Harvard Square Sees Increase in Women Owned Businesses


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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.”


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Some Trade Big $ Gifts for Crafts

by Maressa Levy

Bostonians are turning to alternative methods of holiday shopping, avoiding crowded malls and department stores in favor of area craft fairs.

Harvard Square’s Holiday Craft Fair is in its 24th season, featuring craftspeople and customers from all over New England. At the corner of Church Street and Massachusetts Avenue in the basement of the First Parish Unitarian Church, the fair runs for roughly 12 days throughout November and December and sells everything from wind chimes made from old cutlery to handmade soaps.

Leslie Gray is one on the founders, and said shopping at the fair provides a different environment than a traditional shopping mall, or even a small shop.

“Most days people just stream down the stairs, and the place fills up. People are here selling what they make, or are small businesses with a very definite connection to their crafts,” Gray said. “The atmosphere is very upbeat; I often say it’s like a party where you can buy stuff. Though there are ‘regular’ exhibitors, we try to bring in fresh talent every year, and encourage young craftspeople to apply.”

Gray added that despite the current economy, sales have remained high.

“The days have varied, but overall most (vendors) have been happy- I do think some people have the economy in mind, and have either lowered their prices or made things specifically at a lower price point,” Gray said. “Hopefully, the closer we get to Christmas the busier we’ll be.”

Just down the street, Harvard Square’s Cambridge Artists Cooperative (CAC) is a three-level gallery showcasing work by more than 250 artists from all over the United States.

Since 1989 the Co-op has been run entirely by artists, as an outlet for handmade American crafts.

Artist Marcia Dean creates jewelry and quilts for CAC, and has been a Co-op member and contributor since the gallery’s opening. She said the growing popularity of crafts has helped bring customers to the gallery.

“It’s been great for us. (The fair) drives more people to the Square to shop,” Dean said. “Unless an artist is just starting out, prices are pretty uniform; ornaments, rugs and jewelry are popular items, and they run from $12- $2000.”

While these events are popular, artisans are also turning to internet marketing to sell their goods, from self-launched merchandising websites to larger aggregator sites, like the popular craft site Etsy. And other Boston neighborhoods are seeing similar increases in both events and interest.

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Want to Sleep No More?

“Don’t be alarmed if you get there and it doesn’t look like much,” the receptionist at the American Repertory Theater tells me as I purchase my ticket to their latest production, Sleep No More. “It’s not really supposed to.”

From the outside, the Old Lincoln School in Brookline certainly doesn’t impose itself onto passerby, especially in the dark, blustery fall evening. Two ushers in black coats wait on the street to show you your way to the back entrance of the school, which is only the beginning of the maze that audience members must stumble through to experience the British “adventure theater” company Punchdrunk’s daring collaboration. This full-immersion experience is a collaboration with Cambridge-based A.R.T.

Winding through dark corridors lit by little flickering lights, you emerge into a swinging 1940s bar, where you are promptly handed a playing card and instructed to kick back and have a drink until that card is called. When summoned, you are instantly swept into Punchdrunk’s world of experimental theater. A cackling host hands out V-for-Vendetta-esque white masks, which audience members must wear at all times in the space, to distinguish themselves from the actors.

“A lot of people are looking for a more visceral theater experience,” says Mikhael Garver, the staff director for the show. “Punchdrunk is definitely the leader of doing that kind of performance internationally. No one does it with the level of depth and clarity than they do.”

Indeed, the production is more than just a performance – it is a sensory explosion. The abandoned school’s high ceilings and linoleum-tiled floors are completely transformed into eerie, elaborate scenes that host directors Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle have made into a living, breathing, largelysilent interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth blended with Hitchcock’s 1940’s psychological thriller Rebecca. Add swarms of white faces floating in the darkness down dimly lit hallways, and the effect is completely surreal.

“The architecture in the school was exactly the kind of look and feel we wanted for the piece,” says Garver of the space. “We wanted a space to bring something to the table, and our design construction team made amazing use of beauty that already existed in this building.”

