When Wendy Hudson’s name first appeared on a seventeen-person committee tasked by Governor Charlie Baker to strategize the reopening of the Massachusetts economy, some people off-island might have wondered how a bookseller from Nantucket was appointed to such an important position. Yet beyond her work as the owner of Nantucket Book Partners and co-founder of Cisco Brewers, Hudson has been an influential advocate for small businesses for decades.
She has served on a slew of local and state civic groups and retail organizations, from the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce where she served as president, to the Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission, to the Rural Policy Advisory Committee, to most recently, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, among several others. “My interest has become more macro-level as I am very vocal about how policy decisions can disadvantage small businesses,” Hudson said. “My style is to try and get along with everyone while also pushing for progress...it helps that I’m in the beer business.”
Amid the coronavirus, Hudson has been living proof of the burdens being shouldered by small businesses. While participating in long committee meetings led by Lieutenant Governor Polito, Hudson has been the only one allowed in her stores to fulfill online orders at Nantucket Book Partners. “I am the small business person in this group who is still hands-on, day-to-day,” Hudson described. “While we are on these Zoom meetings, I am literally packing puzzles and books up to be shipped. So I can speak to the challenges of an owner.” Matched with her newly minted MBA from Babson and her decades of experience serving on state and local committees, Hudson has emerged an important champion for small businesses throughout Massachusetts as well as specifically on Nantucket.
“I’ve been vocal about how fragile our seasonal economy is,” Hudson said, “and how close to the wire we’ve been getting.” During these committee meetings, where Hudson and her fellow delegates sit through dozens of presentations from trade organizations, some of the most pressing issues were related to child care, public transportation, and whether the state could play a role in ensuring that there is sufficient personal protective equipment for businesses to meet new safety requirements without taking away from the inventory needed at hospitals.
In reopening the local economy, Hudson recognizes that Nantucket will be required to join the rest of the state under a unified standard of best practices and protocols for doing business as safely as possible—as opposed to having their own rules and regulations. This has been a topic Hudson has discussed with another delegation she serves on made up of representatives and business owners from the Cape and the Islands. On both committees, Hudson said, the sense of urgency has been palpable. “The stakes are so high right now,” she said. “The health risk is still great, yet everyone’s livelihoods have been thrown into question. I definitely feel the great responsibility of what we are doing.”