Hometown is a personal word; behind it is history and emotion. It is a place, a location, a municipal entity, an emotional attachment and more. But in our lives it is where we (and I suspect most of our friends) live.
Small towns are familiar to me. I grew up in one and have spent a large part of my time during the last 33 years just miles outside of Cambridge and for the last 13 years, Easton. My wife and I were drawn to Easton by an attractive combination of community assets.
Before we moved to Easton we had enjoyed concerts at The Avalon, brunches at The Tidewater, retail shops, and of course, the Bay and its tributaries. Since moving to Easton in 2008 we have watched the renewal of The Tidewater under the excellent leadership of John H. Wilson, Jr. As well, the restoration and then expansion of The Avalon and the farsighted conversion of the abandoned McCord laundry into a Conservation Center by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy.
On a more personal level I enjoyed working with Robbie Gill, Derek White and Tom Hill on, with a slight bias, what I believe to be the best YMCA in America.
I am fortunate to live where I do and my good fortune is shared. I have told many people over a number of years that I live in Easton. Typical response: “you are lucky.” But, let me pause because I could go on and on about the number of organizations that have stepped up to help people who face challenging circumstances.
I suspect all of the above and much more led Paul Prager to invest in Easton. And his investments following the Great Recession of 2008-9 and, more recently, the pandemic, have been hugely helpful. So why do I write about those insightful investments?
Several weeks ago, prompted by a Bluepoint Hospitality (owned by Mr. Prager) promotion on social media I read a Boston Globe article about my hometown.
The article’s initial paragraphs noted that Easton had once been “a hot spot for the Underground Railroad” and referenced its close connections to Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas. The writers than bridged the past with today.
They wrote: “This leafy, often overlooked community………….is undergoing a massive renaissance, largely at the hands of one man. Paul Prager, principal of Bluepoint Hospitality, who attended the nearby Naval Academy and has a summer home and farm in the area, has been buying historic buildings in town and opening a slew of new, upscale businesses. Through his passion for the area (and deep pockets) Prager is completely revitalizing and restoring the once down-and-out, distressed city into a cultural and culinary hub, bringing in top architects, designers, chefs and sommeliers.” Prager noted in an interview with the writers, “I wanted some of the things I enjoy in New York City.”
I too have lived in NYC so when Piazza opened and then expanded I couldn’t think of any place in NYC that was its equal. And when I took a friend to Out of the Fire they were not only infatuated with the food, but amazed that it was celebrating its 20th year under Amy Haines. And learning about Ruby’s Cakes my wife and I became customers—no, enthusiastic customers. We also enjoyed a bit of NYC (before Starbucks crowded into every several block area); RiseUp coffee recalled the locally owned coffee shops in the early 1990s.
So yes Easton is indeed fortunate that Mr. Prager has become a major investor in it’s downtown and is supporting many of its worthy organizations. Let me repeat, Easton is indeed fortunate.
Mr. Prager is also fortunate; Easton is and has been an excellent place to invest. And especially to live. My disappointment is that the Boston Globe writers failed to tell the entire story.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.