Survival training: One woman’s story of perseverance

A terrible car accident in 2010 was life-altering for a Leicester woman who refused to allow her fate to keep her from pursuing something better. Rehabilitation led to an epiphany, which led to a career change — and that turned out to be Jen Burtt’s saving grace. She lost her friend that harrowing night, but through it all she finally found herself.

Anchors away: Worcester’s ABA basketball team has new name, home court

In hopes of solidifying a permanent home in Worcester, the city’s lone professional basketball team is making major changes to its branding by paying homage to an infamous winter storm and partnering with a celebrated nonprofit for a true home court advantage.

Known as the New England Anchors during its tenuous first year (2016-17) in the revamped ABA basketball league, the team will re-introduce itself next season as the Worcester 78’s — a tribute to the Blizzard of ’78 — in an attempt to make a nostalgic connection across the region while also better defining, team officials believe, its market for supporters and fans.

“It didn’t make a lot of sense to have a New England-based brand without any real ties to Worcester where we play,” owner and president Tom Marino said in a recent interview. “With this change, we are sending the message that we are here and we aren’t planning on going anywhere.”

In Worcester, battle for pedicab supremacy is afoot

The race is on for local bike taxi companies to get the official “green light” from City Hall to hit Worcester streets this summer. But with the support of key city influencers, one enterprising firm appears to have a head start.

Otherwise known as “pedicabs,” these bicycle-towed taxis are aimed at the city’s high-traffic nightlife areas in hopes to help bar and restaurant hoppers beat the heat.

“I think [bike taxis] would be big for Worcester. Just being out and around, I think it would be easy to jump in an open-air cab to take you to the end of the street so you don’t have to move the car. They’re very popular in bigger cities, and I know they will be popular here — especially getting between the major nightlife areas,” said Jason Grayson, president of Worcester Pedal Bike Company.

Nothing usual about The Chameleon opening on Shrewsbury Street

The restaurant space at 166 Shrewsbury St. is changing its name — not to mention its owners, concept, menu and decor — again.

And under its new banner, at The Chameleon the changes will keep on coming.

Planning a June 26 opening, The Chameleon — which will feature a distinct menu and concept for each of the four seasons — will take over the space briefly occupied by The Usual after years of success, and ensuing moves to larger homes, by Niche Hospitality Group’s Mezcal Tequila Cantina and The Fix Burger Bar.

(The restaurant was also expected to attempt a soft opening last night [June 20] for the annual Taste of Shrewsbury Street event.)

The Usual, billed as a creative sandwich eatery, closed on May 28, about six months after opening, amid fallout from the arrest of Kevin Perry, who owned the property and whose wife, Stacey (Gala) Perry, is listed as the restaurant’s owner.

Patrick Sargent / For Worcester Sun

The Chameleon, 166 Shrewsbury St.

Kevin A. Perry Jr. is accused of using millions of dollars in illicit drug profits to buy several properties in Worcester and Millbury, including 166 Shrewsbury St. and The Blackstone Tap at 81 Water St.

Cosmopolitan Club endures ever-changing landscape

While not much has stayed the same on Grafton Hill over the last 80 years or so, there’s always been one surefire place you could go to meet a friend — maybe even your future spouse — have a beer and a laugh, and let all those changes wash away for an hour or two.

Superintendent, union hope leadership change adds up to progress at Elm Park Community School

Superintendent Maureen F. Binienda has been unexpectedly busy shuffling her leadership team as her first year at the helm of Worcester Public Schools draws to an end. At Elm Park Community School, the hope is that a change in principals will keep the underperforming school out of hot water with state education officials.

Joany Santa, principal at the pre-K-6 school on North Ashland Street since 2013, was reassigned to Vernon Hill School for the 2017-18 school year, while Ellen Kelley will move from Roosevelt Elementary School to Elm Park.

Roosevelt is one of 10 city schools classified by the state as a Level 1, or highest performing, school. Elm Park, on the other hand, was designated by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) as a Level 4 school in 2014. It is the only Level 4, or “lowest achieving and least improving,” school in the district and could be in danger of falling to Level 5, which would trigger intensive state involvement including receivership, as has happened in nearby Southbridge.

Binienda, who announced Santa’s transfer in late May as part of several principal changes, told the Sun in an email that the moves were made collectively to “better meet the needs of the children in the district.”

The superintendent said she was not motivated by avoiding a Level 5 designation.

Cutting to the chase: Ronnie Caldwell, barber to the Patriots, plans to open shop in Worcester

From the gridiron of Gillette Stadium to the bright lights of Hollywood, master barber Ronnie Caldwell Jr. is building a who’s who clientele from coast to coast, and that global success has led to local ambition with plans in the works to open a barbershop at the corner of Suffolk and Franklin streets.

Caldwell, born and raised in Worcester, is the personal barber to New England Patriots offseason acquisition wide receiver Brandin Cooks, actor Brandon T. Jackson (known for “Tropic Thunder” and “Percy Jackson”), and Washington Redskins offensive lineman Tyler Catalina, a Wachusett Regional High School graduate.

Caldwell’s glitzy list of customers includes Patriots backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who signed a $65 million contract to join the team in March, as well as social media sensation (and former college football player) Landon Moss, and professional baseball player Chris Colabello, a former Assumption College standout and longtime Worcester Tornado.

Courtesy Ronnie Caldwell Jr.

Stephon Gilmore, one of the newest New England Patriots, quickly connected with Caldwell.

So how did Caldwell land such high-profile clientele?

It all started with a little hot tub eavesdropping.

Great Wall’s failing wall comes down [with video]

Beginning late Tuesday night and into the early morning hours of Wednesday, the rear wall of 521 Main Street — home of the Great Wall Chinese restaurant — was demolished piece by piece because of significant structural damage.

The demo work has left the first two floors of the building exposed and the building’s fire escape has been almost entirely removed.

In just a matter of days — since the Sun first reported on Sunday, May 27 — the wall began to buckle and large sections of brick fell from the building’s facade into the alleyway of Allen Court at the rear of the building.

According to a source who works in a nearby building, on Tuesday, May 30, city officials deemed the structure at 521 Main St. unsafe and evacuated staff at the neighboring MetroPCS at 517 Main St. and residents living in the apartments above it.

Not-so-Great Wall has downtown business in limbo

A longstanding Chinese restaurant in the heart of downtown — and on a list of more than two dozen properties targeted by the city in a sprawling urban renewal plan — has been closed for more than a month as its owner and city officials grapple with how to address its crumbling facade.

The property at 521 Main St., across from the Denholm Building and between Franklin and Federal streets, is home to the Great Wall Chinese restaurant. Significant structural erosion of the rear exterior wall that faces the alleyway known as Allen Court is the primary concern.

Deputy Building Commissioner David Horne said the damage to the brick and concrete wall impacts the restaurant as well as the adjacent (and connected) buildings at 517 Main St. (which has a MetroPCS on the first floor) and 525 Main St. (home to Alpha Travel Agency).

“It’s an issue we want to get rectified and move as swiftly as possible,” Horne said early last week.