JP business owners oppose plans for chain coffeehouse on Centre Street

Jamaica Plain News reports JP Local First is not liking plans to turn a closed bank branch into a Caffe Nero, worrying it could open all of Centre Street to invasion by local-business-stomping chains. They've asked the landlady - who also owns the neighboring Blanchard's - to consider just ripping up the lease.



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JP's central planning

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JP's central planning committee(s) are holding the neighborhood back. As we've seen time and again they prefer empty storefronts to jobs and an increased tax base.

Competition is healthy, for consumers and the neighborhood economy. If these local businesses offer solid service and value then they have nothing to fear.



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As someone who's lived in the immediate area for the last 25 years, I can understand being annoyed by the paternalism that JPers sometimes exhibit.

But seriously - "held back"? I remember when metal grates used to come down all along Centre St at sundown. Today? There's not a neighborhood in the metro region - probably not more than a handful in the entire country, that would not envy the growth of commercial and cultural vitality of JP Village over the last two decades. A focus on primarily local ownership is a large part of that success.

Empty storefronts in JP and elsewhere in the city have much less to do with local vs. chain ownership and much more to do with speculation and tax avoidance (evasion).

(Btw, note that JP Local First is just a business association, not a 'central planning committee' - but nice strawman, Mr Crankypants.)


Brew baby, brew

The problem is not the type of business, it's the unaffordability of storefronts that prevents a healthy variety of businesses. Some greedy dirtbag landlords don't have a problem leaving a space vacant for SIX YEARS (like Mr. Sleaze who squeezed Bella Luna out of Hyde Square) rather than charge a sensible rent to a sensible business.



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Good luck to them. Blanchards has never been involved with the neighborhood, other than to sell their goods.


There are 2 Dunks within a block of this site

... and a When Pigs Fly three blocks away, so it's less about chains per se than an overload of the same damn businesses AND a non-local ownership.

We have a new coffee shop on Pond Street. We have Blue Frog selling coffee. JP Licks. City Feed. The aforementioned Dunks. And that's just on that stretch of centre-- see also: Caffe Aroma, Ula's, Bartlett Square Cafe, Canto 6.

As I try to keep my wired, overcaffeinated hands on the keyboard, might I plead, as a lover of coffee no less, for some other business? Please?

And since when did Americans start drinking Brit coffee? Seriously. In BOSTON no less. Shouldn't we toss it in the harbor?

I endorse a moratorium on the following businesses in JP, at least in the PO-to Monument stretch (note-I like all these businesses but we have enough):
Nail/Hair Salons
Real Estate Agencies
Vintage/used clothing stores

What we need:
1. The sort of cheap furniture store that you find on Harvard Ave in Brighton-- futons, bookshelves, etc. Just one. We only need one.
2. A music instrument store/repair shop. With guitar strings. Please.
3. I would love some place where I can buy a tshirt & jeans (preferably union made, or fair trade as a second) without going broke or having to go to a DTX store.

What have I missed?



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Hate to break it to you, but this isn't Portlandia.


jp is already portlandia, but

Many of us in JP make less than the Boston median income-- not every blue-collar or middle class person or poor person has been priced out. And it would be nice if we could afford to shop in our own neighborhood. It would be nice if we could get the basic stuff we need in our neighborhood. There are two places to get furniture, one very high end pricey, one very cheap & poorly made. Both shops are small. There is no place to get plain old jeans & a t-shirt except the thrift stores. So, yes. it would be nice if not every storefront in the neighborhood was devoted to $4 coffee drinks or $10 grilled cheese or $50 mani-pedis.

JP is actually a lot like Portlandia already. Fine, those needs are filled. As are the needs of the neo-white-collar transplants. Yay, we have good coffee. Glad to have it.

But I want a place where I can buy a kitchen table and get it home without renting a truck or paying a chunk of cash for a delivery fee from a different neighborhood. I want to be able to get my partners' kid a pair of jeans without a trek by bus to South Bay or guessing what will fit a 6'4" 16 yo in Marshalls DTX.

Speaking of furniture...

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Speaking of furniture, I would love to see the kind of place they have in Allston, which I think you mentioned in another comment. Boomerangs sometimes has great things (I got a beautiful Art Deco dresser there) but there's not a lot of space to display furniture. They have a "Boomerangs Special Edition" in the South End, what about a "Boomerangs Furniture" store?


