MILTON – When childhood friends Lindsey Gillooly and Allison Daly opened their new business, Milton Medical Aesthetics, on Adams Street in East Milton Square last month, they were greeted by a group they had a lot in common with: fellow women business owners.
“They brought us gifts,” Gillooly said.
A newly reconstructed East Milton Square features a number of women-owned businesses, from hair salons to retailers to a gym and restaurants. And while there is no formal business group or association uniting the female entrepreneurs, they work together.
“We all know each other,” said Suzanne Lombardi, the owner of The Plate restaurant in Milton Marketplace. “I go to Mellie’s to get my hair cut and she comes here for her soup.”
Lombardi’s neighbor Lindsay Reilly, of The Cue clothing and gift shop, said her fitness line is carried by Fitness Unlimited, a women’s-only gym located across street.
“We’re a scrappy bunch,” said Nancy Doyle, who has owned The Nutshell, a children’s boutique in Milton Marketplace, for two decades. “None of us is an absentee owner. We collaborate a lot together and everyone has each other’s back. I think it’s fantastic.”
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As the square emerges from the years of challenges brought by COVID closings and road construction, women business owners will be a big part of the comeback.
“It has been a challenge for sure,” said Beth Whitney, who bought Fitness Unlimited with her partner, Cindy McCarthy, nearly three years ago after managing the business for more than 30 years. “I think, now, we’re going to come alive again. I think there is a very positive feeling in the area among the businesses.”
Most of the owners in the area said the number of women-owned businesses wasn’t a factor in their decision to establish themselves in the square. Location was the main factor.
“Aside from Hingham Center, I don’t think there’s another downtown like this,” said Doyle.
Lombardi, who opened her restaurant six years ago, said “I think there’s more women going into business for themselves. Women are well suited to be their own boss.”
Daly and Gillooly chose the square for their third salon, which provides body shaping for men and women, because it is close to some of their existing customers. The other locations are in Hingham and Easton.
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“It’s just the best spot,” said Gillooly. “There’s lots of foot traffic and it’s just outside the city.”
“It’s such a great vibe in the area,” added Daly. “Every day we’ve been open, we’ve had people walk in.”
The business owners said being a local small business gives them the advantage of knowing their customers and their customers knowing them.
“We all bring our own unique style to what we do,” said Lombardi.
“Everybody loves small business,” said Reilly, a Quincy native who opened The Cue two years ago. “We try to buy as local as we can. People love local.”
That’s not to say that it is all smooth sailing for local businesses in the square. Parking can be scarce, and Adams Street and Granite Avenue are constantly clogged with commuter traffic. Rent increases have forced some longtime businesses to close or relocate, and the square may be on the verge of another transformation with two planned multi-family residential developments.
Arthur Doyle, chair of the town’s select board, said he sees the growth of the women-owned business community as a positive sign.
“Women-owned entrepreneurial initiatives in the East Milton Square business district are a most welcome part of our community’s landscape,” he said.
Reach Fred Hanson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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