Destination: Reading



Calareso's Farmstand and Garden Center

Photos by Robert Boyd

On a typical Saturday afternoon, Jordan’s Furniture in Reading is abuzz with activity in a way that few furniture stores are. Kids run around mini replicas of the Massachusetts State House and Boston Public Garden that are built entirely out of millions of colorful jellybeans. Families watch a water, light, and music show as they enjoy Richardson’s Ice Cream, catch a movie at the IMAX theater, or have burgers and fries at Fuddruckers. And changes have come to the huge store, too: Fall 2014 brings with it Beanstalk, a ropes course and zip line that is replacing the trapeze school that called Jordan’s Furniture in Reading home for a decade.

“The whole idea is to bring unique and unusual things to our customers,” says Eliot Tatelman, president and CEO of Jordan’s Furniture. He calls the new ropes course the “type of thing that just about everyone can do.... It’s a fantastic thing to do in a group or as a family.”

Secured with harnesses to prevent falls, ropes course participants can scale about 30 different adventure and climbing elements, as well as test their balance and nerves by walking across ropes, wires, and boards. A smaller version of the ropes course, Beansprouts, caters to little kids.

Tatelman says that Jordan’s Furniture in Reading is likely one of the highest grossing furniture stores in the country, and it’s certainly one of the most fun. But not all of Reading is that high-flying. In fact, the people who call Reading home describe a quiet town that’s friendly and welcoming, with high-performing schools and a strong sense of volunteerism.

Reading’s strong school district is bolstered by a great set of town services and a collaborative town government, says John F. Doherty, Ed.D., superintendent of Reading public schools and president of the Reading Rotary.

And “we try to find a variety of different types of activities in our schools to support students not only during the school day but after, too,” he adds.

Everything from the arts to academics to athletics thrives in Reading schools. The high school drama club is strong and active, with more than 200 members who stage several full-scale productions every year, as well as participate in an improv troupe, Shakespeare society, and playwriting seminars. There’s a robotics club; engineering classes for middle and high schoolers; and an athletics program that has, in recent years, produced state champions in football, girls’ basketball, and boys’ hockey. Reading is also home to the co-ed Catholic day school Austin Preparatory.

Venetian Moon

Doherty believes Reading’s successful schools are determined by “a combination of things. The dedication of our teachers and coaches [and] the support of the parents is huge. We have very engaged parents in our community, involved in a number of ways.”

That community involvement extends beyond just the schools, though. Reading actually has a group called Read- ing Newcomers and Neighbors, which exists as a kind of welcoming committee for people who are new to town or who want to meet their fellow townspeople.

“We are a social organization, and we just exist to help members meet other Reading families and do fun social events,” says the group’s president, Susan Audley. They organize activities and events like ladies’ paint and sip nights, book clubs, and murder mystery dinners for couples. They also publish a helpful guide to Reading, which includes information like how to get a resident parking permit that allows for town perks like free train station parking and access to the town compost center, as well as a month-by-month list of town events and activities.

Among Reading’s tastiest annual events is Taste of Metro North, which the Reading and North Reading Rotary Clubs produce together. The event, held every year at the end of February, brings dozens of local restaurants to the field house at the town’s Birch Meadow Athletic Complex, where people can sample dishes from local establishments such as Joe Fish, Sam’s Bistro, Reading Butcher, Portland Pie Company, Pamplemousse, and Grumpy’s Ale House.

It’s just one of the many community events and activities that make Reading a great place to live, even if it didn’t have an IMAX theater or a new ropes course.

“I just think it’s a great community to bring your children up in,” says Doherty, “not just from a school perspective but from a community perspective.”

THE DETAILS
Date of settlement: 1644
Date of incorporation: 1644
Area: 9.9 square miles
Population: 24,7474
ZIP code: 01867
Median household income: $99,131
Public schools: A. M. Barrows Elementary School; Birch Meadow Elementary School; Joshua Eaton Elementary School; J.W. Killam Elementary School; Coolidge Middle School; Walter S. Parker Middle School; Wood End Elementary School; Reading Memorial High School
Notable residents: Folk musician Mark Erelli; radio and television announcer Fred Foy; professional baseball player and scout Lennie Merullo; basketball legend Bill Russell; KISS 108 DJ Matt Siegel; “This Old House” star Tom Silva; Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford
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