It’s the people that make a place, and our community is filled with many movers, shakers and power players in every sector, from philanthropy to media. Here, we profile five dynamic duos—some spouses, some professional power couples—who help Hingham put its best face forward.by Scott Kearnan | Photography by Kerry Brett
Gene Allen & Parker Kelley
Gene Allen and Parker Kelley form a dynamic media power couple, two artistic personalities with complementary talents: He’s a film director-producer (and partner in this publication’s parent company, Lighthouse Media Solutions) with well-established behind-the-camera bona fides; she’s a veteran producer-journalist with glamorous on-air gusto. Both have a profound love for New England—its culture and people—that makes them perfect ambassadors for everything the region offers.
“I’ve met so many fascinating people and been so many different places—but New England will never run out of stories for us to tell,” says Kelley. That affection serves the co-producers well in their latest venture for Lighthouse Media Solutions, “New England Living TV,” which debuted in April on Boston’s CBS affiliate WBZ, channel 4.
On the Sunday morning show, the couple travels throughout New England for segments on awe-inspiring architecture and interior design (former “American Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi’s modernized Maine farmhouse), fabulous food (dinner with the CEO of Davio’s restaurants) and colorful local personalities.
The first episode of “New England Living TV” focuses on Hingham, where Allen and Kelley have a lovely home near World’s End. They were raised oceans apart—Allen in the Himalayas, Kelley in Falmouth, Massachusetts . But their chemistry is rare and real, and together they’ve traveled to countless destinations—clocking 10,000 miles per year in New England alone—to produce “New England Living TV” and their other successful Lighthouse Media Solutions’ show, “New England Boating,” aired on NESN, that indulges their shared passion for the water. Kelley also devotes another arm of her work, dubbed Rowboat Productions, to creating media content for nonprofits.
Two storytellers, one vision—and many more tales ahead.
Dustin & Julia Whitney
The Whitneys have built a happy home in Hingham. Now they work hard to open doors for others. The married philanthropists are major supporters of Friendship Home, a South Shore respite center for the developmentally disabled and their families. For Friendship’s inaugural 2009 fundraising gala, the Circle of Friends Gala, they leveraged their networks to raise $250,000 toward a matching grant in just six weeks. This year’s event, hosted in March, raised more than $585,000. “[Friendship Home] is a wonderful place that offers a sense of family and unconditional love. Everyone deserves that,” says Julia.
The couple’s philanthropic roots are also planted in their local community. This year, during October’s Hingham Historic House Tour, the couple will welcome locals into their 1860-built Victorian home. Julia will also chair the development committee for the Hingham Community Center. She has plans to launch a $2 million capital campaign to improve programming and facilities in the 300-year-old building, which she believes will bolster capabilities for social events and shared workspace. Dustin Whitney, an avid mountain climber who has scaled Icelandic glaciers and Mount Kilimanjaro and is currently training to climb Mount Denali, also helps others build strong professional networks. He’s a licensed TEDx organizer and mentor with MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup accelerator, which gives valuable guidance to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Ultimately, the Whitneys believe building a bright future and nurturing community begins at home. “We try to lead by example,” says Dustin of their primarily role as parents. “We want to show that you should strive to offer yourself up to your community.”
Alex Arata & David Dombroski
Most of us approach home improvements with all the excitement of a root canal. It shouldn’t be that way, say Alex Arata and David Dombroski, the dynamic duo behind Sidekick Home, a new home project-management concierge service. “People should feel inspired to do more with their home. They shouldn’t have to dread it,” says Arata, who brings a strong background in business and marketing to the company. Dombroski, a contractor with experience in real estate and property management, brings a network of top-tier industry experts.
Dombroski, left, and Arata, right, launched Sidekick to streamline home improvements for discouraged and busy homeowners who don’t have the time or energy to coordinate all the players involved in a project. Sidekick serves as a single point of contact between homeowners and select vetted contractors, handles all billing and administrative work, and cultivates uniquely close rapports with clients, who can book quarterly walk-throughs of their home to build procrastination-killing to-do lists.
In Sidekick’s still-short lifespan, their service area has expanded across the South Shore and into Metrowest, says Arata, who lives in Hingham with his wife and kids. (Sidekick recently sponsored a chore-filled cleanup day at Foster Elementary School.)
Unlike traditional general contractors, Sidekick also “bills the project, not the address,” says Arata, so you won’t pay an added price for your zip code. In fact, they’re looking to share the wealth: homeowners can invest in the company, buying equity in increments as low as $100. So you too can be a savvy sidekick!
Ed & Ellen Brown
Some married couples keep his-and-hers hand towels hanging in the master bath. Ed and Ellen Brown are slightly more industrious: They have neighboring his-and-hers businesses in Hingham.
On one side of a downtown alleyway is the Hingham Greenery, a fine floral shop that Ellen, a Hingham native, started nearly 30 years ago. Her award-winning business is the go-to provider of colorful, captivating, custom arrangements for everything from weddings to high-society fundraisers.
On the other side is The Snug, an Éire-inspired pub the couple opened in 2003. The Browns bought a watering hole, The Colonial, and renovated and reimagined the space for today’s Hingham community. The atmosphere is still comfy and unpretentious, but the couple has introduced live Irish music, enhanced its comfort food, helped pioneer craft beer selections on the South Shore, and pours a Guinness-accredited “perfect pint.”
From flower buds to beer, the Browns’ very different ventures are Hingham institutions, and while they divide the day-to-day work, they’re still in it together. You’ll often find Ellen pulling draft lines behind the bar and Ed running flower deliveries. They also share a commitment to their role as community fixtures. They sponsor local sports teams and annual fundraising bike rides for the Hingham Food Pantry. Ed has served on the executive committee of the Hingham Downtown Association, which organizes events like the annual Taste of Hingham. To succeed as a power couple, they say, the secret is sincerity. “We don’t just love each other,” explains Ed. “We honestly like each other.”
Maggie Butler & Cherie Myatt
The culture of the biopharmaceutical industry has sometimes been labeled a boys’ club. But with their fast-growing yet still-boutique marketing and management consulting firm, Maggie Butler and Cherie Myatt have found a formula to success that stands out for many reasons—not just for being a fantastic female-fronted agency.
“Our strengths complement each other in just the right ways,” says Butler. The industry vets met at a project management program for pharmaceutical companies. They realized their respective skill sets—the right combos of pragmatism and creativity, flexibility and forthrightness—made them a double dose of effectiveness. So in 2005 they launched the CM Group, managing meetings and developing marketing solutions for clients in life sciences sectors, including big names like Genzyme.
CM Group is becoming a big name, too. They now have over 50 employees; most are women. That’s not by design, say the founders, but other elements of the culture are intentional, such as the collaborative and flexible work environment geared to help their employees achieve a healthy work-life balance. That’s also why they chose to headquarter in Hingham, which happens to be Myatt’s hometown. It’s close to the booming pharmaceutical scene in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, but the suburban geography makes more sense for employee commuting and errands. “Culture comes from the top,” says Myatt. “We’re hands on, in the weeds with everyone else.”