Small Business Administration Workshop – January 25, 2017

Do you own a small business in the Franklin area? Thinking about starting one? If so, don’t miss the upcoming workshop on the Small Business Administration!

This Wednesday, January 25, from 9-11 AM, come to the Franklin Municipal Building to learn more about the various programs and services the SBA has to offer. From Guaranty Loan programs and government contracting opportunities to the Center for Women and Enterprise and the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, you’ll leave with all the information you need about the resources that can help your business flourish.

This event is free, and you can RSVP by clicking here. Don’t miss out!

2017 Reader’s Choice Awards

It’s that time of year again! The voting is open for the 2017 Wicked Local Reader’s Choice Awards.

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This is a great opportunity for you to show your appreciation for your favorite local businesses, and once the results are out, it’s a great way to find some new favorites! To vote, just click on the link above. Don’t forget that you need to vote in at least ten categories for your votes to be counted, so be generous and creative and share your opinions freely.

Voting is open until February 15 at 5:00 PM, so get started and have fun!

Franklin Downtown Partnership Harvest Stroll – October 6, 2016

Mark your calendars – one week from today is the Franklin Downtown Partnership‘s annual Harvest Stroll!

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This year’s Stroll is going to be bigger and better than ever, with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate our newly revitalized downtown. It’s always a great family event, so come on down from 4 to 7 PM for food, games, and fun!

In case you can’t make it to the Stroll, you can still help support the FDP. On November 12, the FDP will be holding a 15th Anniversary Gala at the Black Box Theatre. According to the FDP, the Gala’s aim is “to celebrate the revitalization of downtown Franklin and to raise funds that will allow our non-profit organization continue working on improvements and bringing events such as the Harvest Stroll, Holiday Stroll and Strawberry Stroll to the community.” You can even sponsor the Gala or donate items for the silent auction (details here).

Buy tickets and get more info here, and as always, follow the FDP’s blog and Facebook page for updates on other fun community events!

Valentine Chocolate and Wine Tasting

Looking for something fun to do with someone for Valentine’s Day? The Sugar Shoppe has teamed up with Franklin Liquors to host a chocolate and wine tasting event just in time for the holiday!

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From 7 to 9 PM on Tuesday, February 9, join Mark Lenzi and Courtney Nappa at Franklin Liquors (363 E. Central St.) for a fun and educational exploration of chocolate and wine – two delicious tastes that bring out the best in one another. Tickets are $40 per person, and part of your registration fee goes to support the Sugar Shoppe’s charitable efforts (see my recent Sugar Shoppe profile for details!). Attendees must be 21 or over, of course.

Thanks to the Center for Adult Education and Community Learning for making this event possible! You can register for this event and others through their website, or call 508-613-1480 for more info.

 

#ShopFranklin Spotlight – The Sugar Shoppe

For this week’s #ShopFranklin Spotlight, I met with Courtney Nappa of The Sugar Shoppe!

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© Focus Designs & Photos

Sweets make people happy, and the Sugar Shoppe’s sweets do double duty. In addition to being tasty, everything sold at the Sugar Shoppe helps out local families in need by acting as a standing fundraiser for the nonprofit organization founded by Courtney and her husband. “We didn’t come into it thinking store first,” says Courtney. “We came in thinking nonprofit first, and how to raise money… on a consistent basis.” Their organization, Make Change for Change, has the long-term goal of providing permanent housing for homeless women and children, particularly veterans and those affected by domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental illness, and currently works with several partner beneficiaries to help those in need.

As part of the process of getting Make Change for Change up and running, Courtney started to look for office space and soon found the small storefront on Union Street where the Sugar Shoppe is now located. As she set up her office, she began to think, “Wouldn’t it be great if we just sold something out of here while I’m here anyway?” Since Courtney had always wanted to own a candy shop and Franklin didn’t have one, candy was the natural choice and the Sugar Shoppe was born. The concept is simple: whatever the candy sales bring in, over and above the business’ overhead costs, goes directly into the Make Change for Change fund. Courtney tries to keep the overhead as low as possible so that the maximum amount of money can go to the nonprofit, so the Sugar Shoppe is staffed by Courtney herself and a team of volunteers. “Most people are in the business to make money – in our case we happened to come into this backwards!” says Courtney.

Right now, the Sugar Shoppe sells a basic selection of candies with a few special additions. Courtney is particularly proud of carrying Cocopotamus truffles, which are exclusive to the Sugar Shoppe on the East Coast. Cocopotamus truffles are well-known on the West Coast as the truffles given to celebrities in their luxurious Oscar and Emmy goody bags, but they’re so good they deserve to be better known on the East Coast, and Courtney’s doing her best to make that happen. “The inside’s just so decadent,” Courtney says, and she also loves the quirky flavor names (like “Sumos Never Sleep,” a Japanese green tea-dark chocolate truffle). The Sugar Shoppe also carries fudge and peppermint bark from Winfrey’s in Newburyport, and Courtney’s always on the lookout for other great local products to add. “No matter what you like, you can get something here!”

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© Focus Designs & Photos

“We want to keep the fun going here,” Courtney says, and 2016 will see the Sugar Shoppe partnering up with Franklin Liquors for a couple of wine and chocolate pairing classes. On a more practical level, Courtney’s also paired up with Chestnut Dental, which provides free toothbrush kits to Sugar Shoppe customers. Coming soon, the Sugar Shoppe will have some souvenirs and clothing to sell, and Courtney hopes to eventually rent a commercial kitchen space so that the Sugar Shoppe can create its own confections. She has big plans for the Sugar Shoppe’s eventual growth, including a move to a bigger space where they can add coffee and baked goods to their offerings, but she knows “it’s going to take a while to get where we’re going.”

