After 50 years as a retail and cultural hub in the middle of Harvard Square, The Garage will soon be redeveloped.
“We love the building,” said John DiGiovanni, president of Trinity Property Management. “It was and is a very cool place. But what I would say is cooler than The Garage is Harvard Square.”
DiGiovanni said the old building — which dates back to 1860, when it was a horse stable — is not accessible for patrons with disabilities. He also hopes the redesign will reinvigorate the property to bring in new customers, and that “40 or 50 years from now people will be talking about how cool [the new] place was.”
Construction plans filed with the city show developers plan to begin renovations in 2023, rebuilding the interior while preserving the masonry facades on Mt. Auburn and Dunster streets. Trinity Property Management is working on getting restaurants, retail businesses and office tenants into the new building, though leases have not yet been signed.
But some current tenants and frequent visitors to The Garage are concerned about what this project means for the future of the neighborhood. Comedian, podcast host and Harvard Square frequenter Ken Reid joined GBH’s Morning Edition this week to reflect on his memories of the shopping center.LISTEN 8:26Ken Reid on Morning Edition | June 7, 2022
Reid grew up in Melrose and would ride the Orange Line to spend time at The Garage, where he recalls digging through crates at record stores looking for gold, getting artisan coffee in the pre-Starbucks world, and renting films like “Eraserhead” from Videosmith.
“Almost nothing of the Harvard Square I grew up with exists. Frankly, almost nothing of the Boston I grew up with exists,” he said. “That’s not necessarily for the worse … but it is losing character.”
Reid said The Garage stood out for its unique businesses that customers couldn’t find elsewhere, especially before the Internet. Now he expects some current Garage tenants will shift to online businesses, while he hopes others will find new physical spaces.
“We’re working with the owner of the building to hopefully relocate us somewhere in the Harvard Square area,” said Rueben Kayden, a senior tattoo artist who will take over the storied shop after the move as the current owner retires. “That’s the ultimate goal. But that comes with a lofty price.”
Kayden, who has been tattooing at Chameleon for 17 years, said he’s been leaning on the shop’s community. Moving costs may end up clocking in around $80,000-$100,000, he said, not including rent. But Trinity Property Management is working with the business, and clients are offering help in whatever ways they can. Some are donating money, others with carpentry or plumbing skills have offered their time.
“It’s about keeping the culture of tattooing alive in Harvard Square,” Kayden said. “Small businesses are closing constantly, and I feel that there isn’t much flavor left in Harvard. We’re one of the last artistic endeavors available in the area. And it became my personal mission to make sure it stays alive and stays true.”
Our favorite moments from Boston Calling Music Festival 2022
Local coffee shop chains are part of union surge, though not every owner seems to enjoy the taste
A barista serves a customer at 1369 Coffeehouse on Friday in Central Square. (Photo: Nicholas Miller)
A wave of labor organization among Cambridge and Somerville cafés could expand this month as employees of 1369 Coffeehouse in Central and Inman squares decide in a National Labor Relations Board election whether to unionize.
The vote, which began June 1, comes exactly a year after employees of Pavement Coffeehouse, a café with eight shops across the Boston area, including one in Harvard Square, sent a letter to owner Larry Margulies declaring their intention to become the first unionized coffee shop in Massachusetts.
Since then, workers at two other local cafés, Darwin’s Ltd. with four Cambridge locations, and the Somerville sister shops of Diesel Café, Bloc Café and Forge Baking Co. and Ice Cream Bar, organized.
All four unionization efforts have been organized by the New England Joint Board of Unite Here.
The spike in coffee shop organization follows a period in the pandemic that employees say illuminated the importance of their labor, leaving them seeking greater power and stability at their cafés.
Food service workers “are constantly being shown by the industry and [the public] that [they] are disposable, that anyone can do [their] job,” said Emma Delaney, an organizer for NEJB and a former Pavement employee. But their work providing services at the height of the pandemic showed that they are “100 percent essential workers,” she said.
Christos Soillis’ apprenticeship began at 11 years old
Special to the Cambridge Chronicle
If business owners charged for honesty and generosity of spirit, Christos Soillis— the owner of Harvard Square’s Felix Shoe Repair at 1304 Massachusetts Ave. — would be on par with Elon Musk as a wealthy man.
“I have money in my pocket. I own my home,” he said. “That’s all I need.”
Soillis, 87, has been cobble-ing locally for almost 60 years, starting as an assistant in the shop’s basement in 1963. The square was bustling then with young men in coats, ties, pressed button-downs, and fedoras, the uniform of Harvard’s then all-male student body.
“I say to my friend, ‘What’s going on? They have a wedding? Why these people dressed up like this?’” His friend pointed to the gates of Harvard Yard: “‘Chris, you see these doors? Even King Constantine came through those doors before he be a king.’”
Soillis’ career launched when he was 11, living in a tiny village in northern Greece. His family was poor.
“We have eggs maybe every two weeks, one egg,” he said. “We have a chicken, maybe two times a year.”
His prospects were nonexistent. When asked what his family ate, he scoffs at meals as we know them.
