Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Permanent United States Post Office Returns to Bedford

After almost 18 months of operating out of two "temporary" trailers, a permanent United States Post Office retail location has returned to Bedford. According to Bedford Postmaster Bill Booker, the new location opened at 8 am on February 21st. The new location is in the Bedford Marketplace at 158J Great Road which is between Bruegger's Bagels and Barre 3.

New lobby of the Bedford post office. The lobby is open for self service 24 hours a day.
The new location includes a retail counter as well as PO Boxes and will be staffed from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday and from 8am until 1pm on Saturdays. While the retail unit post office has moved to this new location, Bedford mail delivery will continue to come from the mail distribution facility in Burlington

The temporary trailers near Red Heat will soon be moved out of Bedford Marketplace. The sign on the door states that the new location is now open.
The Bedford Post Office was first established in 1826. You can find a list of all it's Post Masters here.

1. It's good to finally see the new Post Office open. This gives Bedford Marketplace more of a Town Center feel. The additional foot traffic will also be beneficial to adjacent businesses such as Simply Nail & Spa and Barre 3 by enabling Post Office customers to discover them as they walk by.
2. The USPS Employees I spoke with, all went out of their way to express their appreciation for the patience of Bedford residents and businesses and how happy they are that the new location is now open.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More Breakfast Options Coming to Bedford

If you're interested in getting Breakfast in Bedford, there are currently just a few non fast food options such as Prince Street Cafe and the DoubleTree Bedford Glen.

Prince Street offers Breakfast Mon - Sat with Pastries, Muffins, Omelets and Quiches. 
On Saturdays they add Pancakes, French Toast and Belgian Waffles.
Two new restaurants that will be serving breakfast are expected to open in March.

Peppers Grill at 321 Great Road in the Great Road Shopping Center will be serving Breakfast from 7 am to 1 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. This was the previous location for Sparta Restaurant. Accord to owner Jim Morris, they will be serving a  full Breakfast menu including Pancakes, Belgian Waffles, Eggs, Omelettes, Homemade Home Fries as well as Breakfast Burgers, Pizzas and Wraps.

Short Stop Cafe which is located in the Depot District at 54 Loomis Street adjacent to the Orange Chair, will be serving breakfast 6 days a week. Breakfast items are expected to center around Belgian & Brussels Waffles.

Interior construction is wrapping up at the Short Stop Cafe. The new restaurant includes space for outdoor dining.
Stay tuned for more details.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Barre 3 Studio Opens in Bedford Marketplace

A permanent sign for the new Barre 3 location has just been approved and should be up in about three weeks.
The Bedford Barre 3 Studio is now open at 158 Great Road in Bedford Marketplace.

Barre which was inspired by Ballet, was named after the wooden bar Ballet dancers hold onto when they’re doing their warm-up exercises. It was developed in Europe and brought over to the United States in the 1970's. From that, several different versions of Barre evolved. Barre 3 was created by Sadie Lincoln out of Portland Oregon who then opened her first Barre 3 studio in 2008. Barre 3 has seen a surge in popularity over the past five years and now has 108 locations.

I recently spoke with the Barre 3 Studio Owner and Franchisee Natasha Groblewski. Natasha grew up in Lexington just outside of Bedford. After College she went out to Portland Oregon where she was introduced to Barre 3. She loved it and had a dream of opening her own studio but she first decided she would need to learn a lot of different skills to maximize her chances of success.

In 2010 she moved back to Massachusetts. She then worked a variety of jobs with focus on specific areas including HR and Consulting as well as with a number of startups to hone her entrepreneurial skills. In 2015 she became a certified instructor at the Needham Barre 3 Studio and started to study the business model. In 2016 she decided she was ready to move forward with her own Studio and began looking for the right space. Her first choice was the renovated Bedford Marketplace but this space was under agreement. Shortly after, she found out the deal with the other tenant had fallen through. She jumped at the opportunity as this was her dream location. She remembers coming to the shopping center as a kid to shop at Marshall's and eat at Cafe Luigi's. The Bedford location is the 2nd in Massachusetts with locations in Brookline and Sudbury expected to open shortly.

