Another Sweet Strawberry Festival

Where to begin? The 4th Annual Strawberry Festival at Mile Marker One on June 10, 2017 was out best yet. The weather was perfect, the parking lots were filled, and thousands of people enjoyed the shopping and oversized Kids Zone. We’ll do it again on Saturday, October 7th for the 5th Annual Fall Fest. How ‘bout a shout out for everyone who helped kick off the summer:

Cape Ann’s Marina Resort remains the perfect host. Great staff from the coordinators to the lot attendants to the servers. Cheers to you, Tobin, Joe, Elyse, Rebecca, and everyone else at 75 Essex Ave!

Marshall’s Farmstand anchored the vendors tent once again with fresh local produce (and gigantic strawberries!). The alpacas were a favorite feature, even in the hot sun. Go help the Marshalls celebrate 50 years of business at Concord Street in West Gloucester all summah long.

The Kids Zone was hopping with bluegrass from Pat Conlon, Fran Clark, and Barry Michaud. Thanks to Prime Time Party Zone for the bouncy houses, Cape Ann Animal Aid for the adoptable puppies, Erin Pequeno for face painting, Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team for the sssnakes, Hunters Haven Farm for the ponies, and the Gloucester Police Department for their hummer and ATV. We promise to keep adding more fun features!

We must thank Beauport Gloucester for allowing us to use the far end parking lot. It would be impossible to accommodate festival goers without Beauport’s generosity. Sheree and company come through for us every time, and we’re forever grateful.

It’s a long day for our Bridge Buddies and vendors, and we don’t consider the event a success unless they say so. Thank you Bella & Harvey, The Fudgery, Premier Imprints, Foster’s Grill Store, Phia Women’s Center, Maplewood Car Wash, Cape Ann Power Yoga, Cazeault Solar & Home, Haley Allison of Bare Cheek Beauty, Seaview Farm & Farm Stand, Annette Dion, Studio Crepe (whatta presidential performance!), Atlantic Vacation Homes, Sea Meadow Gifts & Gardens, Saltwater Massage Studio, Cape Ann Lanes, Common Crow Natural Market, Avon Rising Stars, Just 4 Fun, O’Neil Fitness, Michael Whitehead, Katie Elwell of LuLaRoe, Rachel Lavallee of Lavender & Frank, Jessie Nocella, Shane Montoni of Under the Porch Creations, The Open Door, Jodie Malatzky of Tupperware, Lisa Dyke of Sydney’s Jewels & Gems, Erin Pequeno Art & Design, Patty Wall and Wendy Minton of Create & Escape, Michelle Welch of Thirty One and Outdoor Photos by Kadee’s Mom, Nicole Johnson of It’s All in the Bag, Ryan & Wood Distilleries, Sara Lovegreen of Holly C & Co Fine Homes, Ma & Pa’s Pickles, Rebecca Carson of Mary Kay, and the Heyer Family.

Special thanks to Bridge associate Leneai Stuart, photographer Meredith Cooney, Bridge tent staff Rob Shea (and the twins!), Gus & Jessica Margiotta, Brian Watson, and as always, the good Doctor Meredith Lockwood. See ya at Fall Fest :)

The Bridge Turns 5

Did you buy us something wooden? Five years ago today, the first Bridge website, OvaTheBridge.com launched. Months earlier we established the company and our Facebook page, but we made June 1, 2012 our de facto birthdate since everything revolved around the site, where we (and our members) were literally uploading videos around the clock.

Ten thousand videos and countless events later our mission hasn’t changed. But like any startup, we tripped, evolved, scratched, adapted – and made it. It hasn’t been easy, and won’t get any easier, but now we’re prepared for new challenges.

An absurd percentage of small businesses fail in their infancy. Few survive the first two years, especially tiny businesses without employees. We were shocked to learn that it’s normal practice for a business owner to not pay her or himself for the first two or three years! “Five years,” we were told. “You have to stick around for five years before you enter the public consciousness.” That’s when people look for the open sign on your storefront, recognize your logo, and have expectations.

Having never run a business before, we were told by dozens of fellow small business owners, as well as countless friends, family and supporters, to do our best to stay the course. It didn’t take long to realize the cards are stacked against small business owners, especially in this day and age. Creating something from nothing – like cash flow – ain’t easy. We absorbed all the encouraging words and cautionary tales. Still do.

There were times we thought of packing it in, but honestly, failing wasn’t an option. We kept chipping away just to get established. We crossed that threshold. We became legit.

We’re not bragging. In fact, we’re extremely humbled. A lot of good friends with solid plans, practices, and genius ideas have lost their businesses since we began. The line between success and failure is paper thin. All it takes is one bad season, a divorce, a pregnancy, an illness, an asshole landlord, and everything you worked for is gone forever. Goodbye dream. Goodbye bank account.

