Sunday, June 13, 2021

Celebrating a Celebration Boutique!



When Paula Romero-Dunbar opened Paper Fiesta in November of 2018, it was the fulfillment of her dream. She knew that being a small business owner would have its challenges, but she could not imagine that the challenges would include a fire that destroyed the block of stores across from her store and a pandemic that would force her to close for several months in the midst of an economic crisis. 


How it began:

Paula and Walter met in 1995 and believe everything happens for a reason. For a quarter of a century this couple has been learning and growing together. They love celebrating with friends, family and especially their son and daughter who you may see often helping around Paper Fiesta since opening in the fall of 2018.

After graduating from Curry college in 1998 Walter soon realized he was climbing the corporate ladder, but it was up against the wrong tree. He contemplated choosing a new career until September 11th, 2001. The tragedy of terror on 9-11 had reignited the flame of what he always really wanted to do. Help people. Walter returned to school and became an EMT in 2002. He started his EMS career at American Medical Response in Natick. In 2005 he started working 911 on the AMR ambulance out of Newton Fire Station 2. The turn that begins BOSTON’s world famous “heartbreak hill.” Walter always wanted to “someday” run the Boston Marathon even though he was not a runner and hated to run. He felt inspired by the runners and loved how the community united to support each other. Walter was spellbound by the magic of the marathon and every year thought to himself, “maybe someday I’ll run BOSTON.”

Walter began working at Boston EMS in 2008. Marathon Monday on 4-15-2013 changed his life. Witnessing the triumphs of runners in the morning and the tragedies of terror in the afternoon was an overwhelming experience. Inside of the terror, devastation and grief there was still something special happening…”strangers helping strangers” and every one of his coworkers “running the right way.” Their worst brought out our best!

The magic of the marathon seemed lost and buried somewhere beneath the ruins. Running seemed like the only way to search for and rediscover that lost magic. Walter ran his first marathon in 2014 and reunited with survivors along the way. Discovering what many people affectionately call “the survivor community” fueled his passion and purpose. He was introduced to survivors and first responders from around the world united by tragedy and stronger because of them. Walter’s still running, working full time at Boston EMS and dedicated to transforming tragedy into triumph. His “mile10connections” gift section consists of poetry and motion. Photos that tell a story decorate the walls. The legendary Johnny Kelley running past our window is a favorite.

What are the chances this diverse couple would one day open a store together that unite such unique passions? {Follow this link to read Paula's journey.} How could this store dedicated to bringing joy to people’s lives, be located on mile 10 of the Boston Marathon, inside of historic “Clark’s Block” that is 2 years older than the marathon itself?

We may not know the reason everything happens, but we do know everything happens for a reason. We thank God for everything and believe in magic.

Their journey into owning and operating a small business in Natick, Mass. has been a marathon both figuratively and literally. It seems like fate that their individual passions would combine into this synergetic store’s location. Paper Fiesta is located at 1 Main Street in the heart of downtown Natick, right along the famous mile 10 section of the Boston Marathon. C’mon by and see for yourself why this new gift shop, located on the historic corner of Clark’s Block (built in 1872), offers gifts, paper, fun with an essence of strength, history, spirit and hope.


In April of 2019, Paula and her husband Walter opened their hearts and Paper Fiesta to host the book launch of my book “Adventures of Runnergirl 1953.” It was a family affair with their son Luke helping with refreshments and her daughter Natalie filming my talk. We were able to introduce many of our friends to Paper Fiesta, many of whom returned to shop after the book launch party.

Summer is usually a slow retail season but a fire in Natick Center in 2019 that destroyed a block of stores across the street from Paper Fiesta made it a tough go for a new business owner.


Paula kept the faith and made it through that summer that tested her mettle but brought the Natick Center Cultural community closer together. We made frequent visits to support Paula and during Christmas of 2019, we had a wonderful time stocking up on party goods for my Christmas Birthday and holiday celebrations. 

Just as Paula was gaining momentum after the fire and with a prosperous holiday season, the pandemic forced her to close. 

We bought a gift card and encouraged all of our friends to do the same. The Natick moms community became a source of support to fan the dying embers of her dream. Paula became inspired to do Easter Baskets with curbside pickup and being the Easter Bunny to deliver baskets in the nearby towns. She was one exhausted Easter Bunny after selling 100 baskets! Paula had a friend set up her website for e-commerce.


She offered Face Time shopping along with the clever idea of putting together a surprise package for special occasions. Shoppers would tell Paula how much they wanted to spend and what kind of a theme they would like and Paula did the rest. I absolutely loved my Mother's Day package 2020.

We visited Paula in mid-April to shop and to leave author copies of my latest book "Hope is a Garden: Poems and Essays From the 2020 Pandemic." I told Paula that she could keep the proceeds of the books in exchange for sharing on social media. #Womensupportingwomen is a popular social media hashtag. While we still had to wear masks the love we share was palpable as we talked about vaccines, slowly emerging from the pandemic, our families and making it through those past 14 months.

What a blessing to be able to see each other's smiles when we returned last Thursday to Paper Fiesta. I was emotionally overwhelmed by the moment. Paula's strength and resilience, the strength of a community and extended friends who are like family kept Paula's dream alive.

We shopped for Father's Day, a cousin's graduation and the twins' birthday celebration on August 7th. Of course we bought books and treats for ourselves. As Ruth Anne always says, "Paper Fiesta is my favorite place to shop." 

There are still challenges ahead as Paula pointed out that there are problems with the supply chain and the general anxiety about recovery from these past 15 months. We hold a space for those but Thursday was all about celebrating a celebration boutique and seeing the American dream alive and well in Natick Center Cultural District!

Womanpreneur extraordinare, Paula Romero-Dunbar with my daughter Ruth Anne and me.

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness

Be sure to listen to my conversation with Greg Chastain and Ed Siegel on their Voices of Hope podcast, The Cardinal Cafe. From Greg Chastain: The latest episode of The Cardinal Cafe is up! On this episode we meet Mary McManus. Mary is a motivational speaker, author, poet, 2009 Boston Marathon Finisher, polio and trauma survivor. She has a remarkable story of resilence, healing, Hope and possibilities. Once you hear her tell her story you will want to rush out to purchase her newest book of poems “Hope is a Garden” which she wrote during the recent pandemic. So please join us for this incredible story.

For more information about my journey from childhood polio and trauma to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond, visit my website.  

Be sure to check out my website's News and Events page for upcoming and past interviews where I share my remarkable and inspirational journey as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma.

My books to inspire and uplift you are available on Amazon.

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