The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of October 3 to October 10, 2019
What makes Winchendon what it is...How we're making Winchendon even better

Winchendon Fall Town Meeting ~ October 28, 2019, 7:00 p.m.
Murdock Middle/High School Auditorium. 3 Memorial Dr.

Warrant (PDF)
Presentation (PDF)

Another piece of Winchendon's history vanishing as demolition of former Alaska Freezer building begins

After a lengthy and complicated legal journey, the collapsing buildings at 283 and 275 Lincoln Avenue Extension are finally being demolished and removed.

The Courier reported last November that the town had received permission to demolish the building that once housed the Alaska Freezer plant at 283 Lincoln Avenue Extension, although to date this property is still technically in private hands. The owner, J.A. Jameson, lives in Puerto Rico and employs a caretaker to supervise the property. Jameson owes more than $13,000 in delinquent property taxes. The property at 275 Lincoln Avenue Extension once housed the Diehl screen-printing company and is now owned by the town through a tax taking.

Because of concerns about asbestos and other possible toxic materials contaminating the site, the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped in to oversee and fund the estimated $2 million dollar demolition project. The agency will remove contaminants, demolish the structures and remove all debris from the site. Winchendon Town Manager Keith Hickey told the Gardner News that the EPA was in court on October 2 finalizing permission to demolish the Alaska Freezer site, as "the owners have not been cooperative."

Last fall, part of a wall of the former Alaska Freezer building collapsed into the street, underscoring the health and safety hazards of the abandoned site. The Winchendon Fire Department marked the buildings with red "unoccupied" placards so that firefighters would not take unnecessary risks should there be a fire in the structures.

Hickey hopes that the town will obtain title to the cleared property and get brownfields grants to clean the soil so the lots can be developed.

New development would be a positive thing for Winchendon, but it will take time. The Courier is sad to see a significant piece of Winchendon's enterprise and history come to such an ignominious end.

Alaska Freezer parade truck

Ready for the Winchendon parade

recipe books

Handy books of recipes for customers

Alaska Freezer kitchen products

Made in Winchendon: some products for the kitchen

The Alaska Freezer Company, Inc. was established in Winchendon in 1902. It manufactured home ice cream freezers--the kind that use a bucket of ice and rock salt, and have a hand-turned crank to stir the ice cream mixture. In 1963 Alaska Freezer bought the White Mountain Freezer Company of Nashua, NH, and produced products under that name, as well. Along with freezers in different sizes, the company made kitchen tools and a hand turned ice chopping unit for chopping block ice into small pieces for the freezers.

By 1964 the plant employed around 70 people. Several generations of some Winchendon families, such as the Meyers, worked there.

In 1974 a group of investors bought the company and renamed it White Mountain Freezer, Inc. In 1981 William H. Potter bought out his partners and continued to run the company as its president for some years following.

Alaska Freezer vintage ads

Magazine ad for Alaska Freezer products

Large ice cream freezer

Family size hand-cranked freezer

manual ice crusher

Manual ice crusher for chopping chunks of ice

No one seems to know just when the manufacturing operation in Winchendon closed down. The company itself was sold several more times to different corporations, including Berkshire Partners and the Jarden Corporation. Manufacture of the freezers--by now turned with electric motors rather than cranks--was outsourced to China at some point, possibly in the early 1990s. The building has stood vacant and unused ever since.

Memorabilia and products from the Alaska Freezer Company and White Mountain Freezer can be seen at the Winchendon History and Cultural Center, 151 Front St., Winchendon. Many thanks to Julie Cardinal for her assistance in researching this lost piece of Winchendon's past.

Owner Nancy Monette celebrates 25 years of Winchendon Subway

Tucked into a corner next to Family Dollar, Winchendon's Subway restaurant doesn't take up a lot of space. But its "footprint" in Winchendon's history is a lot bigger. This year, owner Nancy Monette is celebrating 25 years at the Winchendon location. She's seen other businesses come and go, adapted to the construction of the Dunkin Donuts and Cumberland Farms stores, and weathered economic ups and downs, but Subway is still thriving.

As a franchisee, Monette owns the Winchendon Subway and two others, in Athol and Jaffrey, NH. Franchisees are independent, although the parent company does retain some control over its "brand." The Winchendon Subway will be undergoing a required remodeling and redesign next year, switching to a new white and green color scheme with new flooring, ceilings and everything in-between. (Monette reassures us this will all take just a few days.) But it's up to the owner to make the enterprise a going concern.

Monette had some work experience in administration and food service before she launched into managing Subway. She loves making connections with people, both her customers and her employees. The restaurant "is really a reflection of me," she says, and her staff and her customers are like family. Some of her employees are the children of people Monette hired twenty years ago. Recently a customer who stopped coming in after he retired fifteen years ago walked through the door; Monette recognized him instantly and greeted him with a hug.

Monette says one current challenge is finding enough staff. She sees a fair amount of turnover, and hires many young people for their first jobs. She describes herself as a "motherly" boss who teaches her staff good business sense but rewards honesty and diligence with good humor and kindness. Staff can drink all the soda they want on their shifts, but Monette will remind them that it's bad for their teeth.

Monette has helped out with many fundraising and community events in Winchendon. She generously donates bread to Our Neighbor's Kitchen community dinner, and will be selling food at the upcoming Winchendon Fall Festival. A resident of Royalston, Monette is helping put on the South Village Fall Fair on Saturday, October 5 as part of the Royalston South Village Revitalization.

From October 1 through October 25, the Winchendon Subway is running daily deals to celebrate its anniversary. Stop in for the Deal of the Day and to offer your congratulations and best wishes to Nancy Monette for another great twenty five years in Toy Town!

The Winchendon Subway is located at 29 Central Street, Winchendon, 978-297-0011, open seven days a week.

The Winchendon Water Department is flushing hydrants starting October 9th and continuing through the end of the month.

Tap water may be discolored for a day or two, but it will clear up.

We appreciate your patience in this matter.

Stone-Ladeau Funeral Home

Winchendon Subway