Category Archives: Back Bay

Newbury Street’s new, fashionable residents

By Katie Shushtari

The British are marching in and with them they’re bringing Ted Baker, Hotel Chocolat and Ben Sherman. Jonathan Adler joins the Newbury newbies as well, adding a flair all his own.

In the past month, the Boston fashion scene has been talking about several international, fashion conscious stores that have found new homes on the city’s upscale street.

“Newbury Street is the international college kids Mecca, which is why I think that this British invasion will be a perfect match for Boston,” said NECN’s Style Boston producer, Desi Gonzalez.

The stores, of course, sell products, but also sell an attitude not normally seen on Newbury Street.

“It’s really exciting,” said Alex Hall, editor of Fashion Boston. Magazine, “Newbury Street hasn’t seen these kind of globally minded stores in a long time.”

Ted Baker, whose motto is “no ordinary design label,” prides himself on advertising through word of mouth, as apposed to ads in newspapers, magazines and television. On opening day, the store handed out 1,000 pairs of “Boston Ted Sox.”

Inside, the store on Newbury Street is inspired by a “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” theme, including checkerboard floors and green hedges shaped as teapots, evoking a truly British experience. Although, Hall describes Baker as a “tad less bold and forward thinking.”

Hotel Chocolat opened its first U.S. stores on Newbury Street and in the Chestnut Hill Mall. According to its website, the U.K. brand is committed to a “combination of authentic, premium ingredients with plenty of imagination and flair.”

Though the store took over a year-and-a-half to open, Ben Sherman has hit Newbury Street with a bang.

“The store is incredibly cool,” said Assistant Store Manager Sam Tiews. “It’s a prototype store which means it is one of a kind.”

Inside of the new Ben Sherman calls to mind a classic British mansion, Tiews explained, with fireplaces, sconces, and hard wood floors. Teapots, mopeds, and punching bags are mounted elegantly on the walls and above the fireplaces.

“I think Ben Sherman has the most fashion moxie and cred, and has an esthetic that’s very indefinable,” Hall said. “The quality of the clothes and the beautiful, well-tailored shirts are just wonderful.”

Gonzalez said she believes that Sherman has the most avant-garde style. “Ben Sherman’s sleek designs cater to the fashion conscious students around back bay,” she said.

We’re most famous for its Oxford button down shirt, a staple in almost everyone’s wardrobe, Tiews explained. “Arty Sugarman, the founder of Ben Sherman and wild guy, embodies the kind of anti-cool style that we’re famous for,” she said.

Jonathan Adler, whose philosophy is “Happy Chic,” may be from New York instead of Britain but he has also got a new address on Newbury Street.

“I know Jonathan Adler is a New York-based store and not British, but he has a flair that cannot be defined by a country,” Gonzalez said.

Hall agreed, adding a little hometown pride. “Jonathan Adler is an excellent score for Newbury Street.”

“We chose to come to Newbury Street because it’s a high traffic area, with lots of tourists and fashion conscious people,” said store manager Adam Verboys.

Jonathan Adler’s designs involve intensely bright colors and bold prints, Verboys explained. “We wanted to bring to Boston a happy environment and fun elements of design,” he said.

Gonzalez and Hall both said they believe all four stores will do quite well in the Boston fashion atmosphere.

“We might be in recession here in the U.S but these international students come from wealthy backgrounds and love to hang and spend their parents money around Boston’s most fashionable shopping district,” Gonzalez said.

Check out the locations of all four stores!


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Back Bay residents survey for Asian Longhorn Beetles

By Katie Shushtari

A group of concerned citizens met last Sunday morning in the Back Bay for a training session on how to spot Asian Longhorn Beetles (ALB).

The pests are invasive, wood-boring insects originating in Asia and discovered in Worcester, Mass. in August 2008. They attack many different kinds trees such as maple, birch, elm, willow and chestnut. The beetles themselves are shiny black with white spots and about an inch long.

“We have no way of dealing with these beetles other than to take the entire tree down,” said Plant Pest Survey Coordinator with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, Jennifer Forman Orth. “We had to take down 25,000 trees in Worcester.”

