Worcester is losing businesses, new and old

Restaurants, bars and a time-honored furniture store are closing up in Worcester.

“Our legacy stretches back more than three generations,” said Rotman’s sales manager, Barbara Kane. “We didn’t have hundreds, we had thousands of our customers who either came into the store, emailed us, texted us … and expressed their sadness that we were closing.”

The pandemic has hit retail businesses particularly hard, but the economy isn’t the main reason Rotman’s owner decided to close the store after more than 60 years in business.

“It was a very heartfelt decision on the part of our owner,” Kane said. “It has always been a family business. He didn’t really have a next generation. He has three amazing children but all have very successful careers. He’s 83. You know, he felt like it was time to move on.”

In recent weeks, Rotman’s has sold the remainder of its huge space on Southbridge Street. The liquidation sale will end sometime in December, a day that will come with sadness, Kane said.

“This was an institution for the Worcester County community,” Kane said. “And many, many families have bought their furniture here, generation after generation.”

Several miles away, a handful of shops have closed in recent months in Worcester’s Canal District, an up-and-coming area next to Polar Park.

Smokestack Urban Barbecue is one of three restaurants or bars that have closed in the past week.

Alexis Kelleher, co-owner of nearby Birch Tree Bread Company, doesn’t think the closures are necessarily a result of the city’s economy slipping.

“The landlords who have owned space here for a while are now selling to other companies because the property values ​​are so high,” she said.

Kelleher, who has lived in Worcester all her life, said she and her co-owners believe in the future and in the Canal District’s ability to transform the city. In the area, for example, several housing developments are being built.

“This is really exciting for us,” she said. “We hope to be able to benefit from this. It’s going to be really exciting when this area feels more like a city with people walking around. Growing up, I never thought I’d be walking up and down Green Street. And now here we are. People invest a lot of money to make it feel more like a city.”

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