Beyond Community Sentiment, Jobs And Businesses At Stake In Popponesset Marketplace
By: Geoff Spillane
While much attention has been focused on advocates protesting the potential loss of a summer tradition, the local business community and civic leaders are concerned about the possible economic impact that the closing of the Popponesset Marketplace could have on Mashpee.
It is estimated that the closure could result in the loss of 50 to 100 seasonal jobs.
“This is a case of ADA compliance gone awry, and is a tragedy for families and visitors who have enjoyed the simplicity and old Cape Cod atmosphere of the marketplace for nearly 30 years. The closing of the marketplace will definitely have an economic impact on Mashpee, and will result in a domino effect that will start with the summer rental business,” said Thomas J. O’ Neill, president of the Mashpee Chamber of Commerce.
“One of the top three questions the chamber receives at the visitors welcome center is, ‘Where do you get that lobster roll?’ ” added Mr. O’Neill, referring to the signature menu item at The Raw Bar.
“It’s horrific how the cards were dealt on this issue. It takes a whole neighborhood and guts it. There are similar places on the Cape and Islands that will benefit from the loss of the marketplace,” said Mr. O’Neill.
Jason R. Streebel, director of assessing for Mashpee, does not expect tax revenue to be affected for Fiscal Year 2012, as the property was assessed earlier this year as it currently stands.
Tenants of the Popponesset Marketplace received notice last week that only businesses that have leases that expire at the end of 2011 will be allowed to remain open for a final season. They include The Raw Bar, Bob’s Seafood Café and Wine Bar, Emack & Bolio’s, Rebecca O’Donnell Art Gallery and Popponesset Miniature Golf.
The Mashpee Board of Selectmen has not yet become involved in the marketplace dispute, despite posts on Facebook urging “Save the Marketplace” followers to contact the town’s elected officials.
“The Board of Selectmen has not taken a formal stand on the Popponesset Marketplace because we were just as surprised as everyone else when this news was reported in The Mashpee Enterprise. Speaking on a personal note, and not as a selectman, because no discussion has taken place yet, I am in shock at the news. Being a Mashpee resident of more than 30 years with so many fond memories of the marketplace, I find it hard to believe it would be even considered being closed for technical reasons without some kind of compromise. Mashpee has very few historical landmarks that have been left in place, and I consider the marketplace to be one of them,” Selectman John J. Cahalane wrote in an e-mail provided to the Enterprise.
Being the owner of one of the few businesses that will be allowed to open this season is bittersweet for Rebecca H. O’Donnell, of the O’Donnell Art Gallery, who would be much happier if her friends and fellow shopkeepers were also allowed to open.
“I am still trying to digest this news. I was shocked to see it on the front page of the Enterprise—it really hit home. We had an idea there was an issue, but were in denial,” said Ms. O’Donnell. “It is so sad and is heartbreaking for all of us.”
According to Ms. O’Donnell, “The marketplace is a barometer of what America loves—a center for families, entertainment and non-corporate businesses, where Mom & Pop shops can thrive.”
From an economic perspective, Ms. O’Donnell said, “There may be a curiosity factor driving people to the marketplace this summer. People may want to see it for the last time, but let’s hope that is not the case.”
Joseph V. Anastos, owner of Emack & Bolio’s ice cream empathizes with Mr. Murphy, the plaintiff in the lawsuit against the marketplace. But, he said, “it’s a bit unrealistic that an older building like the marketplace could become completely compliant with ADA guidelines.”
“The loss of the marketplace will have a profound economic impact on the community, and will affect jobs and small businesses that rely on seasonal income. It will also have a ripple effect on the rental and housing markets. It’s just unimaginable that the marketplace may not be here next summer,” added Mr. Anastos.
Donna I. Bochanowski’s late husband, Alphonse A. Bochanowski, single-handedly built Popponesset Miniature Golf 20 years ago.
“I’m not sure how business will be this summer. The marketplace is like a package deal: people come for the shops, restaurants, and entertainment,” said Ms. Bochanowski, who also “has seen many disabled people enjoy the marketplace during the past 20 years.”
Tami Smith, owner of Whirly Girlie, a marketplace shop that specializes in same day embroidery, seemed to be taking the news in stride.
“I wasn’t completely surprised, because there were rumors of a lawsuit. While we all had high hopes that the two parties would resolve the issue, I have a young family, so my number-one priority is being a mom,” said Ms. Smith.
Ms. Smith also praised marketplace owner Christopher Burden and the shopkeeper community.
“Chris Burden has put his heart into making the marketplace special, and takes pride in the property,” said Ms. Smith.
In regard to her fellow marketplace business owners, Ms. Smith said, “If we could put someone on our back and bring them into the stores, we would. We don’t discriminate against anyone, we’re just not like that.”