Back Bay residents ignored the rain and met at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue Mall and Arlington Street armed with binoculars and rain jackets to learn how to spot ALB and ALB tree damage.

“This is so important to the Back Bay,” said Anne Swanson and organized the event. “It would be a huge loss to loose the limited amount of trees we have.”

The group of about fifteen huddled around Orth, sharing umbrellas, as she explained what to be aware of when looking for ALB damage.

“You want to look for random exit holes, which are perfectly round and smooth. They almost look drilled,” Orth said, as she passed around a piece of wood from Wooster that had been attacked by ALB.

Orth said that spotting tree damage from the ground can be hard because beetles start at the tops of trees and work their way down.

After the brief training session, the group spilt up and walked up and down the Commonwealth Avenue Mall surveying trees for bore holes.

“It’s truly amazing what volunteers can do,” said Penny Cherubino, a Back Bay resident and journalist with “The Back Bay dog owners have been trained to look for Dutch Elm disease in trees and we hope to do the same with Asian Longhorn Beetles.”

ALB are not affected by the cold and thrive in all seasons, said Orth. The best time to look for evidence of damage is on a sunny day in late fall when the trees have lost most of their leaves and you can see to the top.

“If you buy firewood, it is important to see where it is coming from,” said Orth, “That is a major way ALB gets spread.” Orth recommended the website for more information.

Swanson plans on orchestrating at least one more session on ALB for Back Bay residents before the fall is over. “This is an issue that is very important to me,” she said.

“Never doubt what a neighborhood can do,” said Cherubino.

Orth stressed that volunteers are the people who make a major difference in discovering and preventing the spread of ALB.

“The Asian Longhorn Beetle was in Wooster for 12 years before it was discovered in 2008, so it is incredibly important to make people aware of the issue,” Orth said.

For more information on ALB, check out a recent article in the Smithsonian Magazine.

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Stores Shuffle About Newbury street

By: Braden Campbell

Battered by high rents and poor sales, Newbury Street staple KitchenArts packed up its stock last week and left 161 Newbury for greener pastures – pastures just one block down the street.

KitchenArts, which has sold its wares from storefront at 161 Newbury since 1980, is one of several businesses that have re-shuffled Newbury Street’s retail deck in recent months, moving up and down the block and in and out of storefronts, re-negotiating rents and visibility on Boston’s most fashionable street.

 KitchenArts, Bliss and the Kidder Smith Gallery have all moved down Newbury (further away from Boston Garden) to save rent, according to Tom Brennan, vice president of the Newbury Street League and a realtor with C. Talanian Realty.

Tom Smith, co-owner of the Kidder Smith Gallery, left his location at 131 Newbury between Clarendon and Dartmouth streets when new owners tried to impose a significant rent increase, he said. Rather than cut into his profit margin as the economy struggles, Smith opted to move . He has yet to finalize a new location.

Galleries have long been a mainstay on Newbury, but in recent months, financial pressures have forced many to move to the cheaper, hipper, less centrally located digs in the South End. For Smith, who sells paintings in the ten-to-thirty-thousand dollar range, the South End is not an option. Considered the most desirable stretch of Boston’s premier shopping street, the blocks between Arlington and Clarendon are dotted with such high-end outlets as Burberry and Chanel. According to Smith, these are the first blocks seen by wealthy tourists who stay at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common on the corner of Newbury and Arlington and the nearby Four Seasons. It is these consumers that keep the street’s highest-end retail shops afloat, says Smith.

Retail space in this area, however, does not come cheap. Businesses on a tight budget have two lower-rent options on Newbury Street: they can either move off ground level, or further down the street.

Vacated storefronts have not remained empty for long. As some of their neighbors move to new quarters between Dartmouth and Fairfield, Lanoue Fine Arts and L’elite Bridal Shop are moving into pricier places. “[Business owners] who might have taken a cheaper block and are not known now want to move up the street so they become more known,” said Brennan “They’ll be better off than the other location, [they’ll be] in a busier location.”