Natasha explained that the Barre 3 is a combination of thee disciplines; Yoga, Pilates and Ballet. The classes which are open to everyone, are designed to target the arms, legs and core. While the classes see age ranges from about 20 to 80 years old, they tend to be mostly female. The average person goes to 2 to 3 one hour classes per week. According to Natasha, many of her new clients get convinced by a friend to try one class. They usually love the community focus and tend to find the classes fun and energizing.

The Studio offers a cork floor which is designed to reduce heavy impact on the joints.
Unlike some other fitness classes like Yoga which may have different levels, Barre 3 offers one level of classes. The postures can be easily modified to accommodate injuries and physical challenges. The classes are generally considered low impact and makes use of interval training. Each class is led by a Barre 3 certified instructor. Natasha mentioned that the certification process is fairly long and detailed to ensure each instructor is well trained.

The Studio offers childcare for parents with young children
The studio averages about 5-6 classes a day during the week (early morning, lunch time and after work) and 2 classes on Saturdays and Sundays. The Bedford Studio, which can hold up to 27 people at one time, offers childcare during most classes.

While you can pop in to most classes, Natasha recommends making use of the online scheduling tool via their web site or app to ensure there is space in the class.

Front desk at the new Studio.
According to Natasha, drop in classes are $25. You can also buy 5, 10 or 20 classes packs at a slightly lower per class rate. For those people that expect to attend a lot of classes, Barre 3 offers a monthly unlimited pass (currently $99) that lets you attend as many classes as you want. Unlike some other fitness places that have a one or two year contract, with Barre 3 you go month to month and the starting monthly rate you pay is locked in as long as you continue each month. The monthly membership also gives you access to hundreds of different fitness videos from their workout library and recipes. In fact Natasha herself provided some of the recipes.

Along with classes, Barre 3 apparel and accessories are available for purchase.
The studio has five instructors including Natasha. For the grand opening week, they are offering both free classes and free childcare.

The past year has seen a surge of Barre studios opening in Massachusetts such as Pure Barre and Xtend Barre which are in Burlington. It will be interesting to see if this surge continues.

It's good to see an entrepreneur follow a focused approach to fulfill their dream. Most of the time, people either jump in to a business without realizing some of the skills they will need to learn or they convince themselves they are not going to be ready and thus never take the plunge.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

AFC Urgent Care Gets Ready to Open in Bedford Marketplace

AFC Urgent Care Bedford is set to open on January 20th at 154 Great Road in Bedford Marketplace. The location which is adjacent to Red Heat, was previously used as a temporary location for Brookline Bank.

AFC, also known as American Family Care was started in 1982 by Dr. Bruce Irwin and has grown to become one of the largest providers of walk in urgent care in the United States with 185 locations in 31 states. The Bedford location will be the 21st location in Massachusetts. Similar to hotels and some restaurants chains, AFC locations are typically owned and operated by local franchisees.

I recently spoke with Dave Adams who is the co-owner of the Bedford location. Dave started his career as a Captain for the United States Marine Corps. After about 8 years, he left the Military and got an MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. After graduating, he worked briefly for an Investment Bank before transferring to Sullivan Construction where he worked his way to up to become Vice President, of Operations.

The waiting area provides complimentary hot and cold beverages along with iPads for Children.
While he enjoyed his work, he wanted to focus more on the greater good and he decided healthcare would be a good place. About 5 years ago, he formed a management company called Patriot Urgent Care in order to open and operate a Doctors Express Urgent Care center in Waltham. Shortly after, he persuaded Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Kristina Orio (whose background included being an Emergency Medicine combat physician in Iraq for the United States Air Force) to come on as Medical Director. Two years later they opened a second location in Burlington. In 2013 Doctors Express merged with AFC retaining the AFC name. In 2014, Patriot Urgent Care opened a third location in Stoneham and is now opening in Bedford. The management company which employs about 65 people, owns and operates all four locations. The headquarters for the management company is also moving to the Bedford location. Dave is now the President while Dr. Orio is a co-owner and still serves as the Medical Director.

