Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Beverly Indoor Playground Offers a Winter Oasis

By Carissa Collins
Gordon College News Service
February 26, 2014
(This story appeared in the Beverly Citizen, and March 12, 2104 in the print/online editions of the Salem News.)

BEVERLY, MA— Last fall, Charae D’Ambra had a Eureka moment as she drove past the property at 81 Bridge Street. Ever since trading her career in pediatrics for the full time job of parenting, D’Ambra had searched for a place where children could play in safety and warmth all year round. Her search came up empty—that is, until D’Ambra drove down Bridge Street and realized she could build it herself.

“There was nowhere to go that was warm, safe and enjoyable for parents (to take their kids),” D’Ambra said. So when D’Ambra had the idea for an indoor playground and cafe, her husband encouraged her to, “Go for it, honey!”

Today, D’Ambra’s dream—The Children’s Piazza—sits near the corner of Elliot and Bridge Street and celebrated its grand opening February 7th. The timing was perfect for parents of toddlers and infants as Massachusetts experiences one of its heaviest winters.

The indoor play area offers two large cedar playscapes inside the soft, sage-painted space. Moms and dads can relax at café tables and socialize while watching their children. Toddlers are free to run and explore the Piazza, including smaller rooms housing play kitchens, train tables and a miniature ball pit. A quieter, enclosed area lies on the far side of the Piazza, filled with soft toys and climbing spaces for infants.

“Once I stopped being a pediatrician and became a stay-at-home mom, I felt like I had free space in my head,” said D’Ambra. She wanted to continue helping children and their families on the North Shore, and the Piazza was born.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pocket-Sized History on Display at House of Seven Gables

By Carissa Collins
Gordon College News Service
(This story appeared March 3, 2014, in the online edition of The Boston Globe, and March 5, 2014, in the print/online editions of The Salem News.)

SALEM—Some people think of The House of the Seven Gables as the home base for all things Nathaniel Hawthorne. Lucky patrons of the Gables—usually troops of elementary school students—may remember the historic house as a quaint destination where they climbed up the notable secret staircase. But this month, guests of the House of the Seven Gables will experience a different aspect of history: a Golden Age exhibit of high society and ornate handbags.  

The exhibit, run by Karen Barter, the Gables’ director of development, will stage a variety of handbags dating from the early 20th century throughout the historic home. It opens March 4 and runs until March 17.

“These bags are little treasures,” said Barter. “If you got one of these for Christmas, you knew your husband loved you.”

Because the bags come from various eras and countries, each bag is unique. Several will be staged with backgrounds, like a grand piano, alongside other historical pieces like clothing and opera glasses.

The pocketbook, for instance, used in the “wedding” stage is covered in pearls, created by iconic French designer Paul Poriet. Predating Poriet’s pouch-style bag are others, including one made entirely of metal mesh. These laboriously crafted mesh pocketbooks were posh during the 1930s.

The unique accessories are a combination of two collections, one owned by Mary Lou Ferriero, and the other by Marion Powers, an art teacher at Manchester-Essex Regional High School who owns about 100 such pocketbooks.

“I have always loved art and history,” said Powers. “I see the pocketbooks as beautiful works of art, like small sculptures.”

Barter saw the pocketbook exhibit as a great opportunity to build on the Gables two-fold mission that began over a hundred years ago. Since 1910, Caroline Emmerton, then the owner of the Gables, opened the house as a transitional house for newly immigrated families where they could live and learn useful skills such as English.  Ever since, it has been serving Salem’s immigrant population.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Young Business Owner Creates Multilingual Milkshakes

By Jessica Sylvia
Gordon College News Service
(This story appeared March 2, 2014, in the Boston Globe North edition.)

EVERETT—During her senior year of high school in Everett, Pillar Desouza had to balance writing college essays with writing business plans. Desouza was only seventeen when she and her father traveled to his native country and opened their first business together, a milkshake shop in Serro, Brazil.

Now 20 and a college sophomore, Desouza has brought the business to the U.S. and is the official owner of “I Love Milkshakes,” an innovative milkshake shop located in downtown Everett.

“I Love Milkshakes” combines the concepts of an old school ice cream parlor with today’s frozen yogurt trends and a touch of Brazilian delicacy. And despite the New England winters, Desouza’s milkshake shop draws customers all year round. 

“It’s a little bit of everything,” says Desouza, “that’s what makes it different. You have my younger perspective combined with my dad’s ideas and of course our Brazilian roots.”

Desouza’s parents are native to Brazil and moved to Massachusetts in 1998. Her family often goes back to visit their friends and family and in 2010, Desouza and her father made a unique observation that sparked their first business proposal.

“We noticed milkshakes and frozen yogurt are really common here in the U.S.,” says Desouza. “But in Brazil you can only find milkshakes at McDonald’s and they only serve three basic flavors.”