will become aware of the strong business presence and that the few empty storefronts will be filled.
“We’re getting to a point where we’re using it to it’s fullest potential,” he said.