So, we aren’t taking this anniversary lightly. We’re celebrating. We’re proud of our work and reputation, blessed with our friendships, and indebted to your support over the years. The list of folks who helped us get here is incredibly long. Maybe someday we’ll make the time and space to acknowledge each and every one. If we start that list today, perhaps we’ll finish by Year Ten. That’s seems like a good goal. Plus, it’ll give you time to look for something metallic.

Back to work.

Let's Play Left Right Center!

We’re having ourselves another Left Right Center Tournament on Friday, April 21 at The Elks. The first LRC Tournament was a surprising success. It was an inexpensive night out in the middle of winter, conveniently scheduled on a Saturday in late January when the Patriots didn't have a playoff matchup. It sold out fast (there were more attendees than the Bridge Ball!) and afterwards scores of people told us how they couldn't wait for the next one. So here we go.

Why LRC? (For a full explanation and rules, go to the bottom of this article.) For starters, it's a children's dice game that can be learned in 10 seconds. To win, all you need is dumb luck. I don't want to host an event where people can get unnecessarily competitive or weird about money and strategy. 

Figuring out how to run a tournament for hundreds of players and promoting local businesses was a challenge, but we solved that a couple different ways. We were also able to help The Elks raise $1000 towards their various scholarship funds and other community outreach efforts.

The Elks is a great place to hold the event, too. It sits atop Bass Rocks in Gloucester's Back Shore and offers awesome views. They've got a very roomy parking which is a big help since we get a lot of players from outside Cape Ann. There were a ton of folks from New Hampshire, I believe. The Elks also has great bartenders and extremely accommodating members. Whenever we work with The Elks, everybody wins.

So we're doing it again, as it happens, right after tax season closes (wink, wink). Round up your friends and reserve your spots now. It's frantic, fun and friendly. Make sure to follow The Bridge Cape Ann because we may add a fun wrinkle or two.

And yes, I know the official name of the game is Left Center Right, not Left Right Center but… Left Right Center sounds better. Plus, it makes way more sense. What do you do before crossing a street? You look left, then right, then walk straight ahead. If you looked left, then center, then right, you'd get smacked by a Mack truck, Frogger-style. Anyway, enough of that. Let’s roll some dice!

The Bridge Cape Ann's Left Right Center Tournament is Friday, April 21st at 6:30pm at the Gloucester Elks. RSVP here: http://bit.ly/2nALWx6

How to Play LRC

Each player receives 3 tokens (or coins, bills, scratch tickets, etc.). Players take turns rolling 3 six-sided dice. Each dice is marked with "L", "C", "R" on one side, & a dot on the three remaining sides. For each "L" or "R" thrown, the player must pass one token to the player to the immediate left or right. A "C" means a chip goes the center, or the pot, & stays there until it’s collected by the winner. A dot has no effect.

If you have fewer than three tokens left, you’re still alive but your number of tokens must be equal to the number of dice you roll, rather than rolling all three. If you're out of tokens, your turn is skipped, but here’s where it gets fun. As other players roll Rs or Ls, you may get their tokens & live to roll again. The winner is the last player with chips left & wins the center pot.

Notes from Mexico

The ride never stops. That's what it's like running a small business. When you work for yourself, what you lose in security you gain in freedom. But that also means you gain more responsibility. I welcome that. I love working for myself for 100 reasons: I hate the thought of having a boss, or making someone else's money for them, or living by an alarm clock, or commuting. And I can't live by dreading the next workday or counting down the hours until the weekend or holiday.

I worked for creative content houses in Burbank and Hollywood, CA. Amongst our duties was producing accompanying bonus footage of a film or TV release. In other words, all the extra stuff you get on a DVD (or can stream today) like making-of documentaries and blooper reels. We had a typical client/vendor relationship with dozens of studios. They wanted top-quality service and groundbreaking products at half price in half the time. "Coca-Cola outside the bottle," we'd call it. The studios would change their minds and alter or kill a project at the drop of a hat. Five o'clock Friday was nail biting time as we waited for studios to finally respond to week-old emails and inquiries - just to tell us to start again (without changing the deadline) or scrap everything altogether. Weekend all-nighters were a common occurrence. The soul-sucking grind was not for me.

What's fun about The Bridge is that every day is different and rarely feels like work. It's just me and my recently hired associate, Leneai; a true mom and pop shop similar to the businesses we help market, promote, and network. I'm also a people freak, that is, I actually like them and listen to them. After five years of Bridging, I understand precisely what small business owners are up against, how they're wired, and what motivates them. (Here's a hint - it's not money or sleep.)

