Fisherville Mill in South Grafton

Fisherville Mill

The era of the great textile mills of South Grafton lasted from the early 1800’s to the mid 1900’s. During those years, the mills located along the Blackstone River provided employment for thousands of Polish, French Canadian, and other immigrants, and produced millions of yards of cloth for a growing nation. The Fisherville Mill was one of the largest of these mills.

Prest Wheel

In addition to textiles, in later years a company called Prest Wheel that produced tubular aluminum webbed chairs and other fabrications was located on the site of the Fisherville Mill. Here are some comments from people who actually worked there. These comments may take some of you back!

Larry Legassey shares, “They manufactured lawn chairs and made their own foam rubber in the basement. I worked in the foam department making foam buns and all the various jobs required to make foam cushions.

They employed most of the kids in town at one time or another.

The open pit was the end of the conveyer belt. That is where they brought the freshly made buns of foam rubber up to the first floor. When they were making foam they would cut to a certain length downstairs and run it up through the floor. We would grab the buns and flip them up on their sides on these little wheeled dollies They couldn’t stop the conveyer once they started making foam, so we would have to keep up.”

Gail Witham offers, ” I worked there in High School screwing the webbing onto lawn chair frames. It was a dirty, greasy gross job, we made 35 cents a chair, so if you wanted any real money, you had to bust your ass! This was around 1978 or ’79. You learned real quick to wear your worst shirt, those drills sprayed a mist of oil everytime you put in a screw Hot as hell in there too!”

Ann Leblanc shares, “I still have the scars on my thumbs to prove it….was in 1969…worked there during the summer….3rd floor and so hot! I’m sure we all smelled like the Mill when we left. Student hours were 3:30 to 8:30.”

Fisherville Mill Fire

After Prest Wheel closed its operations in South Grafton, the mill remained empty until the devastating fire that destroyed it in 1999. This was the Fisherville Mill fire, Grafton’s largest fire on record, which destroyed the abandoned mill on Aug. 3, 1999 and required assistance from fire departments in 22 towns — an estimated 250 firefighters were on the scene.

Brownfields Site to Park

According to this Grafton Daily voice article from 2009, “The mill site is a state Brownfields site due to contaminants in the soil and the centerpiece of a plan to revitalize South Grafton through the development of both business and residential units, as well as green space, on the property.”

Today, after much hard work by the Fisherville-Farnumville Streetscape Committee and former mill owner, Gene Bernat, a lovely park for the public to enjoy called the Mill Villages Park sits on the former brownfield dumping site across the street from the Fisherville Mill.


This year on Flag Day a dedication and concert was enjoyed by the public. Other public events and concerts are scheduled at this site once considered a hopeless wasteland.


Adjacent to the park is the Living Systems Laboratory, located on the banks of the Blackstone River and historic Blackstone Canal, the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and nicknamed “the hardest working river in America”. Generations of use and misuse have left the Blackstone contaminated with diverse industrial pollutants. LSL is utilizing innovative green science techniques in effectively cleaning up the river

7-31-2013 7-08-40 AMIt explores the fundamental science, practice and application of sustainable solutions to two hundred years of environmental degradation.

Project partners include the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce, the National Park Service, Clark University and Brown University.

This area is perfect for informative educational field trips and should be a top priority project supported by the people and businesses of the Blackstone Valley. The practices presented here can be duplicated to clean up polluted waters across the country.

Hope you enjoyed our trip down memory lane!

Jeannie Hebert

Welcome to ChamberMaster

If you have recently visited the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce website,, you may have noticed some changes as we’ve been rolling out our new ChamberMaster features, including enhanced Events listings, a completely new and interactive Members Directory, and other features.

If you are a Chamber member, you should have received an email with your new log in info to access your member profile in our Members Directory.

We are really excited about the great new features ChamberMaster brings to our website and the wider Valley community. In the coming days you’ll see a lot more detail here in the BVCC Blog to help you to make the most of your profile and the enhanced website features.

In this post, I’m just going to give you a very brief intro to ChamberMaster.

Your Own Dashboard

When you log into your profile, you will see a dashboard with many opportunities to promote your business.



You can now add a photo, a logo, a photo gallery, and your social media connections (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). If you don’t know your login or have any trouble connecting, please just drop us a line and we will assist you.

For now, just take a minute to preview the new Members Directory. You’ll see that you can search by keyword (such as part of your company name), which will generate a dropdown list of options; or alphabetically; or by category.

Also at the top are links for Hot Deals and Member to Member Deals. You may want to check from time to time to see what special deals our members are offering either to the public (Hot Deals) or to other members (Member to Member). If a member is running a Hot Deal, you’ll see it listed in their description upon a search.

If you click on Manage Your Membership (left column under Membership), you will access your member profile, where you can enter or edit a wide range of choices, create a Hot Deal (subject to Chamber approval), add photos, and much, much more.

Add Your Events

Last but certainly not least today: Events.

eventsChamberMaster provides us with a number of options to make event listing and registration much simpler, including a calendar and the opportunity to set a reminder for an event you don’t want to miss. We are just beginning to add events now, so watch this section grow!

There’s much more to come, so check back often to get the scoop! And have a “Valley” great day!

Jeannie Hebert

Marketing in the Blackstone Valley – What’s Working?

How can you get in front of your customers today now that traditional marketing has been turned upside-down and inside-out?

