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Bernardston residents petition against Dunkin’ Donuts

BERNARDSTON — When she heard a Dunkin’ Donuts may be coming to her quaint country town, one local woman decided to do something.

Susan Wilcox, of Hartwell Street, started a petition to keep the Sandri Co. from adding the doughnut chain to its 50 Church St. gas station.

“I don’t think a Dunkin’ Donuts will have a positive effect on the town,” she said.

Wilcox and the rest of Bernardston will have a chance to share their concerns when the Zoning Board of Appeals holds a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. tonight, in Town Hall.

Wilcox worries that the doughnut shop will increase traffic on already-busy Church Street.

“That location already has so much traffic,” she said. “It’s very dangerous.”

She’s also concerned that the chain’s trademark orange and pink sign won’t fit into the character of downtown Bernardston.

Lori Tonna-Lamuniere, of Huckle Hill Road, shares that concern. She and her husband own two nearby Church Street houses. They’ve renovated and rented one, and planned to do the same with the other. But with a neighborhood Dunkin’ Donuts on the horizon, they’re not so sure they will.

“We’ve spent a lot of money to preserve the house’s historic character,” she said. “Now, we’re rethinking (whether we’ll renovate the other). If (Dunkin’ Donuts) is going to change the quality and character of the town, and increase traffic, is it going to be worth spending the money?”

She’s also afraid that it won’t stop with the doughnut shop.

“Once something like that comes in, it paves the way for other chains,” she said. “Just because we’re on the off-ramp for the interstate, it doesn’t mean we have to become Anytown, USA, with a strip of the same stores you see on every on or off ramp in America.”

Tonna-Lamuniere said several of her fellow townsfolk stopped by while they were renovating the Church Street house, thanking them for saving and restoring the buildings. She hopes they’ll speak out against the chain store at tonight’s hearing.

“Folks in town with small businesses are struggling as it is,” she said. “That kind of competition would be just ridiculous.”

She refuted Sandri’s claims that a Dunkin’ Donuts would bring places like the Country Corner and 7 South Bakery more business.

“People will come, get their coffee and doughnuts, and get right back on the highway,” she said.

Both women also wonder what effect the doughnut giant will have on nearby businesses, namely the Country Corner Store, which sells pastries, coffee, and sandwiches next door to the Sunoco station, as well as 7 South Bakery on South Street.

Those businesses, and others nearby, have made an attempt to fit in with the neighborhood, said Wilcox.

“So many people have worked to preserve what’s here,” added Tonna-Lamuniere. “Once its rural nature is gone, it’s gone.”

“It’s a cute little town; it’d be heartbreaking to see that change,” Wilcox said.

Wednesday afternoon, Wilcox said her petition had more than 100 signatures, and continued to gain support.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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