But the ride never stops. The business and business model are always evolving. So as I sit under a beachfront cabana at Playa Mujeres in Cancún, I'm thinking of "work". Clients, friends and family admonish me to ditch the to-do list and relax, but what I do is too fun and too necessary to ignore. Friends I represent need as much help and encouragement as I do. Sure, it's a luxury to work by the 80 degree turquoise water of the Gulf with a bucket of beers in the sand, but it's pretty good from the home office in Gloucester, too. Adios for now!

Kory Curcuru1 Comment
The Curtain Falls on Another Bridge Ball

The Second Bridge Ball is in the books and we couldn’t be happier with how the night transpired. The turnout was great (despite the below-zero wind chill), everyone looked stunning, the bartenders were busy and the dance floor was hopping. If you missed it, we have the entire night captured in our live broadcasts on our Facebook page.

There are a lot of components to a formal event like the Bridge Ball, and many people to thank for helping it run so smoothly. Thank you Taylor Matties and The Elks’ staff for all your hard work. Thanks to DJ Scottie Mac for commanding the room and keeping people moving til midnight. Thanks to Jessica Lynn Photography for creating a true red carpet experience, and to Alessia LoGrasso for squeezing between everyone to snap additional photos.

Thanks to Celia’s Flower Studio and Audrey’s Flower Shop for the gorgeous centerpieces – people raved all night - and to Caitlin Pszenny for tirelessly coordinating the catering.

Speaking of caterers, the food spread was awesome. Three cheers to Azorean Restaurant, Salty Frank’s Dogs, Lat 43, Magnolia 525 Tavern, Yellow Sub Shop, Classic Cooks, Cape Ann Lanes, Cake Ann, and Every Little Breeze Catering.

Our Bridge Buddies stepped up again with contributions to the gift bags for all attendees: Sand to City Style, Foster’s Grill Store, Coastal Windows & Exteriors, Manchester Athletic Club, Essex Bird Shop & Pet Supply, Maplewood Car Wash, Emory Vodka, Salty Frank's Dogs, Cazeault Solar & Home, Premier Imprints, Bare Cheek Beauty, Yellow Sub Shop, Lisa Ann Schraffa Santin Stylist, and Tuck's Candy & Gifts.

 Finally, there’s the Bridge staff and volunteers. No one dealt with the cold more than our doormen, Rob Shea and Brian Watson. Special thanks to Leneai Stuart (actual Bridge staff!), Jamie Jasko and Alana Horne for your hard work before, during and after the event. And as always, by my side is the good Doctor Lockwood who had to hear about the Second Bridge Ball about an hour after the First Bridge Ball ended. I promise I won’t mention the Third Bridge Ball for at least a week.

Who am I kidding? Pencil in March 3, 2018. That should give everyone plenty of time to pick out something sparkly. Cheers! Can’t wait to do it all again.

Bridge Ball: The Wonder of it All

Time for our most talked-about event - our annual Bridge Ball. We return to The Elks at Bass Rocks on Saturday, March 4th. (We're tight with The Elks!) The first Ball was a hit and the accompanying live broadcast was the most-watched in our history. For our first formal shindig, hundreds of people got all dolled up, walked the red carpet, and partied politely into the wee hours. 

Funny story how it all came about: Linda Vega of the now defunct Linda Bella Boutique pitched an adult prom concept. The idea was to have an event outside of summer and wedding season which could include all of the Bridge members who are normally busy that time of year - salons, makeup artists, florists, etc. We worked very closely with Caitlin Pszenny (née Kreitman) and Jessica Lynn Photography, and pulled everything together in 3 weeks. It sold out. It was nuts.

The adult prom theme quickly turned into a wedding reception - though we did crown a Queen & King. People were loving the Oscar-style photos, elaborate centerpieces created by our members and DJ Scottie Mac, but most of all they enjoyed getting dressed to the nines in the dead of winter for no good reason. Attending the Bridge Ball was like going to a wedding without the ceremony or having to bring a gift. We can't wait to do it again. 

You can reserve your spot here: http://bit.ly/2lpsAgB or follow our Facebook event page for info here: http://bit.ly/2lpHMuT

Bridge 3.0

Like our new digs? This is our third website in 4½ years, and I’m excited because it feels like a truer representation of who we are and what we’re all about.

The idea for The Bridge site seems simple; There are my anchorman-style daily updates, and thousands of videos, photos, and calendar events promoting Cape Ann. But creating a website that showcases and explains all the components of The Bridge has been a struggle. I’m not a programmer nor tech savvy, and we’ve never had a web developer on hand to create on the fly or deal with glitches and security flaws. It’s a pain – especially when you must rely on a third party to create and curate your public showpiece. To better explain, let’s backtrack a bit.

