April 22nd, 2007
|08:43 am - Vanishing Davis|
This weekend was beautiful so on Friday, when the sun was out and the sky was nice, I took pictures of two businesses on Highland Avenue whose physical presences will be just a memory to those of us who were there Back In The Day, whenever that Day is. One's already been closed and the other will be closing sometime next month.
R. J. Cody (something of a "Eweler", if you believe the large sign out front) had a combination jewelry and stationery store. I never went in, but I bet the atmosphere was always very quiet, as quiet as businesses running on inertia and borrowed time often tend to be. It's now closed and the windows have been papered up, but I believe there's work going on inside. For what, I don't know. I do hope whatever business takes over keeps and re-uses that nice 3D sign. The UPS store down the block a bit re-used their space's sign.
La Contessa is a lovely Italian pastry shop and one of the few places this side of the Charles where you could get a damn good cannoli, filled right before your very eyes, as well as those black-and-white cookies you can only get in Italian pastry shops. It's family-run and operated, with a blessing from Pope John Paul II hanging proudly on the wall. No, he didn't visit, but the Pope will send you a nice blessing if you know the right people and send the right contribution. But I bet if he had stopped in, JP2 would have enjoyed the cannoli. While Ron Newman reports the family has been rather sketchy with providing details, it doesn't look as if La Contessa will last past Mother's Day, so get your black-and-whites while you still can.
What a shame. Did you also know that The Greenhouse in Harvard Sq. is closing today? I know their service isn't terrific and the manager is a crank but I've always loed their fries and their veggie chilli and I have never, ever known a Harvard Square without a Greenhouse. Another Cambridge institution dies. Sadly, it looks like Davis is following quickly in harvard's footsteps...
The Greenhouse is closing?! Holy cats. The Greenhouse has always been there. ALWAYS!! With its wholly incongruous rock wall facade and everything! It can't go away! It's eternal! You can't die, Artax! You can't give in! Come on, you can do it, Artax! ARTAAAAX!
Of course, I said the same thing about the Tasty and the Wursthaus. And Wordsworth. Minus the Neverending Story stuff, at least.
I'm STILL pissed about the tasty and the Wursthouse even though they closed almost 10 years ago now. Hell, my MOM remembers going to the Wurshouse when she was in college in the late 1960's. is nothing sacread anymore? When I have kids there will be nothing left of the old Harvard Square to distinguish it from anywhere else.
My high school English teacher used to tell us that Harvard Sq. was the intelectual capitol of the universe. It was like Boston's Left Bank. Now it is the gentrification capitol of the universe. Why live in a great city like Boston, Cambridge or Somerville when they are becoming undistinguishable from anywhere else? Hell, I might as well live in Wouburn now!
My sole consolation regarding the Tasty and Wursthaus is that the Abercrombie & Fitch that took over died an ignoble, nobody-gives-a-shit death. Now a chain bank is there, but at least it's useful for Citizens' customers or people who don't want to take the time and walk across the street to Bank of America. (Plus the Tasty's old door is still there, which is a strange nod to the past.)
There's good progress and there's bad progress. Good progress is when something old comes down but something new, local and unique goes up in its place (such as Magpie taking over Poor Little Rich Girl's space in Davis, which moved to take over West Coast Video's space, etc.) Bad progress is when something old comes down and something new that you can get anywhere else in the city by walking a few blocks goes up in its place (such as the little corner market across from the Brattle theater -- remember that? -- going away and being replaced by a cellular phone store.) I worry about what will fill the Greenhouse's spot.
My father tells stories of demonstrations in Harvard Square in the 60s, stories of the time when he almost got tear-gassed there, that kind of thing. He still talks about Club 47/Passim with a nostalgic tone and at least that's still around. But you're right. Little by little, each unique neighborhood gradually takes on the exact same chains, the exact same offerings and if you don't pipe up and spend your money locally, the creep will continue.
|Date:||April 23rd, 2007 12:18 am (UTC)|| |
Whoa, weird, I was just thinking about that scene a few minutes ago. How random.
|Date:||April 27th, 2007 02:43 am (UTC)|| |
You can't die, Artax! You can't give in! Come on, you can do it, Artax! ARTAAAAX!
Yes, precisely. Is there a more perfect representation of the Greenhouse than a hard-ridden horse drowning in a pool of quicksand?
There used to be another jeweler on Elm Street. Julie's Nails moved in and reused their old sign, too.
|Date:||April 22nd, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)|| |
Does La Contessa also have excellent sandwiches and other Italian deli items? Or is that some other place? Tom took us there the last time we visited and it was teh awes.
I get the feeling that Davis is going to be nigh unrecognizable when we visit again in August.
You're thinking of the Italian market next door, I think.