As the Make Change for Change fund grows, Courtney and her husband plan to use their backgrounds in real estate and property management to use the fund for the purchase, renovation, and maintenance of permanent housing for homeless women and children. Courtney says that Make Change for Change is awaiting its official 501(c)(3) status as a federally registered charity, so in the meantime, they’re working with other local organizations to provide “a little bit of happiness, a little bit of sweetness” to families in need. Most recently, the Sugar Shoppe teamed up with Horizons for Homeless Children, a Boston non-profit which provides daycare and preschool services to families affected by homelessness, for a Christmas gingerbread house extravaganza. The Sugar Shoppe led a team of volunteers in building gingerbread houses, provided all the candy trimmings, and delivered everything to Horizons’ centers for the kids to decorate. They’ve also recently put together gift baskets to bring some happiness to women at Rosie’s Place, a Boston women’s shelter.

Overall, Courtney just wants to make sure the Franklin community knows that when they buy treats at the Sugar Shoppe, the money’s going to a good cause. “This is where we’re starting,” she says. “It’s cool that we’re starting here in Franklin and it’s fun to have the community be able to help us get off the ground.”

The Sugar Shoppe is located at 334 Union Street in Franklin. Check out their website and Facebook page for more info, and for more beautiful photos of the shop, visit Focus Designs & Photos’ #ShopFranklin Photo Spotlight on the Sugar Shoppe!

Wicked Local Reader’s Choice Awards

It’s that time of year again… time to vote for your favorite local businesses in the Wicked Local Reader’s Choice Awards! (Follow the link to see the 2015 winners.)

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The Reader’s Choice Awards are a great way to support your favorite local hangouts and to discover new gems. With over 75 categories to choose from, you’ll definitely find a way to vote for all the businesses and services you feel deserve an award. Vote in at least 10 categories for your vote to be counted, and don’t forget to give Wicked Local your contact info so you can be entered to win prizes!

Find the 2016 ballot online here, and cast your votes by Wednesday, February 10 at 5 PM. Have fun!

#ShopFranklin Spotlight – The Santa Foundation

Merry Christmas! For this week’s #ShopFranklin Spotlight, I interviewed Mr. and Mrs. Claus themselves – or at least, Franklin’s equivalent – Bob Sullivan and Jan Prentice of the Santa Foundation!

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© The Santa Foundation

The Santa Foundation got its start 29 years ago, when Bob and his wife decided to bring the Christmas spirit to some needy local families. Bob got a couple of names from the Food Pantry, and then he “bought the gifts, bought a Santa suit, went to their house, ‘HO HO HO!’ delivered their gifts and left.” Nearly three decades later, he’s still doing it, but the operation has since expanded to include ten volunteers who assist hundreds of families. Bob’s right-hand woman, Jan, goes by Mrs. Claus and never appears without her trademark reindeer-antler headband, even during summer fundraising events. “I have to wear my antlers because nobody recognizes me without my antlers!” Jan laughs.

The heart of the Santa Foundation is to help give its families some hope by providing them with Christmas gifts and giving them “one day of the year to be just like every other family,” Bob says. Jan adds that “we’re more concerned about the children… but we do take care of the adults too.” Local food banks, housing authorities, schools, and churches provide the Santa Foundation with names of families who could use assistance, but all families’ details are kept confidential so that their privacy can be preserved. Organizations or individuals can sponsor a particular family by purchasing items from the family’s anonymous wishlist, or they can simply donate whatever they would like, since Jan and the volunteers “put it all together and it all adds up.” If you’re interested in donating, the Santa Foundation only accepts new gifts to give to its families; “it’s a kick in the pants if you give a child something used,” says Jan. Gift cards are especially welcome, since “teenagers are the hardest to buy for,” according to Bob.

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© The Santa Foundation

As a federally registered 501(c)(3) charity, the Santa Foundation now operates year-round to help the local community. Jan and her volunteers start shopping for next year’s Christmas gifts starting on December 26, but there’s more to the Foundation’s efforts than just Christmas. The Santa Foundation can also help pay a needy family’s rent, utility bills, or even help people in crisis get to shelters, no matter what season it happens to be. “Somehow it works,” says Jan. “We’ve never not helped someone.” Fortunately, Bob’s accounting firm, Sullivan and Associates, provides physical space and pays all overhead costs so that the Santa Foundation is free to pass along every dime of its $65,000 budget straight to its families. “We don’t get huge checks like the Heart Association. We’re local, you know,” says Bob, who wants to emphasize that every donation to the Santa Foundation makes a big impact since everything they receive is kept right here in the community.

All year round, the volunteers “work their butts off” night and day to get ready for next Christmas and address families’ day-to-day needs. “The volunteers we have here are amazing,” Bob says, and Jan has stopped keeping track of the hours she and the rest of the crew work. 148 families were helped last year in Franklin alone, and the community’s need keeps growing. Donations are accepted year-round, and the Santa Foundation also raises money for its efforts by selling calendars and holding a summer golf tournament. Bob’s accounting clients often donate and sponsor families, and even some of the gift recipients donate to help others. “Everyone is taken care of,” Jan says.

The Santa Foundation is located at Sullivan and Associates’ office at 1 Joy Street in Franklin. Check out their website or Facebook page to learn more and contact the organization!