HARVARD -- As the economy continues to move ahead at a slow and halting pace, Harvard is no exception to a little bit of a slide, but businesses in town say they are stable, and pretty content.

Tony Graceffa, owner of Harvard Lanes, finds that business for him has remained relatively stable for over 40 years. "The bowling business always fluctuates a little, that's just how it is," he said.

Graceffa finds that when gas prices are high, or when it rains, people don't want to travel as much so they stay around town. In many cases, they go bowling. He does find, though, that his business lacks drop-ins.

"We tend to host more businesses and services that people are looking for rather than stumbling into," Elaine Lazarus, chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said of how most of Harvard's businesses tend to cater to specific markets.

Carrie Brow, owner of the Fiber Loft, a knitting, weaving and spinning shop, finds that most of her clientele come through the Internet. "Many people search us online, and come to Harvard for that reason," she said.

Brow expressed similar concerns for her lack of drop-in sales. "We don't get many drop-ins like you would see in a typical town center. Harvard is a destination town," she said.

"The businesses that Harvard has are for people that are seeking out these places. Retail is different and relies on drive-by traffic," Lazarus said.

The previous owner of the Fiber Loft handed the store to Brow in March after Brow had apprenticed there for about five years. She says the business has slowed down a little bit lately, but not much.


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Although Brow's business may be lacking drop-ins, she said that sidewalks or a higher commercial presence in town would take away from its character. "There are a lot of residents in the center of town, so (building more commercial space) would stir up a lot of issues," she said.

Lazarus said that sidewalks have been a goal of the EDC for a while now, to increase both mobility of residents as well as safety.

Perry Stamatelopoulos, owner of Pizza Bella for 24 years, also owns a second location in Devens. He tends to agree that Harvard does not get much drop-in traffic. His Devens location is much busier than the Harvard eatery.

Stamatelopoulos blames summer vacations for much of his slow business lately. "When school starts back, I expect it to get better. I hope," he said.

Although Stamatelopoulos would prefer more commercial presence in town, he has no complaints about Harvard as it is.

Steve Walz, owner of Harvard Outdoor Power Equipment, Inc., tends to have a different outlook on doing business in Harvard.

"People have big lawns here, so they need this type of equipment," Walz said. "Big cities like (those outside of Boston) tend to have smaller yards, so they don't need this stuff," he added.

Walz bought the store about a year ago from the previous owner who owned it for about 20 years. "It's been good, but challenging," he said. This is the first outdoor and power equipment store at which Walz has worked, he said.

With little competition in town, since Toreku Tractor and Co. moved out of Harvard and into Ayer, Walz has many loyal customers coming from Harvard and surrounding towns, he said.

The commercial presence in Harvard may not be the biggest, and drop in numbers may be low, but business owners spoken with are happy with their Harvard locations and their relationships with the town.

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