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March 5, 2018 Business leaders of the year

The Queen of the Canal District expands east

Photo | Nathan Fiske Amy Lynn Chase

By 2009, Amy Lynn Chase had grown tired of tents. She loved displaying at markets like SoWa in Boston and festivals like stART on the Street in Worcester, but it was growing difficult to transport her vintage wares.

Chase was captivated by the hot dog truck of local entrepreneur, Chris Gould, who had become a fixture of Worcester’s Green Street nightlife. Food trucks were just coming onto the scene in major cities around the country and the idea of a fashion truck didn’t even exist yet. Chase purchased a 1950’s era aluminum trailer on eBay and launched The Haberdash. America’s first mobile vintage shop made national news.

Chase’s reputation earned respect among Worcester’s small business circles. When Dino Lorusso called to ask if she could recommend someone to fill the ground floor of his historic mill building at 138 Green St. in the Canal District, she immediately began feeling jealous of whoever would get the spot. When Lorusso called back a week later, she said, “Me. It’s going to be me.”

“When I think about the transformation of Worcester – I think about Amy Lynn Chase,” said Susan Mailman, president and owner of Coghlin Electrical Contractors in Worcester. “As a young woman achieving what she did, it took a core of strength in her being.”

Since Crompton Collective opened in 2012, the shop has created more than 100 jobs for local makers, antique dealers and staff. The space has grown to include an event venue called The White Room, which hosts weekly farmers’ markets and classes for Worcester’s small business community.

“She has incredible passion about the community that she was born and raised in,” said Christina Andreoli, past president of tourism agency Discover Central Mass. “She simply gets it!”

Chase’s transformation of the retail scene came full circle in 2017 when she opened her second site, in downtown Hudson, naming the new store after her vintage mobile shop – The Haberdash.

Chase loved that Crompton Collective had taken on a life of its own, but she craved a traditional storefront on a bustling main street.

Rail Trail Flatbread Co. had rapidly turned downtown Hudson into a dining destination, and Chase knew a retail shop would be a perfect fit for the neighborhood. She looked at 13 different spaces over the course of two years before a former flower shop freed up.

The Haberdash took fresh form as a gift shop at 77 Main St., offering clothing by artisans and wares from 68 small makers. While Crompton focuses on what’s local, The Haberdash provides an opportunity for Chase to highlight makers from farther away.

“We sell candles from a girl who lives in Austin, a soap line from some goat farmers in Tennessee,” Chase said. “They’re still local in that they’re a small batch people.”

As an alumnus of Worcester Technical High School, Chase is eager to give back by coaching the school’s interior design students. Chase took on her first co-op student during the year after Crompton Collective opened.

Five years later, nearly half of her staff hails from Worcester Tech. She accepts two to three seniors in high school every year from the co-op program. Students hone their job skills, using platforms like Snapchat and Facebook for training. Chase's staff does not practice high-pressure sales techniques, and doesn't advertise.

“We just train our staff to be welcoming and to be knowledgeable about the neighborhood. It's about the atmosphere,” Chase said.

Chase bolsters female friendships among the region’s business owners and fosters an organic network – what Avra Hoffman, co-owner of Canal District restaurant BirchTree Bread Co., calls a special sisterhood.

“Amy has forged the way in the city with creative approaches to her work and has helped support every new business that has entered our neighborhood,” Hoffman said.

Owner of The Queen’s Cups, Renee King, adds, “She is fearless, determined, always ahead of the curve, and fierce. They don’t give us a book on how to run a business, or what to do in certain situations. So when things arise, I find myself asking: ‘What would Amy do?’”

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