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Rocky’s renovations part of renewed shopping area

Date: 7/12/2011

July 13, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD — Amid all of the construction taking place in downtown Westfield, Rocky’s Hardware has started making a little dust of its own.

On June 29, Mayor Daniel Knapik announced that the longtime downtown business anchor had begun construction of a brand-new store immediately behind its current building, which is located at the corner of Main and Free streets.

“I’m very happy that the Falcone family has made this large commitment to our downtown,” Knapik said. “It sends a signal to the larger regional community that Westfield’s downtown is a good place to do business.”

Rocky’s Hardware Director of Business Development Ralph Divito told Reminder Publications that construction would not significantly affect the day-to-day-operation of the Westfield store.

“We do intend to keep the current store open for as long as we can to serve the public,” Divito said. “We’re hoping to get the [new] store open by December.”

He added that some “basic parking” as well as on-street parking would continue to be available to shoppers during the construction phase. When the new store is complete, Divito said the current store would be demolished to provide ample parking “with easy access right off Main and Free streets.”

Divito said Rocky’s relationship with the city of Westfield goes back to the 1970s and the company is excited to be a part of what it sees as the rebirth of downtown.

“[This] was our second or third store — we now have 33,” Divito said, adding that revitalizing the Westfield Rocky’s is a “commitment not only to the organization but to the town’s a great time to make downtown not only a shopping destination but also a destination where people want to live.”

In keeping with the new emphasis on living and working in the downtown district, Divito said the new Rocky’s would be “dedicated to what people need not only for their homes, but also for condos and apartments.”

Among the changes Divito said customers will see in the new store will be an outdoor garden shop, a paint department that features colors from Benjamin Moore, a selection of tools from Craftsman — now an exclusive company brand — and a larger pet section.

“It will be one-stop shopping,” Divito said. “There will be everything you’ll need on your Saturday errands.”

Lisa McMahon, executive director of the Westfield Business Improvement District, said the Rocky’s project is just one of the exciting things happening in the downtown shopping district.

“There’s been a lot of interest on the places we have [for businesses to locate],” McMahon said, adding that there have already been several new additions to the downtown business landscape, despite the construction – spawned difficulties.

Among those businesses is Ezra’s Mercantile, a home décor and gift shop and a new cupcake bakery, both slated to open on Elm Street and Miss Sweets — a confection and ice cream shop that will be opening on Franklin Street.

“We’re very excited about that,” McMahon said of the new confectionery.

Still, she admitted the district has also lost a few businesses in the recent past.

“I hate to blame it all on the construction,” McMahon said. “Some of it is timing – businesses have just run their course.”

McMahon mentioned a deli owned by the daughter of the owner of Performance Music that recently closed because the music shop owner chose to put more of an emphasis on her core business as an example.

“We’re sad to see any business close,” she continued. ”At the same time, we have new businesses coming that we’re very excited about.”

She cited work underway to create high-end office space and house students from Westfield State University in the downtown area as other examples of positive changes happening in the area.

She also complemented the business community for its willingness to see the city through its revitalization project.

She said 25 local business owners attended a meeting with herself, Knapik, City Engineer Mark S. Cressotti, Ward Two City Councilor James Brown and other officials on June 30 to discuss the reconstruction of the Thompson Street parking lot – which began on July 5 – and its effect on shoppers coming to the area.

“I was so impressed with the group,” McMahon said. “I was really proud of how the businesses are really willing to go the extra mile to get through this.”

She urged residents to continue to support the downtown businesses during the revitalization.

“It will be wonderful when it’s done,” she said, adding that the local businesses are “owned and operated by some very committed people” who deserve community support so they can ”reap the benefit of all this’ when the project is complete.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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