The flux shows a retail mecca struggling to retain its position. Though many businesses are finding ways to adapt, others are still struggling, according to Michael Ross, the Back Bay’s representative on the City Council Last month, Ross and the Back Bay Association co-sponsored a local economic summit to hear merchants’ grievances and discuss ways of enhancing business profiles. Though the street is facing tough times, Brennan is confident it can rebound in a big way.

“In real estate, the best locations are the last to drop and the first to come back, and there’s no better location than Newbury Street,” he said. “Even though it’s a bad economy, it’s the last thing that’s dropped, and it’ll be the first thing to come back.”

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Pot On Trial at Mistral

By Molly Coombs

Protesters outside a Back Bay cafe were not on the menu at a fundraiser for Sen. Scott Brown. They were supporting the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MassCann) in its fight against Brown’s proposed legislation to increase fines to $1000  for possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle.

About a dozen people held signs and passed out flyers to raise awareness of the controversial  initiative.

The assembled protesters give flyers to attendees at Brown's fundraiser.

The assembled protesters give flyers to attendees at Brown's fundraiser.

The group leafleted outside Mistral, a small Back Bay restaurant, in mid-April, a more intimate gathering than the thousands who gather for MassCann’s Boston Freedom Rally, held in the fall on the Boston Common.

“There’s a $60-a-plate benefit dinner going on for Scott Brown,” said Bill Downey, president of MassCann NORML, explaining the protest’s timing. “He’s trying to raise money to countermand his constituents and turn pot possession back into an arrestable offense.”

Brown (R-Wrentham) made his proposal four months after Massachusetts voters approved Question 2, a referendum which decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and reduced penalties for this amount to a $100 fine. The ballot question received 65% of the vote statewide, and 66.1% of Brown’s senatorial district, portions of Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex counties, that supported decriminalization.

“He doesn’t feel obligated to give me a reason for this bill,” said Downey. “It must be pretty strong reasoning to go against two-thirds of his constituency.”

Attendees to the fundraiser arrived trickled in, their suits and cocktail dresses a sharp contrast to the jeans and jackets of protesters. Most guests rebuffed the flyers, which featured the text of Brown’s bill, facts about the results of Question 2 as well as a doctored photo of Brown as Italian dictator Benito Mussolini labeled “Fascista.”

One guest exchanges heated words with MassCann board member Michael Crawford from the door of Mistral.

One guest exchanges heated words with MassCann board member Michael Crawford from the door of Mistral.

One man took a flyer from MassCann board member Michael Crawford after exiting his car, only to quickly return it and enter the restaurant, stopping to verbally berate Crawford from the doorway. The protesters laughed off the encounter, continuing their efforts to pass flyers to both fundraiser attendees and passersby on the sidewalk.

“When I read the text of the bill, I was appalled,” said Scott Gacek, a board member for MassCann and professional photographer. In a Facebook conversation with Brown, Gacek asked the senator why he was “trying to subvert the will of 65% of voters in Massachusetts” with his proposal.

“The bill is simply to bring pot in line with the same penalty for an open container of alcohol in a vehicle,” said Brown in the March 20 online conversation. “When laws were passed to clarify where and when you could drink, nobody said they were outlawing booze.”

Gacek expressed reservations over this concept at the protest,

“It’s already illegal to drive stoned out of your mind. That’s driving while intoxicated. Driving with a bag of weed in your car is very different from driving with an open beer.”

Although Brown disagreed in the online debate, he expressed a willingness to discuss Gacek’s concerns at the bill’s hearing.

Yet after requesting that Gacek call off the protest in their Facebook conversation and ignoring them when entering the restaurant, Brown left via the back door at the end of the fundraiser, leaving guests to pass the dwindling number of protesters remaining out front.


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Runners Give Back To Support Esplanade, Parks

By Zaneta Jung

For the second year, Boston’s Team Esplanade ran the Boston Marathon, as the only environmental charity in the famed race. The big leaf on the team’s T-shirts offered a clue to the mission aiding the park along the Charles River.

“Many people come to the Esplanade to run,” said Jeryl Oristaglio, president of the Esplanade Association. “And we wanted to join in on the Boston Marathon to embrace the runners’ community.

In 2007, we applied to the Boston Athletics Association to be part of the marathon and were accepted for the 2008 marathon.”