The Clinic is comprised of Eight Exam Rooms along with on-site lab and X-ray.
They picked Bedford for their fourth location because there is no local hospital or existing Urgent Care Facility. As part of the selection process, they reviewed detailed population and traffic studies which showed the Bedford Marketplace location would be a very convenient one.

According to Dave, their clinic is designed to quickly see people who are unable to get in to see their primary care physician (PCP) right away. The clinic is open from 8 am to 8 pm seven days a week including holidays (which covers 35% of the time when most PCP's are closed). Dave mentioned their average wait time is 7 minutes with a total door to door time of about 45 minutes. They post the current  wait time on their website for all their locations, so patients can figure out which would be most convenient for them.

One of the eight Exam Rooms. This one is specially designed for pediatric patients.
AFC takes insurance from most of the major carriers. Dave stated that the average co-payment is $22. After being seen, records can be sent electronically to a patients PCP. About 30% of patients end up getting a referral, mostly to Orthopedics. Less than 1% of their patients end up needing to go to a Emergency Department. According to Dave, an Urgent Care Clinic requires more extensive licensing and checks from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health than a solo primary care physician.

Dave also explained how AFC has set up relationships with many specialists so they are now able to schedule most referrals for the next business day, which is frequently faster than a patient's own PCP.

A nurses station is used to coordinate patient care. All patients are seen by a board certified Physician.
In additional to Urgent Care, AFC also provides DOT Medical Exams, Drug Screening (both corporate and court ordered), FAA Flight Screening, Immunizations, Laboratory Services, Physicals and Travel Medicine.

The Bedford location which encompasses over 4,000 square feet, consists of eight exam rooms, an X-ray suite and an on-site lab designed to quickly do many common tests. Other tests are sent out with results usually available within 36 hours.

With both owners having a Military background, they want to be able to provide services to Hanscom AFB personnel. While Hanscom does have a Clinic run by the 66th Medical Squadron, it has more restricted hours than AFC. Dave is currently working on getting an agreement with the TRICARE health care program in order to enable uniformed service members and their families to access the Bedford location.

The Digital X-Ray Suite.
According to AFC founder Dr. Bruce Irwin, a standard American Family Care center needs 30 patients a day to break even. To help drive business, AFC clinics typically employ a Business Development Manager who works with local businesses and other community entities to help drive business. These marketing efforts are similar to how many local banks market themselves in the community.

One of the challenges with a Urgent Care clinic is the amount of staffing. You want to have enough staff on hand to ensure patients are seen quickly but not too much in that you are paying for staff that is not needed. The AFC clinics make heavy use of analytics to forecast activity levels for staffing. The analytics includes past history on the specific day/day of week, current weather, recent flu reports and other information.

Dave has found Bedford very welcoming so far and is very excited to be here. They really want to help people get medical care while saving them time and money. Bedford AFC has already become involved in the community including being a sponsor for Bedford Rotary's Breakfast with Santa program. Once fully up to speed, the Bedford locations will have about 25 employees.

While the official opening in is on Friday January 20th, there is a public open house on Thursday January 19th from 2-4 pm.

1. While urgent care has been popular across most of the country (there are close to 10,000 locations), it only has taken off in Massachusetts in the past couple of years. The most recent trend is for hospitals to open their own branded clinics. For example Emerson is in the process of opening two locations while Partners Healthcare already has three locations running in the Boston area and has plans to open ten more before the end of 2017. In some cases, such as Emerson, the clinics are run directly by the hospitals while others are joint ventures. For example Partners Health Care has partnered with MedSpring Urgent Care. 

2. It will be interesting to see what impact all the new and upcoming Urgent Care clinics will have on Emergency Department visits. Lahey is opening a new expanded Emergency Department on January 25th. The new Department, which cost just under $80 Million, has been designed to be able to handle 50,000 patients annually. It currently gets about 40,000 per year and it has projected a rise to 45,000 in 2021. I wonder if the growth of Urgent Care clinics was taken in to account in their projections?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Blue Fuji Restaurant Now Open at 200 Great Road

The Blue Fuji restaurant at 200 Great Road opened last month. The new restaurant replaces Asiana Bistro which closed in August. Blue Fuji has an additional location in Medford. I recently spoke with Chris who is the manager for the Bedford location.