For city officials, the production is a bottom-line success and a critical one. Faced with the prospect of having to pay for the upkeep of the school after town hall employees moved out of its temporary office space in May, Brookline was relieved to have the theater swoop in and make such revolutionary use of the school.

“For us, it means there are many restaurants in Brookline Village that will be able to keep their lights on this fall because of the added foot traffic,” Kara Brewton, the town’s economic development director, told the Brookline TAB.

– Talia Ralph

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Paramount: A Beacon Hill Tradition

By Irina Grechko

Paramount slideshow

For a restaurant that’s been around since before World War II, The Paramount in Beacon Hill sure doesn’t show its age. Even after 72 years in business, on weekend mornings there are still lines of customers waiting to eat at 44 Charles St.

Although it might look like just another eatery to the untrained eye, the constant flow of customers means the red wooden doors are never closed too long at this Beacon Hill favorite.

Michael Conlon, co-owner of The Paramount and a Beacon Hill bar, The 21st Amendment, said that the secret to Paramount’s popularity is an unusual approach to serving all of your day’s meals.

“I think the concept is breakfast, lunch and dinner. Early in the morning there’s not a lot of breakfast place around here and I think it’s become almost an institution to go out and get breakfast,” Conlon said.

As you enter, morning or afternoon, a variety of smells welcomes you into a simple yet stylish diner-style room, decorated with black-and-white photographs. A big sign explains that patrons must line up to order and pay for their food — and only then find a table.

“Wondering Why?” the sign explains, “We quickly learned that due to the high volume of customers and limited seats, saving a table disrupts the delicate balance of people to tables. Therefore, not saving a table ensures all customers (yes, you too), will have a table when needed.”

Conlon said this line system allows the restaurant to accommodate the 500 to 600 customers that they receive on weekend mornings and afternoons.

“You got to order; and order before you take the seat. It’s very important that everyone does that because if everyone does that, there are always tables. ”

It’s all about the system, he said.

He is so confident in the system that The Paramount offers to buy customers breakfast or lunch if they find no place to sit upon receiving their food. When asked if that happens often, Conlon looks puzzled. He stops the staff walking and asks, “Do you know of anyone who had to wait to get a table after getting food?”

One woman looks just as puzzled, answering “Not that I know of. We never had a situation where someone had to wait.”

Conlon looks satisfied with the answer, “We ask people to believe in our system and if there is no table the least we can do is buy them breakfast.”

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JP’s Art Mecca: South Street

The art scene on South Street in Jamaica Plain serves its community as a grassroots rival to the grandiose museums and full-fledged galleries of downtown Boston.

You can find anything from vintage to retro to contemporary fashions at Forty South Street.  There’s a community owned, not-for profit market across the street called the Harvest Co-op for fresh, often organic, local produce.  You can even learn how to fix your bike or buy a refurbished one at Ferris Wheels Bike Shop, and the popular Boston Public Library Jamaica Plain branch is on the corner.

“Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, all ethnicities, we respect each other in JP,” said Steve Alexander, mosaic artist and manager at the JP Art Market Studio and Gallery in Jamaica Plain.

Alexander is a volunteer at the studio, a veteran of the US military and long-time resident of Jamaica Plain.  He found his way into the studio as an artist himself, looking for a place to display his art in his community.

It’s true that JP has an abundance of art.  What is obvious in the community today is a need for places for the neighborhoods many artists to show their work.  For now, artists are turning to South Street’s galleries, local businesses like J.P. Licks, and even the Jamaica Plain Branch of the Boston Public Library.

James Morgan, a Jamaica Plain resident and branch librarian, says the branch appreciates the work that artists donate to the library for showcase.

“We’re involved with the Business Association who sponsors performances and art showings on the first Thursday of every month during the nice weather.  There’s so many artists in JP, we really wanted to get involved.”

Many of the paintings are strategically placed on the library’s walls to cover holes that need filling.  Rather than a run down atmosphere, the art helps to create one of liveliness.

In November, the library will feature photography of the neighborhood by numerous artists.