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Many in JP have a paycheck that is a good deal lower than Boston's median income, but they're doing just fine once you factor in their multi-million dollar trust funds. I know plenty of aspiring writers/social workers/nonprofit jockeys/bookstore clerks living in 600k+ condos. As for cheap furniture store, those take up a lot if space, meaning it would be impossible to have one in a place where rents are high and retail floor space is scarce.


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I have literally never met anyone like this in JP. Doctors, architects, lawyers yes, but no idle trustafarians in $600k condos.


Portlandia is real

It just doesn't exist in MA at all. Not even close.

Sitting in the middle of Pure Portlandia right now, sipping beer outside on a patio, free wifi at a brew pub, watching a Prius make 5 attempts to parallel park outside a yoga studio without hitting the bike parking area, and all those different stores can be found on this block.

Zillions of funky businesses, only empty storefronts where there are renovations going on. 20 full blocks of this on this street alone.

I don't know how they do it. I wish I did.

It's Italian.

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"When Gerry Ford founded Caffè Nero in 1997, he wanted it to be authentically Italian, providing premium espresso, fresh high quality food and to serve as the neighborhood gathering spot."

I love Cafe Nero. It's so

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I love Cafe Nero. It's so much better than Starbucks. Preventing stores from opening just helps Starbucks, in a way, since people who like espresso based coffee drinks have few options (dunkin is NOT a Starbucks competitor, it's an either/or type thing.)


You know you can open any of

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You know you can open any of these stores if you want. If you think that there's a consumer base for these stores in JP then go for it, you might end up doing pretty well.


Be the change

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Yes, yes, yes. Retail is wicked hard. It's hard for the retailers to open and stay open. It's hard for the landlords to lease to the ideal tenant that can keep everyone happy, stay in business, fit into the space, and pay the rent. Complaining though, that's easy. I wish people would at least try to be the change they want to see on our main streets.


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Neither here nor there as corporations are corporations, but Dunkin Donuts opened its first stores in the UK in the 90s. They have since closed but reopened earlier this year. An american coffee invasion of London. or at least a DD one.

Bring back Woolworth's!

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Where's a person supposed to buy a dish towel in JP? Or a parakeet, for that matter?

Also, we could use a real arts' supply store, you know with paper and pens and stuff.

I am SO with you, Bib!



All of 'em-- in the neighborhoods & downtown, in every city I lived in! So many things I only bought in Woolworths for years that when they went belly-up, I was at a loss as to where to find them.


Walmart and Target are the

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Walmart and Target are the new Woolworths (Footlocker doesn't count!). Too bad the city banned Walmart from opening any urban format stores within the city.


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Because a Walmart on Centre Street would be awesome.

that cafe on pond street is awesome

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best espresso I've had outside of italy.

also - there are only a couple real coffee bars in JP - the rest are essentially bakeries or sandwich places that happen to sell coffee... ula is a sandwich place, canto 6 is a bakery... there's a difference between grabbing a paper cup of coffee on your way to work and sitting and enjoying an espresso in a nice space.

I do like the place on Pond

Is it called 7 Stars? But we have it. Caffe Aroma is a real coffee place-- actually, it's a George Howell joint, the original Boston coffee snob. Do we need a third? More to the point, do we need a third specialized coffee spot in a fairly large retail space-- by JP standards-- when we could have some other business that is not currently available?

I'm going to tell you a

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I'm going to tell you a secret. If you want to be the ultimate arbiter of what goes in there, you could always buy the building. Until then, it's probably a good idea not to tell other people what they do and don't need. It comes across real poorly.


Although in spirit I

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Although in spirit I certainly agree with you about the glut of these places, I tend to believe in the self-correcting market in this case. The salon that replaced Jamaicaway Books is now out of business. Remember that Scandinavian-style bakery/coffee place that was where Station 8 is now? They didn't last, either. I don't know for sure what the reason for either of those places closing is, but it was most likely because they were not favored by customers who had a lot of other choices. We have clearly reached (and passed) Peak Nail Salon, and I think we're close to Peak Coffee, too.

If Caffe Nero survives, it will be because they offer a better product and better service than some of the other places that serve coffee, not because they are an international chain. They're not Starbucks - they don't come with the same cult of customers who will buy their coffee no matter what the price, at the expense of local business. (I'm not including DD here, because I think the markets for DD vs. the espresso-bar coffee shops are not the same - they are obviously able to coexist.)


I half agree

The market won't bear much more.

However, there are problems when it comes to adapting an office/retail space to food service or salons. The conversion and the licensing is expensive, and similar in both cases. Because of that, once it's done, it is hard to reverse. Geographically small areas can often bear many restaurants-- every city that has a Chinatown or a North End/Little Italy type neighborhood or a Newbury Street can attest to that. Not necessarily coffee shops, but food of some ilk. But once it's done, that space is pretty much gone for any other purpose.