The main dining area has been completely redone from when it was Asiana Bistro.
According to Chris, Blue Fuji focuses on organic Japanese and Chinese cuisine including "Fusion" Sushi. While the menu is similar to their Medford location, the Bedford restaurant has added a bunch of new items such as Sushi with organic quinoa rice in place of the standard white rice.

The restaurant features 88 seats spread across several dining rooms.
The new restaurant has undergone a complete renovation. The extensive wood work gives it a interesting rustic feel. The decor at the Bedford location is very different from the decor in Medford.

In addition to the standard items, the Sushi bar features a wide assortment of special Sushi Rolls. 
Chris mentioned they really love the Bedford site. They think the town is great and the location being adjacent to Lexington and Concord is ideal for attracting new customers.

The restaurant includes a small bar. As stated by Chris Tsao (pictured here), 
the most requested bar drink is a Mai Tai.
According to Chris, all of the management staff which includes the head chef, have around 20 years experience in the restaurant industry. They currently have about 20 employees.

One of the dining rooms can be fully sectioned off as a function room with
room for up to 45 people.
In conjunction with their regular menu, Blue Fuji also offers weekday lunch specials. In addition to takeout, the restaurant also offers online ordering, delivery and corporate catering.

The updated decor includes lots of reclaimed wood along with a selection of antiques 
that are several hundred years old
Chris has been pleased with the grand opening and mentioned that many of their initial customers have already returned. They are interested in working together with the community and hope many will come and try their food.

Customers encounter a Bubble Wall upon entering the restaurant.
The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 am to 9 pm and 11:30 am to 9:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

It will be interesting to see what impact Blue Fuji has on Ginger and The Great Wall.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Learning Express Toy Store and Play Center Concept Opens in Bedford Marketplace

Learning Express Toy Store and Play Center located at 168 Great Road in Bedford Marketplace is now open. The new concept, which combines a toy store with children’s activity center and play museum is the first of its kind for Learning Express which operates over 125 toy stores across the United States. The company got its start in 1987 with its first store in Acton Massachusetts.

I recently spoke with Learning Express Marketing Director Lauren Derse. Lauren explained that while its stores are normally franchises, this is a new concept so the Bedford location is their first company owned store. The new space consists of 7500 square feet divided between a traditional toy store and play space known as Downtown Play.

The downtown play space includes lots of miniature stores and outdoor items.
The downtown play space consists of ten themed play areas fashioned after a traditional New England town. The play area includes a general store, veterinary clinic, performing arts center, 1950's diner, gymnasium with a rock-climbing wall, an infant play area, a fire house and more. The play space is designed for kids ages 6 months to about 8 years.

The studio features 45 minute classes focusing on movement, dance, art, music, science and more.
Lauren explained that while the business has been around for almost 30 years, the retail toy industry has undergone a lot of changes resulting in a lot of mom and pop toys stores closing down in the last five years.

The infant play area is designed for babies that are not yet able to walk on their own.
With the shift to online sales, Lauren explained that Learning Express really want to focus on the experiences that can only be achieved by visiting a store.

The general store is almost a full replica with working shopping carts and a functional cash register.
The general concept is parents pay $14.99 per child for up to 3 hours of what is known as open play in the downtown play space. While a parent must stay near the child for open play, there is no cost to the parent. With the location in the Bedford Marketplace, Lauren envisions many cases where one parent stays with the kid while the other parent gets some shopping done.

2nd floor view from the downtown place. Note the slide for kids to ride down to the first floor.
In addition to open play, they also offer a dozens of different classes designed for Children broken down by age. Each class is 45 minutes and is provides an environment for kids to explore and discover. Each class  repeats weekly and are available on a monthly plan, you can trial a class for free.

The slide exits out of the fire station..

