Sunday, October 24, 2010

Central One FCU - A welcome addition

Big banks, local banks, credit unions…with the economy and all the media coverage over the past two years, it is hard to think of a bank with a good reputation.  Most of my experience with has fortunately been with credit unions and overall it has been positive.  But I too have had my share of frustration. 

For the past ten plus years my primary credit union has been DCU.  I used to proudly proclaim repeated great experiences with DCU.  The last two years my experiences with DCU have gone downhill.  Now, I realize there are a lot of regulations that every financial institution needs to follow but every interaction seems less and less personal.  For some time I just ignored my frustrations as I knew DCU was better then some of the larger banks.

Then just over a year ago, construction began on the new Central One FCU branch in Westborough.  Originally I didn't think much of it, but I was shopping for a new car loan and stopped in to see what they could offer.  Their loans rates were as good as anyone else at the time, maybe slightly better, but the things that really got me was the staff.  When I entered the branch I was greeted by the branch manager David Kaiser.  We got to talking about the community and his thoughts on being in Westborough.  David is definitely proud to be part of this community.  He and I got to talking about Central One, the community, and how he was eager to be more and more a part of Westborough.  All things I was happy to hear as get excited when businesses and individuals look at us as a community and want to involve themselves as much as possible.

Since this first meeting I have gotten to learn more about Central One FCU and experience first hand how they do business.  I have to say I think i may have found a new credit union, and what was originally my car loan I want to become more.  Things like being open at 7AM.  I do sometimes need to stop into a branch but working in Cambridge doesn't make it easy for most banks.  Westborough Central One FCU is open Monday through Friday at 7AM.  Sure they are open on Saturday as well, but I try to focus my weekends on spending some family time.  And I want to add every time I visit the Westborough branch or even talk to them on the phone, I am not treated as a number.  There is legitimate recognition in their voices and knowledge of who I am and the accounts I am involved with.  To me, stopping at the Central One FCU branch in Westborough is like stopping to say hi to a friend. 

The last time I spoke with David he mentioned he was planning a week long one year anniversary celebration of Central One being in Westborough.  On my way back from Lazers soccer practice yesterday morning I stopped in to find out what is going on.  I am amazed at how much is planned for this week and I wanted to share some of the details.  This is all from the flyer I picked up and it is not a complete list of activities.  I encourage everyone to stop by on their own and see what else is planned.  Overall there is something fun each day.  There are breakfast (7:30AM - 11:30AM), and lunch (11:30AM - 1:00PM) food samplings from local favorites such Christina's Cafe, Hisa Japanese Cuisine, Creative Catering by Roche Bros., Rotary Pizza, South Street Diner, Westboro Variety and Deli, and Holy Cow Ice Cream.  On Monday 10/26, Tavolino is even doing an evening food sampling from 5:00PM to 6:00PM.  There are displays from Westborough school art and design programs, going green initiatives, and many other community organizations throughout the week.  On Saturday 10/30 they even have live music planned all morning from some of the WHS student groups. 

Central One FCU in Westborough is really trying to stand out and be part of the community.  I am impressed with every experience I have had to date and I look forward to more.  I encourage everyone to at least check out what they have in terms of services and compare them to what you currently have elsewhere.  But most of all I hope everyone gets to find out first hand the personal interest the the Central One FCU Westborough staff takes in each of their customers.  In my mind that is what really sets them apart.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Westboro Variety adds deli

I am sure everyone noticed the shift this past summer from a White Hen to a 7-11 in the center of Westborough.  To me 7-11 was an improvement, maybe it is the nostalgic memories of me and my high school friends grabbing Slurpees so many years ago, or maybe it was my experience the one or two times I stopped at the White Hen it seemed like the prices were extremely inflated compared to other gas station convenience stores.  But for most adults this is probably a downgrade. 

As near as I can tell, 7-11 is targeted at high school and college age individuals who are in love energy drinks and have the metabolism to handle over processed microwavable food.  I as expected do not fall into this category.  Others similar to me found a big disappointment in the target market to be  the elimination of the deli sandwich counter that was part of White Hen.  Now, I had never eaten at the White Hen deli counter and based on what I saw it wasn't overly appetizing but I can see how it was a quick sandwich at a reasonable price.  Previously anyone local could stop in and get lunch without needing to drive out to NY Deli on RT9 or Regatta Deli & Sandwich under the tracks off Rt30.
Luckily after 7-11 removed the deli counter, Westboro Variety stepped up to support these customers.  About a month ago Westboro Variety added a  Dietz & Watson deli counter.  I admit I never noticed Westboro Variety before and would have never thought to check it out, but friends at Horizon Information Services had tried the new deli counter and said I should check it out.  Not only did I check it out but I had to write about it.

I stopped in at about 1:30PM on a Tuesday and was greeted by Damelyn (I am sure I spelled her name wrong and apologize should she ever read this).  Damelyn informed me that she makes the best sandwiches that I have ever had so how could I say no.  I have to say, it was a great sandwich.  I asked for turkey, bacon, cheese and a little BBQ sauce on a roll.  There are a couple of things that made this sandwich so great.