Before it became the Finnish bakery, the Salon 8 space was a women's clothing store. Before that, a bookstore. I'm happy for the success of Salon 8, but if they ever want to move, I doubt that location will ever be anything except a salon or restaurant. Ghazal was the Boston Greenpeace office before it became Pinardi's Cafe. It has only been restaurants since. Ten Tables was Pluto's (retail). And so on, up & down Centre Street

I have higher hopes for the Salon Q space (btw I think it moved to Brighton) becoming something besides a salon or restaurant simply because it's a large, oddly configured space.

Nevertheless, once a commercial space is adapted to a restaurant or salon, it's pretty much gone.

It's the build out.

Restaurants and pamper pit/vanity dumps have expensive build out elements.

Vanity dumps like nail salons and hair helmet fabricators need lots of water. And landlords usually pay for water in a jacked up rate system from MWRA. Water outside of the MWRA zone is much cheaper.

At my building, we just got done putting in a 50 gallon water heater for a "Spa" tenant we just signed.

The bill was around 1500 bucks. Now we have a 50 gal water heater... whee!

And restaurants have really expensive build out issues. Ventilation systems for stoves and grills, water stuff and so on. Oh and attending permit parades which must really suck in venal Boston.

And yet restaurants are the most failure prone and miserable work places among the options.

It's usually some idiot who goes along with similarly dim friends who say... "you should open a restaurant"

A smart landlord will avoid such things like a plague. Restaurants are the embodiment of "Stick with your shtick and you're stuck with your shtick "

It's a risky biz with expensive features that is even more expensive to unwind so failure gets reinforced if not embedded.

But the broader problem of local retail shops is they have been wiped out as a viable option.

Books get replaced by Kindle in a time when all such stuff is reduced to bytes and pixels.

And a whole new lexicon of learning stuff with several combined media elements on a web page is replacing text based learning and discovery.

Used stuff stores have a shot and you get to hose corporations that try and sell new stuff.

But it really is a time when many things that needed a physical location to sell stuff to walk ins are done... kaput... gone.

JP definitely doesn't need

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JP definitely doesn't need another coffee shop, there are way too many there already. I think the folks at Cafe Nerro will figure that out soon enough when their sales start to decline and they close up shop in a year or two. In summary, I oppose another coffee shop because we have too many, but if we let the market decide Nerro won't last that long anyway.


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That's what Savin Hill packies were saying when new wine/beer shop was about to open up.


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JP has many shops selling coffee and they all seem to be thriving. So I don't think Caffé Nero will have too much of a problem settling right in.

But, more importantly, who the heck do they (JP Local First) think they are, telling the landlady who to rent to?


Um, neighbors and associates?

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They were asking, not telling. They're still free to write letters. Landlady et al are free to either ignore them or take their opinions into consideration.

Reactionaries keep forgetting that people are more than just robots acting out parts in some weird dream of pure Adam Smith economics.


So again...

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DD's is OK but a Starbucks isn't? Store 24 or tedeschi's is fine but some other national chain is anathema?

I'm with the folks who say that we've reached peak coffee capacity but I basically lean towards whatever small business can survive and thrive...

a chain with exactly one other location in the US

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and it's across from the ritz carlton.

so - would the JP business association get upset if a prada or barney's opened up a storefront on centre?

anyway - if you've been in one of these places - it feels like something you'd find in salem, marblehead, or gloucester... maybe beacon hill or charlestown - not JP.


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JP used to be a cool place. Extremely diverse, kind of a kumbaya type of place. In the past several years, it's changed for the worse. Sweet Baby Jesus on a tricycle, live and let live. If they come in, offer jobs and thrive, great for them. If they suck ass and end up closing down, too bad for them. Greedy bastards just fear competition. Sigh.

DD on Center St

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Back in the late 60's early 70's there was a gas station at that location. People were upset when that DD first opened. It seems to have survived.

Old Milky Way

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Oh how I wish something [fun] would finally open up where Bella Luna/Milky Way used to be. I still go to the new one, but the old lounge was awesome! And has been vacant ever since the move...

Coffeehouse business is a

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Coffeehouse business is a profitable business. Because these are the daily drinks and you will have customers on daily basis. But opposing chain coffee shop is a good thing. The reason given may be a satisfactory reason but not specific. I didn't understood the reason completely. Bookkeeping services North Hollywood