I love Main Street. When my wife and I owned a business in the heart of Falmouth's primary commercial district, I used to joke that I was like razor pitchman and former Patriots owner Victor Kiam. He used to quip that he loved the razor so much, he bought the company. Well, we loved Main Street so much, we bought a business there. A decade later, we have sold the business and moved onto other ventures, but the love continues.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of joining Chamber Chief Jay Zavala on Main Street for an afternoon as the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce's first "celebrity Sunday" volunteer at the Chamber Visitors' center on Academy Lane, just steps from the bustle of our hometown downtown. When my kids asked me why I was listed as taking part in any celebrity event, I told them that Peter Griffin, the dad from the TV show Family Guy wasn't available and that I was his stand-in. They didn't laugh.
Anyway, my afternoon on Main Street rekindled my love for this wonderful slice of Americana and bustling heartbeat of our town. I come to Main Street often to grab a cone at Ben & Bill's, a t-shirt at Soft as a Grape, a gift at Black Dog, or to simply take a walk and soak in the sea of humanity, but last weekend was the first time in a while I had the chance to stick around for a few hours. What fun.
Of the 117 visitors to stop in the welcoming, nautically-themed Visitors' Center, vacationers and Falmouthites alike fell into three categories: those looking for information on the bikepath, those looking for places to eat and things to do, and those looking for a respite in the rest room. Some had dual purposes. What struck me was how grateful all of the visitors were to have a chance to chat with us and ask questions on the rich culture and history of the Cape's best destination. Chamber stalwart Betty Bailey knows more about Falmouth than Bartholomew Gosnold himself, and shared directions and anecdotes like a kind neighbor. Speaking of acts of kindness, when several visitors inquired about the reasons for the public rest rooms being closed, Jay called an unlikely source, Police Capt. Steve O'Neil. Rather than pawn the request off to the DPW, Capt. O'Neil came down to the Chamber in his shorts and t-shirt (which paid a nice tribute to the Cape Cod Curling Club), and made a couple of calls himself to ensure the opening of our public loo. That, folks, is community policing. Look for Steve and Chief Anthony Riello at a celebrity Sunday soon.
As Jay and I strolled among the throngs and along the flag-lined thoroughfare, chatting about our careers and families and looking for a place to take a break from our first two-hour stint and enjoy some lunch, our Main Street journey took us to the Firefly, where we opened the doors to the wailing of a fire alarm. Within minutes, Lt. Scott Thrasher was leading a team of Falmouth Fire & Rescue professionals into this downtown eatery, and discovered a malfunctioning fan; more helpful public safety Falmouthites at work.
As if that wasn't enough enjoyment and excitement for the day, the Friends of the Falmouth Public Library were having their annual book sale, and I grabbed a couple of great political biographies of only two dollars each.
Jay and I did grab a pizza and enjoyed the crooning of Dean Martin at Villagio, and returned to eat it with Betty and Jay's wife Susan, where we were visited by more affable and inquisitive bikers, strollers, and mother nature calls. A welcoming sunshine, warm temperatures, and holiday atmosphere made this day one of the young summer's best.
As I finished my volunteer stint and remarked on a wonderful downtown day, I remembered more than a decade ago, sitting in the old Selectmen's office in Town Hall where the big conference room is now, gazing sadly at empty storefronts and hearing about a then-obscure grant program from Town Administrator Peter Boyer. He told me that this PWED (public works economic development) program could give us millions to improve the aesthetics and pedestrian access on Main Street and bring the visitors back. It did.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.