Micro Loan Helps Turn Barn into Farmstand
By Mina Corpuz
WESTMINSTER -- A $75,000 micro loan helped Westminster Pharmacy owner Joe Serio transform a 19th-century barn into a farmstand that serves as a community hub.
“It has helped us tremendously,” he said about Native Joe’s Farmstand on Main Street. “It’s a place where people like to come and meet their neighbors and hang out and have an ice cream.”
Serio used the loan from the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation to renovate a barn built in 1825, which is located next to his pharmacy. The farmstand opened at the end of July, he said.
The micro loan also helped create three jobs and went to equipment costs, according to the chamber of commerce.
Serio said Native Joe’s has a nice setting at the center of town and is close enough for people to walk over.
During the summer, patrons came to the farmstand to enjoy Herell’s Ice Cream, buy local produce and crafts, or enjoy music and a drink on the outdoor deck.
Now that it’s fall, the Native Joe’s will have a fall harvest featuring pumpkins and gourds, Serio said. The farmstand will be open for about another month before it closes for the season.
When it reopens in the spring, he hopes to offer more food and drink options and have more music events.
Serio said he has worked with the chamber of commerce with the town’s Cracker Festival and sees the support as a natural extension of that relationship.
Native Joe’s fits in with his and the chamber’s goal of attracting visitors and businesses, said Serio, who chairs the town’s Economic Development Committee.
“It’s not just about Westminster,” he said. “It’s about the whole North Central region.”
The development corporation provides small businesses with loans up to $150,000 to for capital, equipment, inventory, or expansion projects.
It also supports micro enterprises and community projects in 76 communities in Worcester, Middlesex, and Franklin counties. Since 1996, the development corporation has as granted more than $6.3 million in loans to small businesses in the region, according to the chamber of commerce.
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