Jay Baer has just published a book called Youtility. Jay is a thought leader in the social media world and he’s a real no-bull kind of guy. I like his down-to-earth, easy to absorb style. And every business needs to know what is working in marketing today.

Three Marketing Awareness Categories

Top of Mind – This is very traditional and pretty ineffective unless you’ve got a huge budget and can come up with an amazing campaign.

Please Hear Me!

In this category falls television, radio and media purchased with the hope that the client’s desired audience is listening or watching the commercial when it appears on their screen or blasts through the speakers.

Just how effective do you think this is for a small business? Unless you’ve got a budget like Geico (think Gecco) or Progressive (think Flo) or even Dish (think Hopper) and combine this tactic with many others including social media and mobile applications, I wouldn’t do it.

Frame of Mind – This has been around for a long-time. It means when your desired target wants to find you, they can. The Yellow Pages is a great traditional example of this. Google searches also fall into this category. Printed directories? Does anyone use them?


As marketers, of course we want to place strongly on Google. For a consumer, what could possibly replace the #1 way we search?

Well, if you’ve got an iphone you should know Siri, right? Siri (and voice technology) could well be the “trojan-horse” that knocks Google off that pedestal as #1 in search! When you are on your mobile device, it’s a whole lot easier to press that button and talk to Siri then open your browser and do a search on that tiny screen.

Before we discuss the third category, think about your personal buying habits. If you are starting to research a upcoming purchase, what steps will you take?

  • Start asking your friends, off and on-line. On Facebook you’d put it out as a question. “Looking for a new television. There are so many kinds out there. any recommendations?”
  • Once you have some recommendation, perhaps including Smart TVs, you would Google for more information.
  • Consumers are very educated which effectively changes the job description of a salesperson from one who can make cold calls and close sales to one who needs to answer critical questions from educated consumers quickly, efficiently and in a friendly manner as soon as they appear on the radar. That moment now often happens when they are ready to purchase or have such specific questions they need to talk to a person. So sales has become awesome customer service!
  • According to Social Habit, among Americans who use social media, more than 30% say social media has driven the actual purchase.

Next, open your Facebook personal profile. Look down the newsfeed. These are choices that you have made. Likely you’ll see friends you know, virtual friends you don’t physically know and brands you have chosen to follow. And if you don’t engage with those brand pages (meaning you don’t Like, Comment or Share), then Facebook stops showing them to you.

That is the utopia goal for a brand. To be selectively chosen to be in a person’s social media newsfeed and have them interact with you. So, with that thought in mind, HERE is the third type of marketing.

Friends of Mine! – Jay Baer coins this third, real-time, type perfectly. He summarizes the three Awareness categories:

Top-of-mind awareness is an overripe banana, tenuously clinging to relevancy. Frame-of-mind awareness is an apple, worthy of eating, but not enough to sustain you.

Luckily, colossal shifts in how, where, and why consumers access information have made a new, third marketing method possible.

I call this friend-of-mine awareness, and it’s predicated on the reality that companies are competing against real people for the attention of other real people!”

socialSo, my small business friends here in the Blackstone Valley and beyond, if you want to be in front of your customers, incorporate Friend-of-Mine strategies. This means becoming friends with your target audience. Of course, physically networking as our friends here are doing at a Chamber event works well but how many people can we physically do that with? Be sure to include Social Media in your marketing strategies!

My business, Social Media by Michelle, aka FBSmarty, focuses on teaching strategies to do just that.Sign up for my free weekly blog here for easy-to-absorb tactics.

Hope to see you at the next Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce event or in virtual land!

Michelle Fontaine

Alternative’s Valley Friendship Tour Helped with a Dunk from Harbro

For the second year in a row, Alternatives’ Valley Friendship Tour has set a new fundraising record.

For the second year in a row, Alternatives’ Valley Friendship Tour has set a new fundraising record.

For the second year in a row, Alternatives’ Valley Friendship Tour has set a new fundraising record. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited about this success – particularly when we think about all of the ways in which these funds will be able to improve the lives of the people we serve. Raising almost $170,000 (and still counting!) is really remarkable and we have lots of people to thank, including all of the Chamber members who participated, fielded teams, made donations or sponsored the event.

Harbro Auto really got involved with the Tour this year. Not only were they represented by one of the largest and most enthusiastic teams (you couldn’t miss them in their blue HARBRO t-shirts as you can see from this picture), but they also hosted two car washes for one of our Mental Health services teams AND invited us to participate in their 40th Anniversary Celebration by manning the dunk tank. Their celebration on June 15 was a really terrific event and with people lining up to dunk Alternatives’ Dennis Rice and Michael Seibold and Harbro’s Tim Hare (among other Alternatives and Harbro “celebrities”) we raised $800 for the Valley Friendship Tour. Here’s a clip of Dennis Rice getting wet. Good thing it was a nice day.

So, thanks again to Harbro Auto and our BVCC Valley Tour sponsors: Bowditch & Dewey, LLP, Creedon & Co., Eastern Security Safe, Koopman Lumber, Milford Federal Savings & Loan, Osterman Propane, Stonebridge Press Newspapers and Whitinsville Water Company. A special shout out to everyone at Gaudette Insurance. Their “Gerry’s Gang” team raised an astounding $7825 (so far) and is our top external team.

Alternative’s Valley Friendship Tour. It was a fun day for a fun cause.

Karen Goldenberg