First, the meat was sliced fresh, and not fresh this morning, but fresh at that moment.  There weren't tins of meat pre-sliced and ready...Damelyn created a fresh sandwich for me.  Second, rather then understocked shelves that I am used to seeing at many stores mid day, Westboro Variety had a full selection of chips to go along with my sandwich.  Finally and possibly the most impressive, my sandwich was $3.99.  It was a big sandwich for next to nothing.

I have been back twice to see if my initial success was repeated.  I am happy to report each time I visited, I enjoyed a fresh, delicious, filling lunch for very little money.  I don't think I would have ever stopped in Westboro Variety if I hadn't been told to try it, but I am very happy I did and I encourage anyone else looking for a quick tasty lunch in downtown Westborough.  Thank you to Horizon Information Services for the suggestion.

Side note:  I realized through this that I never actually ate at NY Deli or Regatta Deli either so I am going to try to visit them sometime as well, but for now my next quick lunch in Westborough will be Westboro Variety.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Old Soccer, New Soccer, BEST Soccer

Last spring my wife and I decided to sign our oldest up for the soccer program affiliated with the town of Westborough Recreation Department.  Neither my wife nor I were super athletic growing up and we are not a super sports house but I wanted the boys to have the opportunity to try different sports and see what they enjoy.  We decided to go with soccer for two main reasons.  The first is easy; limited down time.  T-Ball is great but there is a lot of standing and waiting, soccer is almost always activity.  Second; we knew a couple of other kids already in the program and they liked the coaches.

The Lazers soccer program operates independently from the town rec department but works closely with them and utilizes the town fields.  I don't know a lot about the history of the Lazers soccer program.  I had heard stories about some management issues in the past and how the town was working to grow and rebuild the program.  That may have been the old soccer but in the two seasons now that my family has been participants in the Westborough program I cannot find fault in anything that they do.  From the president of the organization down to every parent and volunteer coach, the Westborough Youth Soccer Association (WYSA) is organized, efficient, worth every penny, and extremely fun.  Personally I have talked with Ed Longo (president of WYSA) and had several face to face conversations with Rob Fitzgibbon, director for the under 6 programs, and all I can say is great things about their dedication, commitment and passion for this program and the families involved.

My wife and I love going to the games.  We love the sitting at practice.  The activities are well organized, the kids who are a little shy are encouraged.  Everywhere I look it is all smiles.  I wanted to add some thoughts as a parent to all the other parents considering the WYSA also know as the Lazers:

  • The first season your child may not be into it.  Our son had no concept of how aggressive to be the first season.  He is a mellow kid anyway but he did not charge for the ball ever.  The first season he spent more time cheering for his teammates when they made goals.  He claimed to have fun but wasn't really engaged.  Now after our second season (and camp which I will talk about later) he is so much more engaged and as a spectator it is clear he is loving it.  Two weekends ago he even scored his first goal in a game.  Looking at some of his teammates this season I can see the difference, especially compared to first year players.  To the parents out there I say give it a second go before you decide to try something different just to make sure.  Below are photos from recent games.

    • Best Soccer Camp is fantastic!  It really helps the kids get more involved during the season.  This summer we signed both of our boys up for the Best Soccer Camp for one week.  This program is run in collaboration with the Westborough Recreation Department we well and hosted by Best English Soccer Training of Westborough.  The camp was amazing, and according to wicked local Westborough over 50 local children participated this summer.  Best Soccer Soccer was founded by Paul Mumby, Westborough High School Girls soccer coach.  Mr. Mumby brings over college soccer players from England and Wales who are great with the kids and truly seem to enjoy the game at every level.  This alone would make me proud but then the Best Soccer Camp did a couple of other things this summer that made be extra impressed with Mr. Mumby's management of the program.

      As we all remember, we enjoyed a very rain free summer.  But the week I signed my boys up for camp was the same week the rains came.  Monday camp was canceled due to rain.  It happens and I know we can't control the weather, but I did just shell out money for the boys to do a program that isn't happening.  Instead of just chalking it up to unfortunate weather, the Best Soccer Camp extended their program 30 minutes each day for the rest of the week.  Part of signing up for an outdoor program is we have to deal with weather, but this action showed that Mr. Mumby is concerned about the value to us as parents.  Then the second day had to be canceled as well.  Sure we need the rain but...  Again Mr. Mumby looked to insure value and extended the camp to run through Saturday.  I realize some parents will say that is not good...they had other plans on Saturday, but for me it was great.  I even got to go watch where during the week I was in Cambridge working behind a desk.  Since I did get to watch i also got some great photos.

      After camp, both boys couldn't wait for the next season.  The youngest will need to wait till spring but the oldest was 100 times more into soccer after the one week at camp.  As you can see form the faces below, the kids love this camp.

    • Lazers soccer is a great social event.  I am definitely outgoing and I enjoy meeting and talking with new people, but rarely is it as easy as at the soccer games and practices.  We have met other families of his kindergarten classmates, long time town residents, and neighbors only 4 or 5 houses away.  Sunday afternoons at Hadley field families are cheering and enjoying the games  and I am proud to be part of it.
      I am happy we got involved with these programs.  It actually makes it a little hard to consider another program right now as these are so much fun and all I ever see is smiles on my son's and other kids faces.  In the spring my youngest can finally get off the sidelines and join the Lazers as well.  We can't wait.