Rumor Has It

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Rumors are awesome.

They’re better than television.

The Internet is rumor-driven, but just think about those rumors even before they get to the Internet. That’s pure rumor. That’s 200-proof rumor. This is the kind of rumor that gives you a rush. Makes your head light. This is the kind of rumor you shouldn’t drive after. Or post on Facebook after.

Like the rumor I heard about Winfrey’s, on Market Street, and the Ipswich Board of Health.

Yes, I know. Just seeing this combination of proper nouns has caused your heart to palpitate, hasn’t it. You can hardly wait for me to tell you the rumor, can you? See? Pure rumor. Strong stuff.

OK, here’s the rumor, the original fairy tale, as it first came to me:

Wondrous Winfrey’s, the popular manufacturer of wondrous chocolates, decided to branch out from their Rowley headquarters and open a wondrous retail outlet on Market Street in Ipswich. Fantastic! Shoppers will throng to such a place! Downtown Ipswich will blossom!

But then came Colleen Fermon, our town’s Public Health Director, swooping down on the candy-maker and ruling that they would have to put in a full commercial kitchen — Full! Commercial! Kitchen! — before opening their store on Market Street. Just to sell pretty little boxes of chocolate! Which they had already made! At their factory all the way over in Rowley! ROWLEY!

So of course, Winfrey’s — balking at the horrendous cost of setting up a Full! Commercial! Kitchen! — backed out of the deal. Which means they would be keeping their tax dollars flowing to the Town of Rowley — and choking off any hope of improving the Ipswich downtown retail experience.

Outrageous. Tragic.

Also, as it turns out, a teensy-weensy bit untrue.

The rumor was so delicious, so fantastic, so extreme, I just couldn’t bring myself to spread it all over town. Oh, I wanted to. What a gusher of vitriol I could uncork on social media!

But first, just to confirm that this incredible fiasco had actually happened, I had to make a few inquiries. At Town Hall. With the realtor. With Winfrey’s.

Turns out, the rumor mill did get a few tiny little details just a tiny little bit wrong.

Like, for example, it wasn’t our dear Public Health Director’s call. When you’re handling food in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — like placing individual pieces of candy in a display case — the state steps in, no matter what the Town’s rules may be, and insists on compliance with its public health regulations.

Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah. The state requirement isn’t exactly a Full! Commercial! Kitchen! What the state requires is a hand sink. Oh, and a mop sink. Slightly less burdensome than a Full! Commercial! Kitchen!

Then there was the minor matter of who was renting the space. Winfrey’s, right? Uh, no. The store was to be owned and operated by a young lady who would be contracting with Winfrey’s to sell their chocolates.

And why did the project fold? Why did the hand-drawn “Winfrey’s” sign come down out of the window? Was it the onerous regulations? Some jaded backroom politics? The Town’s crushing anti-business bureaucracy?

No. Actually, the young lady planning to sell Winfrey’s chocolates unexpectedly got an offer she couldn’t refuse: a job — with way better pay.

Darn.

So, let’s recap.

Our Public Health Director (DIDN’T) descend on the (OUT-OF-TOWN CHOCOLATIER) with an (UNREASONABLE IPSWICH TOWN RULE) forcing an (OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE REGULATION) on someone (STRUGGLING TO START A BUSINESS).

Otherwise, the rumor was absolutely, entirely true.

I mean, yes, it was about chocolate.

And we should be outraged. Totally. Chocolate on Market Street would have been so cool.

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