hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

April 3, 2014

Downtown growth gains strength through variety

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Take a few restaurants and lounges hungry for customers.

Toss in dozens, even hundreds of apartments and condos that bring new residents to the area.

Add in a couple of new twists — a tattoo parlor and even a boxing club.

Top it off with a couple of truly different businesses — such as the recently opened one that lets customers sip wine and beer while learning to paint artistically.

It all adds up to downtown Haverhill — the new downtown Haverhill.

The heart of the city has been resurrected with its popular restaurant row and factories-converted-to-housing in recent years. That boosted the economy, from creating jobs to bringing more tax money to the city to bringing in a new customer base living right in the downtown.

It also set the base for an economic comeback.

But what is furthering the new growth is creativity — things like merchants working together to offer special promotions and offbeat businesses moving in.

The latest example is The Paint & Wine Lounge on Wingate Street in the arts district. (See story, Page 1.)

The shop brings more variety to the downtown, a place where people can do something different from having a bite to eat or listening to a band.

Where else in the city can you sip a glass of your favorite wine while getting tips on improving your painting skills?

Adults can enjoy a night out and receive a guided painting lesson while sipping wine, beer, soda, juice or other refreshments, while kids can have some fun painting on Saturday mornings.

“My daughter-in-law and daughter had a friend who went to one in Colorado and talked about it,” owner Shawna Kelley said about the concept. “We thought about it and it seemed possible to open a lounge of our own.”

The business is based on a concept that started in the south and is catching in this part of country.

Instructors are available to help beginners, aspiring artists and others create their own works of art, said Kelley, a member of the Haverhill Cultural Council who is also an artist.

One side of the business is a bar and lounge serving beer and wine as well as coffee, while the other half is a room set up with easels and canvases and music playing.

We wish this new business success, and hope other creative merchants will move into the downtown.

That kind of variety can only spice up life in the heart of Haverhill.