Lauren also mentioned that down the road they will offer a three hour date night program where a couple can drop off their child and then head out for dinner and more. As part of the program, they are looking to partner with other businesses in the Bedford Marketplace (for example a special promotion for an appetizer with dinner).

The play area includes a tiny train station. Note the colors match those at Depot Park.
Lauren commented that Learning Express really liked the location in Bedford Marketplace and Bedford has a high percentage of kids which fits their demographics. They've been out in the local community for the past few months and they really love the town.

The Gymnasium is nearly 1000 square feet and has dozens of activities.
The new play center will also do Birthday parties. Each party includes 90 minutes of 'facilitated' fun with cake followed by one hour of open play.

The gymnasium also features a mini rock wall.
Between the play space and the toy store is a snack cafe. The food is provided through a partnership with Prince Street Cafe.  The kids menu focuses on organic snacks and the food items do not contain peanuts. For adults there is a selection of Yogurt, Coffee and other beverages. The cafe will be open whenever the open play is open.

The toy store is modeled after other Learning Express toy stores with a focus on products that promote childhood development such as Melissa & Doug.

Finishing touches were being made as the store readied for its grand opening..
Lauren remarked that while they are all very excited about this new concept, this will be a experiment for them. The company overall will be working closely with the Bedford store to gather lots of feedback and making adjustment as needed. Once they get it working well the hope to replicate it in other locations.

The Paws & Claws clinic features stuffed animals for kids to practice on as a Veterinarian.

The Grand opening for this new concept runs includes special guest for kids such as Elmo, Peppa from Paw Patrol and Cinderella. They also plan to features contests, raffles and special promotions.

Lots of stroller parking is available.
Learning Express is open from 10 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday and 9 am to 7 pm on Sundays.

1. While Learning Express is now just opening, they have already been involved in the community for many months. It's good to see a company make the investment.

2. It's interesting that Bedford was once again chosen as the location to test a new concept for an existing company. Panerea Bread did the same thing two years ago with its takeout and delivery concept.

3. If the concept is successful, I predict it will be a big driver of traffic for the Bedford Marketplace and be very beneficial for the other businesses. Overall it seems the Bedford Marketplace renovation will be successful. There are only a few vacant spaces left at the Bedford Marketplace and those are under discussion to be leased.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Subway is now Open in Bedford Marketplace

The Bedford Subway has reopened at 158E Great Road in Bedford Marketplace between b.good and Simply Nails & Spa. The restaurant, which closed last October for the Bedford Marketplace renovation, had it's soft opening on Wednesday.

The new seating area incorporates art work, LED lightning and a mixture of seating styles including high tops.
I recently spoke with Harry one of the owners. According to Harry, while the new location has 18 seats just like the old location, it's features a totally new interior design known as Metro Decor.

The focal point of Subways Metro Decor is the stone wall displaying a metal version of the iconic Subway logo .
The high ceilings give it a more spacious feel.
While Harry is happy to be in the new space, he's more excited that a good portion of his original employees choose to come back to his store.

While many people think of Subway as a lunch place, they also offer a variety of all day Breakfast items. Note the menu board now list calories which will be a FDA requirement on May 5, 2017.
While most of the menu is carryover, next week the restaurant will be introducing wraps which are only currently available at a small percentage of Subway locations.

The restaurant offer both self service and bottled drinks.
The checkout station has added new payment methods including Apple Pay and through the Subway App. Harry mentioned these have become quite popular.

The new Point of Sale system has contact less options.
Subway has the most locations of any restaurant with over 26,000 in the United States and 44,000 world wide. In August, Subway unveiled a new logo as shown below.

The new Subway logo is on the bottom. Initially only new locations that open after 2016 will use the new logo.
The rest of the stores will be Grandfathered with the older logo for a while.

The new restaurant is open from 7 am to 9 pm Monday through Friday and 9 am to 9 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Harry expect a more formal Grand Opening in the next few weeks.

With Subway opening, Bedford Marketplace now has six restaurants (eight if you count Whole Foods and the snack counter at Learning Express). There has been some talk of adding one more restaurant but that is still up in the air.