FITCHBURG — There’s no shortage of hidden gems in the Twin Cities and beyond, places you’ve probably driven by a bazillion times and thought “I should check that out.”
Mill No. 3 Farmstand is the perfect example: A family business run by husband-and-wife dynamic duo Dan and Denise Mulloy for nearly two and a half decades.
The Westminster Street specialty shop oozes country charm and features a plethora of locally produced food, goods, gifts and much more.
On a recent, sunny Thursday afternoon native farm fresh produce including summer squash, zucchini, bell peppers, apples, corn, and a pair of watermelons sat in boxes near the front door.
To the left, a café counter offers customers coffee, teas, baked goods and other goodies like bread from the Nashoba Brook Bakery in Concord.
The expansive deli menu features a wide variety of sandwiches. A refrigerated section and coolers hold additional fruits and vegetables, eggs, bacon, sodas, and other drinks including Carlson Orchards’ Harvard pressed apple cider. There’s also a large selection of Smith’s Country Cheese varieties from Winchendon, New Hampshire’s Hatchland Farm milk, and more from the region and beyond.
Dry goods include an assortment of spaghetti, hot sauces and maple products including Hollis Hills Farm maple syrup. Mill No. 3 also boasts a wide variety of wine, craft beers, hard kombucha and cider from established local businesses like Bull Spit Brewing, Wachusett Brewing and Carlson Orchards.
“We have been supported as a local business and try to do so with other local businesses, carrying their products,” Denise Mulloy said.
Gifts, gifts and more gifts are found in abundance, which in turn supports local vendors and artisans.
These gifts include bath and home products, jewelry, candles, clothing, children’s items and a large bar of gourmet olive oils and balsamic vinegars that customers can sample before purchasing. These are found under the same roof as “The Burg” swag and signs featuring the names of towns in the region like Ashby, Fitchburg, Gardner, Leominster, Lunenburg, Townsend, and Westminster, a nod to the shop’s roots.
Gardner resident Shelley Austin was a first-time customer picking out “beautiful mums for my mum” along with her goldendoodle Teddy in the outdoor area dotted with perennials, hanging baskets, specialty annuals, succulent bowls, sunflowers, and hibiscus, to name a few.
The expansive greenhouse continues the flora options and includes seating areas for customers to enjoy a meal surrounded by plants.
A sizeable, scenic outdoor space is dotted with picnic tables — even a kid sized one — and the North Nashua River gently gurgles in the background across the rocks. Several people sat out there enjoying their lunches, including a group of construction workers and a mother and her 3-year-old daughter from Fitchburg.
“That river used to flow,” Denise Mulloy remarked about the low level of the water due to the summertime drought. “One Father’s Day it came all the way up almost to the greenhouse.”
Two former nurses are part of the dedicated staff that helps keep the business humming and a steady queue of customers at the register on that day confirmed the fact that maybe Mill No. 3 isn’t such a well-kept secret. One of those former nurses is Greenhouse Manager Stacey Thibault, who’s the daughter of Dan and Denise.
Dan and Denise have been married for 38 years and are both lifelong city residents. They have four grown children and seven grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 17. The couple said they opened Mill No. 3 because they “saw how other towns had similar businesses and wanted to bring it to Fitchburg.”
“Next year it will be 25 years that we’ve been open, and we have made a lot of changes over those 25 years,” Denise Mulloy said. “Some big, some small, but all to bring something good to our customers.”
She said they credit their longevity “to just being there and listening to what people want.”
When it comes to those dedicated customers, both the longtime loyal ones and those who are newly discovering Mill No. 3, she said they are incredibly grateful for the continued support.
“People ask me how I like working with the public expecting to hear the worst. My answer, 100% of the time is ‘We have the best customers in the world’ and I truly mean it. We really do have a wonderful community!”