After Nancy Padulsky was laid off from her job at a law firm in January, the former Melrose resident decided to take a risk on a new career that would bring her back into the heart of her former community.
Padulsky, who now lives in West Peabody, is launching her new business Neighborhood Connections next month, acting as a "community concierge" to bring new Melrose residents gifts from local businesses.
"I decided after being laid off in January to become the welcome lady for Melrose," said Padulsky, who raised her children here before relocating to Connecticut when her husband got a job there.
She got the idea to become a community concierge after moving back to the North Shore to Peabody late last year, and receiving a call at her home from a "welcome lady" in that town.
"I said, 'you've got to be kidding me, they don't do that anymore,'" Padulsky said.
The tradition of welcoming new residents to a community goes back at least as far as Colonial times, when ship captains returning from a long voyage would place a pineapple outside their doors to mark their return, and neighbors would come bearing gifts.
In the Old West, new settlers started the tradition of the welcome wagon, bringing wagons full of fresh food to new arrivals.
And in the 1940s and '50s, a reinvention of the tradition of the welcome wagon spread across the suburban landscape of America, with locals bearing gifts for newly arrived families.
More recently, the welcoming tradition has taken on new commercial value for vendors and businesses.
"I am essentially word-of-mouth marketing for the business service providers," Padulsky explained.
By bringing a gift basket full of gift certificates, coupons, and product samples to new residents, and to others in the community embarking on a new phase of life such as new parents, a community concierge provides the gift of new potential customers for local establishments such as restaurants and shops, and servicepeople such as dentists, insurance agents, and other professionals.
"Businesses can capture new residents as clientele," Padulsky said. "It's a connection for a long-term relationship and encourages people to shop locally."
A fresh start
Padulsky has become something of a "professional mover" in recent years as she and her family moved from Melrose to Connecticut and back again.
"I know what it's like to be in a new community," she said.
Beginning a new career could be daunting as well, but Padulsky has been busy introducing herself to the local business community, and recently joined the Melrose Chamber of Commerce.
"I'm busy meeting people all the time," she said. "Word is getting out there."
Padulsky has recently launched her company's website and is filling up her gift basket with offers from the local businesses that are her clients.
In an age when traditional advertising has lost its punch, other forms of marketing are taking root. A friendly face and personal touch could be just what small businesses need to gain more customers.
"Word of mouth is powerful, and I'll be in people's homes talking about my own experience," Padulsky said. "It's a very effective means of marketing."