Each of the runners had a $3,000 fundraising target. The association received applications ranging from first-time marathoners to veteran runners. And it will take awhile after race-day blisters heal before the group knows whether it reaches the overall $60,000 goal.

The "After" photo of Team Esplanade's marathoners

The "After" photo of Team Esplanade's marathoners

“We reviewed [runner] applications mainly on two criteria: fundraising goals and fundraising capability,” said Chris Murton, head organizer for Team Esplanade.

The money collected through the marathon goes towards the Esplanade Association programs and ” . . .programs, such as yoga and dance classes, kickball, and model sailing,” Murton added. “We’re also trying to create new programs for the community as well. It also goes to the active volunteer program, and while it is through volunteers, we still need to buy equipment to facilitate the program. The money also goes towards the large-scale programs such rebuilding docks and playgrounds, as well as operating services for the association.”

Each runner has an account on where they can post bios, pictures, videos, and other materials that might attract donations.

Tim Horn, a four- year Boston Marathon runner, raised a little bit more than $5,000 by Sunday morning and was continuing to look for more donations.

“I contacted friends and business contacts I consider friends,” said Horn. “It’s pretty easy; at least it was for me… You have to truly believe in your cause to ask people for money. It’s a hard thing, but if you truly believe, you can do it.”

Belief in a greener environment is why Rick Muhr, a 40-year-old Boston Marathon veteran and coach, left Team in Training this year to help train Team Esplanade runners.

“I’m certainly very interested in the environment and being green, and that resonated with me with the Esplanade Association,” said Muhr. “That’s a very important piece of property that people take for granted… and I wanted to help with their programs.”

Thomas Kershaw, proprietor of Cheers Beacon Hill, is not only a neighbor, but a longtime advocate of the Esplanade Association.

“I ran on the Esplanade every day for 20 years until my hip gave out. The Esplanade is actually where I learned to sail through its program!” he said. “It’s the nicest park in Boston.”

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Filed under Back Bay, Environment/Green Biz, Patriots' Day

Dude, Those Shoes Are Smokin’

The Hempest
by Victoria Guerrera and Zaneta Jung

Thanks to a thriving “green” movement, cannabis is sparking a new interest — in the fashion industry. Organic products, made from cannabis and hemp, are mainstream in clothing as companies pursue the eco-consumer.

The Hempest, on Newbury Street, has featured organic clothing in Boston since 1995, when Jon Fishman founded the clothing store with money he got by selling his car. He moved to Newbury Street in July 1997 to attract a larger audience and partnered with Mitch Scofield.

The store sells men and women’s clothing – made from as much as 90 percent organic materials such as hemp, soy, bamboo, ramie, organic cotton, and recycled soda bottles. There’s also food, paper products and bedding made from hemp.

“The primary focus has been to expose and educate people to the incredible potential of the cannabis plant,” said Scofield. “Many people do not realize what integral part hemp has played over the course of human evolution, from its use as food, textiles, paper, building material and more.”

Hemp cloth dates back to Mesopotamia in 3000 B.C. And, did you know, the first American flag was made of hemp, along with the paper for the U.S Constitution and the Declaration of Independence?

Fishman and Scofield said they believe clothing makers have been a major cause of pollution – from fertilizers for growing cotton to dyes in coloring. That’s one reason they prefer hemp, which can be grown without pesticides or fertilizers.

“The clothing industry is notoriously dirty and chemically dependent. Conventionally grown cotton is actually responsible for about 40 percent of all the pesticides in use today,” said Scofield.

“The rapid growth of the market has been a bit hectic, as a lot of major players like Nike, Costco, and Target trying to look more ‘green’, have been competing for a relatively limited organic fiber market,” said Scofield. “They are going to some of the very same competitors we’ve been going to for years.”

Rick Nelson, 21, is one of those who have made the conscious choice to live a more eco-friendly life. He got involved with organic products years ago to improve his health, and then evolved into a greener stance when he decided that he wanted to reduce his impact on the Earth.

“They [organic clothing] have personal value to me since the methods by which they are produced have less of an impact on the earth,” Nelson said, noting that some eco-claims may be flawed.

