RUMFORD — Jim Rinaldo has lots of
ideas for bringing people into the downtown area.

The latest is the development of a
craft outlet at the former gift shop next to Bartash’s on Congress
Street. It’s now named Stella’s Crafts and features a variety of
works from a half-dozen or so local artisans. Craftspeople pay a
small stipend for the space and 10 percent of sales to the shop’s
owners, Barbara and John Bartash.

There are Rinaldo’s woodworking pieces, and those of Dixfield artisan Jim Childs. In one corner is a display
of painted birdhouse gourds. Another side features sea
glass jewelry, and yet another displays eco-friendly bags made from
plastic bags.

On another side, primitive homespun
signs cover almost a complete wall. And there’s room for more.

That’s what Rinaldo, a former Rumford
selectman and current member of the Rumford Economic Development
Committee, hopes will happen. Items change weekly and foot traffic
has increased, he said.

The shop officially opened about three
weeks ago. A grand opening is planned in a few weeks.

But the craft shop isn’t the only thing
he hopes will bring more shoppers into town.

He is looking for four or
five people to serve on a new events committee. They will work to bring
musical and other performers to the Rumford Municipal Building
auditorium. The historic hall once was the site of a variety of acts
and performances. Rinaldo believes it could become a focal point
once again.

The Board of Selectmen provided $1,000
from the economic development fund as start-up money for the
soon-to-be-organized group. Once regular performances begin,
admission fees are expected to maintain a steady stream of
entertainers. Any extra money taken in will go back to the economic
development fund, Rinaldo said.

He is also looking for another four or
five people who want to serve on a river events committee that would
plan a variety of events for the river next spring.

“We have 11 miles of the Androscoggin
River in our town,” he said. “We could have party boat tours, canoe and kayak

Anyone interested in serving on either
committee may call Rinaldo at 364-2983. A first performance in the
historic auditorium is expected in early autumn.

He’s working to have a couple of
telescopes installed at the information center parking lot that
overlooks the Pennacook Falls, as well. And he wants to use the Paul
Bunyan statue at the same site to draw more people into town.

“Five to six thousand people stop at
the visitor center every year. We’re trying to get them downtown,”
he said.

To do this, he has received permission
from Rite Aid at the head of Congress Street to place a
replica of Babe the Blue Ox, Paul Bunyan’s sidekick according to
legend, at a green space on the pharmacy’s property. A sign at the ox
would point people to the Paul Bunyan replica, and a sign at Paul
Bunyan would point people to the ox. That way, people would get into
town, Rinaldo said.

The craft shop is open from 9 a.m. to
5 p.m. Rinaldo is looking for more craftspeople to participate.

[email protected]

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