Thornes Marketplace undergoes accessibility renovations

  • Sean Murphy walks up the new ramp from Herrell’s Ice Cream past Captain Candy and Assemble in Thornes Market place. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

For The Recorder
Thursday, June 15, 2017

I scream, you scream — and with a new handicapped-accessible ramp, everyone is now able to scream for Herrell’s ice cream.

The ramp is part of a series of accessibility renovations undertaken by Main Street fixture Thornes Marketplace, an indoor shopping center built in 1873 that houses Herrell’s and other local boutiques, cafes and an organic food co-op.

Before the ramp was built, Herrell’s was inaccessible to those who rely on mobility aids such as walkers and wheelchairs. The Old South Street entrance and the hallway connecting Herrell’s to the rest of the Thornes shops both had challenging staircases.

“It’s always been tough,” said Herrell’s owner, Judy Herrell.

Herrell asked “lots of times” over the shop’s 37-year history for a ramp to be installed but was told that the Old South Street entrance was not an option and that the hallway wasn’t long enough to build a ramp that would be up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) codes.

Resigned, she said, she “chalked it up to a building that was built in 1875.”

In 2014, Richard Madowitz, Thornes owner since 2006, decided to begin making accessibility renovations to the marketplace. Although these renovations are voluntary, he said Wednesday, he decided to push forward to “accommodate accessibility issues so that everyone can enjoy shops and restaurants in Thornes.”

“We knew it was the right thing to do,” Thornes Manager Jody Doele said. “This place is a destination. We want to make it as welcoming as we can for everybody.”

By working closely with the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board, which regulates accessibility standards, Douglas was able to create a workable solution for the ramp. He was able to receive a “variance” or waiver that is given to projects that “cannot physically meet the letter of the law,” said Douglas.

With the variance, they were able to build a ramp that is slightly steeper than ADA standards but still in compliance with the Architectural Access Board.

Herrell said the ramp construction has been an “incredibly positive experience.”