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The Old Grist Mill in Hatfield, MA

HBA History

 
In the spring of 1987 a small group of Hatfield business owners ran an ad in the Daily Hampshire Gazette newspaper seeking other local business owners to meet at the American Legion hall to discuss formation of a Business Association. Numerous meetings followed with a growing interest and discussion of the purpose and goals to improve the business community as well as foster the public relationship of local support for business while at the same time businesses support the needs of the community. For the most part most of these proposals have continued to be important issues of the association throughout its 25 years thus far:

1. Be a forum for networking issues concerning the local business environment.
2. Be a venue for education and better business practices.
3. Be a resource for promoting local support of our businesses (group advertising, sponsoring community events, etc.)
4. Offer members reduced costs for business related services and supplies through group purchasing power and inter-member discounts.

By September of 1987 there were forty members who voted to adopt bylaws and elected officers. The first President was Bill Johnson, owner of the Paddock restaurant (now Chill 'n Grill); Vice President was Jeff Bruscoe, Four Star Firewood; Clerk was Christopher Smith, Hatfield Printing and Publishing; and Treasurer was Matt Demers, Hatfield Market. The Bylaws called for the association to be non-profit as well as non-political. Each of the forty members paid dues of $100 each.

The first year saw numerous accomplishments and activities. The Hatfield Shopper was a bulk mailed advertiser as a first attempt at group advertising and fund raising. The Shopper continued through to the mid-1990's and was published several times a year. Many of the retailers, as well as home service businesses in town found offering coupons and specials to be effective methods of growing their customer base. A member newsletter was begun and announced the upcoming meeting agendas and guest speakers. There was a wide range of topics offered by guest speakers from insurance, product promotion, accounting/tax planning, and even folks from area Chambers spoke about successes, and not so successful strategies. One of the first community events HBA was to help sponsor was the Annual Luminiarum which at that time was in its seventh year under the Historical Society. A wonderful holiday party in December ended 1987 for HBA, catered by member Special Requests at the place of beginning, the American Legion, and was attended by 70 members and families.

For busy business people meetings became more and more less well attended. To encourage monthly meetings HBA offered door prizes and other incentives, but it was soon concluded that HBA should go to quarterly meetings. After several years meetings were held on an as-needed basis, usually in planning a HBA event.

HBA joined in the 1988 Memorial Day Parade, then known as the largest parade in the shortest distance in the county. We celebrated our first full year with a well attended picnic at Look Park. As our Annual Meeting in September approached the Board of Directors decided to reduce renewal dues to $25.00. In addition to our regular support of the Luminarium HBA did its first group advertising to promote the event in the Gazette. Another promotion that proved to be very successful was Telephone Covers for our local directory that was mailed to every household in town. The original idea had been to create a Phone Directory, but was decided that as a separate booklet it was likely to go unused or be trashed -- the cover on the other hand gave users year-round exposure. For members a listing was offered for free, and larger display was offered for very reasonable rates. Over the years there were updated versions of the Phone Book Cover, which many members have said is one of HBA's most successful promotions, while at the same time an excellent community fund raiser.

As we began the 1990's HBA became involved in a number of community events and projects. For many years HBA offered scholarships to Smith Academy students who chose to continue their education in business related fields. This support of education would later be changed to sponsoring the purchase of dictionaries for the sixth grade class moving-up ceremony, taking over from the Book Club in 1994, with the thinking HBA would get more community exposure as a prominent guest at this annual ceremony. HBA was also an early and long time sponsor of the DARE program, which included providing education materials, and a Parent's Handbook. In 1992 HBA President, Maureen Hillard, having learned the Historical Society would no longer put on the Luminarium, rallied full sponsorship of the HBA, along with the leadership of both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to insure the annual event would continue. Working with local scouts in 1995, HBA President Peter Rackelbush introduced the Luminarium Lantern for the first time as both a new recyclable concept and fundraiser for youth programs. The lantern starts as a common half-gallon milk/juice translucent plastic container with a half-rounded door cut into the lower side, then about 1" of sand at the bottom, finished with tealight candle. Scouts and their leaders assembled them into kits of 12 to a box, and they were sold in local convenience stores. While this was a very popular and successful project, the fact they were reusable slowly reduced demand, however they are still available and very much a part of the ongoing annual night Hatfield shines thanks to the efforts of Maureen and Peter leadership of the HBA.

The beginning of the new millennium did not herald a lot of change for HBA, and after more than a decade of sponsorship the Luminarium has been the Association's primary event. In an effort to make it a truly community celebration, HBA proposed in 2001, and the town voted, to proclaim it a town event. With the retirement of Paul Labbee in 2003 as MC of the community carol singing in front of Town Hall (an original part of the Luminarium), HBA introduced a new program featuring the Smith Academy Brass Ensemble, under the direction of Ken Longstreeth. Then in 2006 with the support of the Town's Cultural Council, the program welcomed a Umass Acappella group, The Dynamics, featuring several of the Town's young scholars.

Of course no one group or organization can claim all the credit for success of the Luminarium. Each year on the Sunday evening before Christmas, beginning about 4:30 pm, you will see about town young scouts and their parents busily setting out Luminarium Lanterns in the Town commons, then watch the Town light up as over 7000 candles begin to glow by 5:30. As you make your way to Town center at 6 pm you will hear familiar songs accompanying the brass ensemble and after a time (especially if you are young -- way to long), Santa appears to give you a sweet treat as you make your way to the Firehouse to make a holiday cookie, or if older, enjoy a welcoming hot coffee. Then it is off to the Congregational Church for a program of bell choirs and holiday music. As you go up Main Street the roadways are filled with visiting onlookers in cars, horse drawn wagons, and spectacular floats filled with lights and revelers. For many it is also the night for family parties and gathering of old and new friends, and it is also the one time of year you will see so many people enjoying the season together, and then, by about 9:00 it all becomes quiet as the candles begin to flicker out.

For the HBA 2007 began a new chapter as it celebrated its 20th anniversary by embracing the 21st century. The internet has taken business networking to places not seen before, giving a new meaning to community on multiple levels. Our goal is that this new web site will be more than just one resource it will be the Hatfield Shopper, Telephone Book Cover, Business Directory, etc., as well as a Business Help Center, Business-to-Business connection, HBA Bulletin Board/Newsletter and hopefully much more.

Perhaps John Gere, then chair of Northampton Chamber said it best when he spoke to HBA in 1987 as it was just coming into existence. The primary mission of any community Business Association is to educate the community so as to support the local businesses and in turn educate the businesses to support their community. The test he said if widgets were made in Hatfield, and folks in town bought them in Hadley, or worse the Town government went out of town to buy them, HBA's job was to find the reason why and the answer should not be that no one knew there was a widget business in town. If you own a business in Hatfield we hope you will join the HBA. We are sure you will find by helping all our businesses to succeed you will also help your own business in the process.
 
 
 

Copyright © 2012 Hatfield Business Association
19 Prospect Street Hatfield, MA 01038
Phone: (413) 247-5362
Email:
info@hatfieldbusiness.org
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