“Well, I believe in true organic products, but there are evident loopholes that companies get through,” said Nelson. “A lot of companies use it because it’s become a fad, and I think that kind of ‘green washing’ is ridiculous.

And to make organic clothing more readily available, Fishman and Scofield have shifted to producing their own line of clothing and are working more directly with manufacturers. Their immediate goal is to add stores in New York and San Francisco, along with taking the clothing to European and Japanese markets.

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NABB Will Tally Back Bay Potholes

One of the craters NABB will be counting

One of the craters NABB will be counting

By Victoria Guerrera

A survey of Back Bay potholes is the next short-term project for the City Services Committee of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB). The group discussed the idea at a regular meeting last month in response to a growing number of winter potholes. Committee co-chair Cathy Youngman remarked on the greater numbers of craters.

“The potholes are horrendous this year…we have definitely noticed a problem,” she said. “We are making reports on potholes in alleyways and in the streets…and then the City of Boston receives our reports and goes from there.”

NABB’s survey is expected to be complete by the end of April. Boston’s Public Works and Transportation Department does the actual repair, which may include paving entire streets.

Chief of Public Works and Transportation Department, Dennis Royer, is in charge of 10 districts, including the Back Bay. Royer said he has been working closely with NABB and other neighborhood organizations on various issues, including filling potholes.

“They [NABB] are doing me a good service, so I can schedule things to get repaired faster. They are facilitating our ability to do our job,” Royer said of the survey. “They make my job a lot easier.”

Since the committee files the exact locations of potholes, Royer’s department can make the repairs more quickly, than if he had to start identifying the problem areas.

“Because the temperatures went up and down this past winter, we have had more potholes this year than in previous years,” said Royer.

He explained that winter rainfall freezing and melting on the roads means the asphalt expands and becomes brittle, which leads to cracks. Then the impact of cars and trucks eventually leads to a pothole. Within a couple of days, a pothole in the winter can become three inches deep.

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The Finish Line: In their own words

By Christopher Guinn

“I’m never drinking Gatorade again and anyone who does this is crazy,” said one runner just after completing the Boston Marathon. Still, she walked briskly, too busy to stop and talk.

She and countless other runners who finished the 26.2-mile course sported Mylar foil wraps like human burritos as they walked through downtown Boston. Their accomplishments, stories and pain add another chapter in the historic road race on Monday April 20.

What started as a modest event in 1897 is now one of the world’s most popular amateur marathons, attracting tens of thousands of runners each year – amateurs to professional runners — from the furthest corners of the globe.

“It is the greatest marathon in the world,” said Ivana Nelson of Sweden. “It’s terrific. I’ve always wanted to run in this marathon, it was my tenth marathon and I had never run in America before, in the states. It was a great experience.”

This year was the 113rd running and “Marathon Monday” has a special meaning even for spectators. “It’s the oldest marathon,” said Sean Maycumber, one local runner. “It has such historical relevance.”

And the qualifying process of competing in other marathons to prepare for Boston’s hilly course makes the chance to compete here a challenge.

“It was a lifelong dream for me,” said Carol, a first time participant. “I just qualified last year.”

Although some freelancers run along completing the race, to get an entry number, runners must qualify by completing a standard marathon course sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations. “I cried when I crossed the finish line, it was awesome. Ever since I was young it’s always been an attraction for me.”

The race is held annually on Patriots Day, a Massachusetts state holiday honoring the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Threading its way from Hopkinton, Massachusetts the course winds through Natick, Wellesley, Newton and Brookline before reaching the finish line at Copley Square in Boston.

Some runners see it as a once-in-a-lifetime challenge, but some Boston’s fans view the elite race as just another fitness regimen.

“I’ve done it a couple of times,” said Maycumber. “It’s something to keep me in shape over the winter and force me into good shape by the springtime, it’s a personal challenge.”

Whether reaching a milestone like Ivana, living a dream like Carol, or just staying fit, the Boston Marathon means many things to different people. And everyone has their own personal reaction at the finish line — from excitement to exhaustion, just getting there is a story in itself.

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Filed under Back Bay, Patriots' Day