La Contessa sells only baked goods, no sandwiches.
|Date:||April 22nd, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)|| |
Hey, I can see Comicazi next door in the first picture. I should tell Mike to try to expand next door. :-)
Although it is sad when one business dies, I also know from my friends who worked really hard to open up new business and waited a long time to find a good space (like Mike) that an empty, semi-affordable storefront can be a blessing to those who are trying to start a new venture for the first time in their lives.
This may seem mean, but one of the things about being an entrepreneur is that you have to be shrewd, you have to work hard, and you have to have a good business sense. I'm sure these businesses knew a long time in advance that they were losing money. And not due to any new evil chain coming in and taking their business, just due to the new clientele. Davis Square is not what it used to be. Now the majority of the population is 20-something yuppies. If you can't adjust your business practices to fit the needs of the community, well then, it's not really a surprise. Sad yes, unforeseen, no.
This is kind of a tangent, but this reminds me a lot of how upset people got when the Someday closed. Nobody forced the Someday out. They failed to renew their lease due to poor business practices. That is not Mr. Crepe's fault. You can't blame someone else that comes in afterwards when there is an available space. It's just the life cycle of the small business.
|Date:||April 23rd, 2007 12:23 am (UTC)|| |
I don't know for sure, but I think that La Contessa is going not because the business is failing, but because the landlord wouldn't renew the lease? If that's true, that would be why it's such a surprise. (But I just read that somewhere, so don't take my word for it.)
Though there's still hope. After all, that was what happened to Mr. Crepe when Dave's Fresh Pasta wouldn't renew their lease, and now they're back and still tasty. And Dave's Fresh Pasta now makes sandwiches, which is also awesome.
What's really sad, though, is when those empty storefronts just stand open and stand open and stand open, like Buck-A-Book (it makes the square look kinda ghetto), or when businesses pop in and out every two months or so (like the 400 Highland location).
see I agree with you in that businesses must come and go and that one person's story ending means that another person's dream can be realized. God closes doors, opens windows, keeps the cat doors half-open... I think... I'm really not sure where I was going with that malaprop.
at any rate, the stationery store? never saw a single soul in it. then again, I've never seen that travel agency near Comicazi's new place open, either, but every time I go by, there's that crazy half-cracked hula statue waving in eternal aloha. for all the good they do they might as well be just empty storefronts except then we wouldn't have the hula entertainment.
There are just so many places that just keep running, again, due to inertia of some sort. And at some point, the proprietor finally decides it's time to close up shop, and there it goes. You can't blame someone for that. you can't chain them to the store and go NO YOU KEEP ON RUNNING THIS, MISTER, FOR THE GOOD OF THE COMMUNITY.
What's good is when some entrepreneur takes ahold of that space and breathes new life into it. something that is their own dream, their own business, their own little chunk of storefront with merchandise. hooray for comicazi, hooray for magpie, hooray for your move games, hooray for cd spins.
What's bad is when some corporation takes ahold of that space and puts a $CHAIN in it. HOORAY! say the people. Now we don't have to go alllll the way to the other square to buy the same kind of food or the same kind of coffee or the same kind of smoothie drink or the same kind of shoes!
sure people do. ON PLANET CRACKPIPE.
There are a few exceptions to this, of course: pharmacies, as those are necessary for health and sometimes it's not such a good idea to go allll the way to the other square when you need a prescription refilled NOW. oh, and dunkin donuts, because everybody needs a bit of hypocrisy in their views to balance out the eternal truths, and there's mine for the evening.
but if someone were to find a bit of capital underneath a rock, say, or under the sofa cushions, and decided to put in their own fresh-made donut place with twenty-seven varieties and a window so you could see the donuts being made and maybe a bit of fresh coffee too that doesn't taste like the T, well now then, goodbye to dunkies and hello to Abbie's Donuts.
er, not that I have ever thought of such a thing.
the someday closing was an aberration and bad form all around. it was bad that the owner forgot his lease was up, and it was bad for the landlord to not say anything. but what's done is done, and people blaming mr crepe or hating mr crepe or saying nasty things about mr crepe like replacing the first e with an a and then dropping the second e off are people who are completely tilting at a windmill which isn't even there. besides I cannot speak ill of mr crepe as they will let me order crepes off the menu and I don't have to justify my order at all and the people who have given the place snooty bad reviews are the people who are never satisfied with a restaurant experience unless they get a foot bath along with their goddamn hash browns.
and the people who are working to bring the someday back in a new fashion are people who love the place and more power to them.
this post has been powered by an especially tasty 16-year single malt which has been drunk out of a particularly nice and perfectly-weighted five-sided glass which I acquired through nefarious means. I am sure tomorrow I will feel very very silly about the whole thing but on the other hand, I just wrote an abbie post and my brain is still in the cat mindset. hi.
Some day, the shoe repair guy in the plaza next to Starbucks is going to decide he's too old to keep doing this. Or he'll die. And when that happens, I really doubt that another cobbler will come in to replace him. Let's hope this doesn't happen any time soon.