Cosmopolitan Club endures ever-changing landscape

The Cosmo is always looking for its next generation of regulars, which makes it a perfect fit for our Survivor Series showcasing Worcester small businesses standing the test of time.

At the crest of Hamilton Street’s rolling, mile-and-a-half span in the heart of Grafton Hill sits The Cosmopolitan Club, a neighborhood bar burrowed at the base of one of the area’s many three-decker homes.

From its beginning as a single two-lane dirt road, Hamilton Street and the surrounding area has undergone a number of transformations to accommodate travelers and neighbors alike as far back as the mid-1920s and as recently as last summer.

The one constant for the better part of a century has been “The Cosmo,” as it’s affectionately known by its regulars, which opened in 1935 as the post-Prohibition era poured into full swing.

In its 82 years of existence, the club has witnessed the wide lanes of Hamilton street in the heyday of the city’s trolley cars, and the subsequent addition of  “passing lanes” in the 1940s to replace the trolley tracks as automobiles became more affordable and kicked trolley service to the curb.

Courtesy George Cocaine Collection, Worcester Historical Museum

The Cosmo looked pretty much the same back in the black-and-white days (photo taken June 24, 1949).

“Up until recently, Hamilton Street was, like, a four-lane highway with cars speeding up and down. Now they’ve slowed it down and reconfigured it making it more neighborhood friendly,” Cosmopolitan Club owner Matthew O’Mara said, referring to last summer’s addition of bike paths narrowing of Hamilton Street to one lane on each side.

“The city is going to do a nice greenscape in the spring with trees and grass,” O’Mara said. “So you know things are going the right way. Hopefully, things continue in the uptrend.”

The Cosmo, it seems, is a place where many things begin trending upward.

More Survivor Series

You bet your purdy neck, Worcester loves its Bushel N Peck

Often nestled in the nooks and crannies of major cities, the classic American deli can sometimes simply be overlooked in these days of style over substance.

Maybe even by a local food writer who doesn’t get up to The Summit very much.

Better late than never!

Besides, plating iconic lunchtime favorites and holding the line on affordability appears to be a formula that will be keeping Bushel N Peck around for a while, no matter who’s in charge. Putting their customers first is, indeed, the top item on the menu (though loyalists might make a case for the signature Italian — either wrapped and ready or made to order).

“We are at an advantage with our customers as we can connect with them one-on-one every day. We are always open to discussing any new ideas or issues they may have with our locations,” says Michael Bartosiewicz, who bought two locations, at East Mountain Street and Tatnuck Square, in 2005 from Tom Sr. and Elsa Oliveri.

“We engage with our customers through social media, which is a vital tool for us. Through this, we learn what dishes work at each Bushel N Peck and we offer different options depending on the location and the wants of the customers.”

Check out Bushel N Peck on ‘Phantom Gourmet’

Local Business Spotlight: More than a century of sweet sounds at Union Music

You cannot deny it. There is something special about walking into a store and being greeted by absolute professionals in their business. So it is with Union Music. And it starts at the top, with the president and owner of this 116-year-old family enterprise.

Caring is the operative word in this world – caring about the instrument and your connection to it, the audience (even if it is one), and of helping others find their rhythm, which may be accompanied by a rash of blues, for those who make a living in music.

Carl Kamp, owner and president of this three-generation family business, recounted the history of Union Music, beginning with his grandfather.

Carl Kamp, owner and legacy at Union Music, a business in the city for more than 100 years.

Art Simas / For Worcester Sun

Carl Kamp, owner and legacy at Union Music, a business in the city for more than 100 years.

“Originally my grandfather, Samuel Cashner, who emigrated from Russia, started a pawnshop and music business on lower Front Street in 1900 (where the Peoples Bank is today, before the construction of the taller buildings).

“My father, Leon Kamp, started working for him and married my grandfather’s daughter … and a few years later, I came along in 1946.

Ukulele players string together a community at Union Music

About 10 years ago, Rich Leufstedt discovered a passion: the ukulele.

Originally a bass guitarist who, in his younger days and before family commitments, played with bands in this area, Leufstedt decided to put down the bass and pick up the ukulele.

“There are already all kinds of great guitarists out there,” he said. “So, instead of dedicating myself to be a better guitarist, I discovered no one played the ukulele. That was 10 years and 30 ukuleles ago.”

He may have been onto something in 2006.

Ukulele Club at Union Music

Courtesy Rich Leufstedt / Union Music

Ukulele Club at Union Music

“Ukuleles are much more popular today than 10 years ago. Back then one could go on eBay and find some bargains. And I found several vintage 1950s ukuleles … for one-third of the price of what they go for now,” he said.


Local Business Spotlight: Union Music, a century of sweet sounds


But the four-stringed instrument, known mostly for its Hawaiian-tinged sound, has entered yet another renaissance of interest and performance – and this time it may be here for a while.

Local Business Spotlight: For Worcester’s Sneakerama, it’s a marathon

If you grew up in Worcester in the 1980s and ’90s, then certainly you could quickly muster a long list of businesses which existed when you were a kid that are no longer open.

Maybe your list looks something like this: Caldor, Worcester Common Fashion Outlets, Discovery Zone, Abdow’s Big Boy, Dream Machine, The Ground Round, Maurice the Pants Man, Charlie’s Surplus, Spag’s.

One could go on and on.

Sneakerama, still going nearly 40 years later.

Patrick Sargent / For Worcester Sun

Sneakerama, still going nearly 40 years later.

While all these places have come and gone over the past 40 years, there’s at least one small family-owned business from your childhood that survived — with no end in sight.

The slogan for Sneakerama is “For the Long Run,” and does it ever live by those words.

Local Business Spotlight: Jerry’s Famous Soft-Serve

For kids everywhere there’s nothing quite like hearing that inimitable sound of an ice cream truck getting ever-closer to your neighborhood.

For Worcester kids, though, one man has been steering those jingles up and down the seven hills, causing boys and girls to sprint inside for money and back out for a lucky place in the line for the past 54 years.

Jerry Bianculli, THE ice cream man in Worcester

Patrick Sargent / For Worcester Sun

Jerry Bianculli, THE ice cream man in Worcester

Since 1962, Jerry Bianculli, a Grafton Hill lifer, has been serving frozen treats and novelties out of his ice cream truck, Jerry’s Famous Soft-Serve, in and around Worcester at baseball and softball games, outdoor concerts, fairs and myriad other events.

Bianculli declined to reveal his age, but he said he attended Grafton Hill Junior High and graduated from Commerce High School, which shuttered in 1966.

So what’s the secret?

Hidden Gem — Survivor Series: Central Mass Scuba

If you grew up in the Shrewsbury Street area or frequent the popular culinary corridor to the heart of the city, you may have heard the rumor about a pool below the first floor of a three-decker that Central Mass Scuba occupies.

Unfortunately for fans of quirky local lore, in no way is that rumor true.

“The only pool in this place is when it rains and it floods the basement,” said co-owner George Gilligan in his customarily joking manner.

Central Mass Scuba, 304 Shrewsbury St.

Patrick Sargent / For Worcester Sun

Central Mass Scuba, 304 Shrewsbury St.

There is hope, though — even in the middle of January — for those looking to still hit the pool.

Central Mass Scuba [CMS], 304 Shrewsbury St., utilizes the pool at the YWCA Central Mass. in downtown and offers diving classes for beginners to experts in warm and cold water every Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, six weeks at a time.