By Korsha Wilson
In Harvard Square, sisters are doing it for themselves.
Famed for its namesake university, throngs of clever college kids and left-leaning intellectuals, Harvard Square is also home to eclectic eateries, specialty stores and an abundance of female business owners and entrepreneurs.
Some 60 women now own businesses in Harvard Square, according to Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association. And while the number of women-owned businesses has grown by some 20 percent nationwide during the last decade according to the United States Small Business Association, Jillson suspects more women have set up more shops in Harvard Square.
“It’s because women today have broken the glass ceiling,” she says. “Young women in the Square have a much easier time because women really paved the way and are mentors and great examples of women-owned businesses in the Square.”
Marley Brush, co-owner of one-year-old Crema Café, says the Harvard Square community is more supportive of women-owned businesses than large, national chains.
The area is also fairly liberal and accepting of people doing unusual things, so perhaps historically it’s been easier for women to get leases for retail space,” she adds.
Women have run shops in the Square for years, even when the HSBA was referred to as the Harvard Square Businessmen Association, Jillson points out. And successful stories like those of Frances Cardullo of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe and Carmen Heller of “A Taste of Culture” appear to have inspired others.
“I’m so brand new to Harvard Square but I think it’s the smallness and the uniqueness of it,” she says. “I like the huge, vast amounts of different people that come in.”
Stephanie Nist, co-owner of Mint Julep, a “shabby-chic” clothing store with locations in Harvard Square and Brookline, considers Harvard Square an ideal location is the number of international customers that travel to the historic area.
“In the Brookline store there are a lot of repeat customers,” she says. “In this location it’s mostly tourists so we don’t get to know them better but it’s also fun.”
Nist, who opened the first Mint Julep store five years ago with childhood friend, Brooke Garber, thinks women who attend colleges and universities in the area are drawn to Harvard Square because it’s a great place to shop.
“It’s an amazing location,” she said. “Actually, I don’t think it’s just Harvard Square. There’s just more opportunities for women now”.
Denise Jillson thinks that the trend will continue and these women will become mentors for the women that follow them.
They have it all. They’re doing business and they’re fulfilling their dreams” she says, “I come here every day and I’m inspired.”