A new gallery, named The Hallway, opened just a few doors down from the JP Art Market Studio in May.  The new studio features exclusively local artists from the Boston area, and is especially ideal for up-and-coming artists.  The owner gives nearly any artist the chance to showcase and sell their work – so long as they volunteer to work for him a few hours a week.

But perhaps what is even more remarkable about South Street is it’s sense of community.  With two art galleries on the same block, one might think there would be competition, but not here.  In fact, Steve Alexander of the Art Market Studio says it’s just the opposite.

“There’s more talent here than anywhere in the world I would say, I am always over impressed by the talent here.  The city just isn’t standing up and seeing it as a Mecca of art, we should be showcasing this work [to the public]” said Alexander.

Massimo Giardo, a graduate of Mass Art, just began showcasing his work in The Hallway studio and has already sold some of his pieces.

“I think this place is really good for local artists that want to get people to see their work and who want feedback,” said Giardo.

New artwork can be seen on the first Thursday of every month at a launch party, then on the last day of the month there is a silent auction.  Artists lower the prices of their pieces, and let the bidders decide how much their artwork is worth.

Overall, Jamaica Plain’s artists treat their community as a community.  Rather than petty competition, they seem to thrive off of each other’s successes so long as it helps their arts community grow.

Says Steve Alexander, “We’re encouraging The Hallway, we want people to see the range of what art means to other people.  The same goes for the library.  They see that art speaks like books, we can both read Moby Dick and get a different feeling, the same as can happen from looking at a painting.”

Someday, maybe, JP will be home to galleries comparable to those in other neighborhoods, and more importantly, galleries that will hold the immense amount of work the communities’ artists have to show.

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Jamaica Plain’s Arnold Arboretum

When you get off the Orange Line T at Forest Hills, it seems like any other residential area of Boston.  Houses line the streets, and there are nearly no businesses in sight.  However, many city dwellers and Boston suburb residents travel here every day to visit Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum.

Maria Sparaggi, a seventeen-year resident of Forest Hills walks through the Arboretum occasionally when she’s going to Faulkner Hospital.

“It’s amazing,” says Sparaggi.  “There’s a place with all different kinds of Christmas trees, a garden of roses, and at the end of my walk I always visit the walnuts.”

The Arboretum features bonsai, centenarians, conifers, lilacs, rosaceous plants, a shurb and vine garden, and hundreds of different types of trees.  The entire area is a remarkable 265 acres, including main roads for bikers, and several paths and hills for those looking to really lose themselves in nature – a true escape from the busy traffic of the city.

Right now, workers at the Arboretum are focused on their newest project known as Weld Hill, potentially the first research facility on the grounds.

Sheryl White, the visitor education assistant and tour coordinator, says Weld Hill will provide labs for researchers at Harvard studying botany and biology.

“It will allow researchers to bring students in and will provide research offices for some of the staff here.”

Weld Hill is a green facility, something that is becoming more prominent in the community.  Boston Green Buildings, a sustainable contractor, held a forum in Jamaica Plain on October 3 to inform residents and businesses on how to become more energy efficient.

According to White, “Something like 95 percent of materials from recycling will be reused either here or will be donated elsewhere. We’re keeping all the soil on the site and then it will be integrated back into the site.”

Beyond its attraction to visitors of the neighborhood, the Arboretum has opened it’s doors to visitors from all walks of life.  According to White, they are now focusing their tours on the greater public in Boston, as well as students from any Boston Public School.

“We do lots of tours. We have programs with schools in the spring and the fall. We run a lot of programs in conjunction with the schools and individual classes curriculum,” said White.

The Arboretum educates adults on their walking tours, provides field studies for children in cooperation with their science curriculum, has family activities, and even has online exhibits for anyone who is interested.

Employees and volunteers at the Arboretum work very hard to provide an open, educational atmosphere for visitors.  General questions can be answered at the visitor center, as well as by any groundskeeper you happen to run into on the trails.

Tours are given every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment with the visitor center.

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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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