We launched our first site, a beta test site called OvaTheBridge.com, in June of 2012. A developer friend pieced it together in his spare time. Atop the page was my daily updates window. We called it Bridge Headquarters because we were working out my kitchen. Beneath me was a grid of self-produced videos from advertisers and contributors (our “Bridge Buddies”). It was clunky but fun to see familiar faces greeting you with the latest info from their place of business every day. However, as we grew and evolved, the technical problems mounted. We spent too much time putting out fires or teaching Buddies the nuances of the site. We needed something legit.

In the early 2014, with a big hand from The Innovation House in Magnolia (another story for another time), we hired a third party to create BridgeCapeAnn.com. It launched that August and was a giant improvement. It was clean, fully functional, and looked great on mobile devices. Gone was the grid of videos I loved, but we had to make aesthetic sacrifices to optimize the mobile site. Most of our followers were watching on phones and tablets, and we knew that number would only increase. So, we opted for a timeline format with an endless scroll to view content on a single page. A grid of videos icons would look tiny in a timeline, so we said goodbye to a lot of familiar faces, except my round, orangey one.

One huge difference between the two sites: BridgeCapeAnn.com was a singular powerful social media base shared by business owners to reach a larger local audience, not a go-to site to find cool content. Big mistake. I still love the concept: a hyperlocal Facebook-like site built for a community where people could do the same things they were already doing on Facebook or YouTube or Twitter, but the audience would be very localized (and you wouldn’t have to pay to reach them). Nor would you have to compete with hundreds of millions of posts and uploads from around the world. With dozens of Bridge Buddies utilizing one site, their visibility in Cape Ann would increase as would their discoverability online. Instead of seeing signs at every register or storefront saying, “Follow us on Facebook” you would see “Follow us on The Bridge.” This made perfect sense then, and in many ways, it still does. However, there were many factors we didn't realize.

Business owners don’t have the time or personnel to constantly create engaging content. They weren't going to learn how to use a new social media site when they couldn't quantify the return from using the world’s biggest social media platforms. Plus, we couldn't convince them to abandon Facebook and focus on our little site. Half the world (including most of their families, friends, and followers) were already on Facebook. Why leave? Once this sunk in, I turned the focus away from the website, using it mostly to house content, and decided to build a popular Facebook page. I’d do the dirty work, creating and posting content and running contests to build our audience. It worked. Our following tripled.

Still, we’re playing by Facebook’s rules. If Facebook business page owners don’t pay (or “boost”) their posts, Facebook allows only a tiny percentage of their followers see their content. Therefore, it’s critical that The Bridge has an accompanying website of continuously fresh content that is easy to find and share. Behold Bridge 3.0. It’s made for you to enjoy and me to manage without relying on others or technology. My beloved grid of videos is back, too, and looks sweet on mobile.

BridgeCapeAnn.com must simultaneously deliver fun, informative content to you as well as explain how businesses, non-profits, and community groups can participate. No easy task, since most of what we do is offline, like our events, festivals, and seminars. But videos are still our bread and butter. So please, let me know how to make your Bridge experience even better. Extra eyeballs always help.

We’ve come a long way since OvaTheBridge. Spread the word, enjoy the new BridgeCapeAnn, and we’ll see you in the neighborhood soon.

Bridge Members' Hopes for 2017!

"Our family has worked in various locations for over 100 years, but this year is the 50th for our farm stand on Concord Street. We're going to celebrate in a big way with the community, so stay tuned for updates on The Bridge." - Robert Marshall, Marshall's Farm Stand, 144 Concord Street, West Gloucester 

"We're celebrating our 18th year in business in Gloucester, Mass. Looking forward to creating more memorable events with The Bridge's live broadcasts on Facebook in 2017." - Pauline Bresnahan, Pauline's Gifts, 512 Essex Avenue, West Gloucester

"We just opened our retail shop on Commercial Street. We hope to continue to showcase the best of Cape Ann in our store!" - Donna Marshall, Cape Ann Fresh Catch & Cape Ann Fresh Food, 46 Commercial Street, Gloucester

"Hoping to grow my business by staying true to DIVA values: respect, integrity, honesty, kindness, humor and the belief that there is never too much jewelry!" - Donna Soodalter-Toman, DIVA (Donna's Infinite Variety of Adornments), 161 Main Street, Gloucester

"I've chosen three words to guide me forward to more success in 2017. My three words are: Balance, Production, Accountability." - Stephanie Vanderbilt, Coastal Windows & Exteriors

"Here's to health, happiness and continued service to our wonderful community! We Love Cape Ann!" - Kate Noonan, Common Crow Natural Market