“Breakfast? Who eat breakfast?” he said.
With no means and no obvious future, he was sent off by his parents to walk three and a half hours, he said, to become a cobbler’s apprentice. His lifelong friend, George Papalimberis, owner of nearby La Flamme Barber Shop, chuckles at the description.
“It was more like an hour and a half. Maybe it felt more than three,” he said.
Soillis’ father paid the man in olive oil for the opportunity.
“My father give me nothing but advice: ‘If you are good person, working, watching your health. I don’t know how they call it English. If you do this, you’re gonna have a better luck from me.'”
His mother gave him hugs, heartbroken her young son was leaving home.
“She cry,” Soillis said. “’Why I’m gonna lose you?’ I said, ‘Ma, I will not be a bad person. I promise I’m gonna live.’”
And live he did. Three years as an apprentice cobbler followed by more than a decade working at home, working for shoe shops in other towns, serving in the army, and twice, unsuccessfully, trying to start his own shoe business.
It was in Athens where he met and quickly married 17-year-old Maria, who was visiting with her mother from East Cambridge.
“It was how you say a match,” Soillis said, by which he means a match made in heaven as much as a matchmaking campaign by the teen’s father. “Maria was born in Longanikos where I work. I see her at 11 [when he was 26], all curls.”
Six years later, Soillis saw her again and was smitten. Within a month, they were married and heading to the United States.
“The first three years, me and my wife, we don’t have any penny,” he said. “Sometimes we have onions for dinner.” Ever the realist, he adds: “You have to sacrifice….you have to lose a few things to get ready to go the next step.”
The newly minted groom also didn’t speak English. But Soillis was driven by the voice of his father – “’Respect everybody. If you do that on you are next to the God.’” – and the need – and desire – to support his young bride.
Networking ultimately led to the shoe repair job in Harvard Square, with George who owned and ran Felix, then a streetside newspaper store. The shoe shop was below. “I get 69 cents an hour. Finally!” Soillis exclaims. His first year’s wages totaled $2,300.
In the years to come, Soillis supplemented his meager wages working at a ladies’ shoe factory in Kendall Square and at the Stride Rite factory in Boston.
“I working five, four and a half years, seven days a week, 18, 20 hours a day,” he said. “I try to learn whatever I can.”
Maria worked at a Brookline hair salon. They saved what they could and welcomed two children.
Buying the Harvard Square shop
By 1995, George’s sons wanted out of the basement shoe repair operation, the only property remaining from their father’s original holdings. Maria pressed her husband to buy the business and move into the storefront, despite the toll it would take on savings.
“She tell me, ‘You’re such a people person. How could you like be in the back of the store all the time?’ So, 32 years, no more basement!” Soillis said with a smile.
The new business owner settled into his new space, looking forward to turning his work ethic and sense of fairness into a strong sales flow. Based on several recent mornings in his store, he continues these practices.
When a graduating public health student steps in to resole his oxfords, Soillis snapped: “Don’t do it.”. “The style, the color is nice, but when this is dry, it’s dry…I fix it but when you wear and bend it… it gonna crack again.” He looks in the disappointed young man’s eyes. “Okay, I fix. But I not gonna charge you.” Before the customer can react, Soillis has snatched the shoes and written a claim check. “Ready later today, OK?”
Soillis has virtually the same conversation with the next customer, a middle-aged woman hoping to salvage faux leather sandals with a broken strap as well as a recent Harvard graduate with torn hockey pants. Both sales take a back seat to honesty.
Soillis insists that despite regularly declining payment, he has all he needs – to a point. He lost Maria to cancer eight years ago but from his reaction, her death seems recent. She was his heart, his soul, if not his moral compass.
‘Understand what happiness means’
“When my wife passed,” he said, “I was depressed and…three times I was ready to do suicide.”
A trip to see his sister did nothing to lessen the heartbreak. He returned to his shop where he has immersed himself ever since.
Taiyaki NYC is expanding to Cambridge alongside the first Massachusetts location of its sibling doughnut shop, the Dough Club
Popular Seaport District ice cream shop Taiyaki NYC — which expanded here in 2019 from New York — will open its second Massachusetts location in Cambridge’s Harvard Square, and this one will share space with Taiyaki’s mochi doughnut shop sibling, the Dough Club. They’ll be located in the former Mint Julep storefront at 6 Church Street, a prime location steps from the Harvard MBTA station.
The shops specialize in social media-friendly (but also tasty) treats. Taiyaki is known for its fish-shaped ice cream cones with red bean or custard fillings, colorful swirls of soft serve, and toppings like unicorn horns. The shop also serves fluffy piles of souffle pancakes and hot, iced, and frozen matcha, hojicha, and taro drinks.
This will be the Dough Club’s first appearance outside of New York, where it has a trio of shops. On the menu: a rotating array of pon de ring-style mochi doughnuts with, of course, plenty of cutesy toppings. There are milkshakes, too, as well as retail bags of mochi waffle and pancake mix.
It looks like an ice cream shop and a doughnut shop that are both based in New York City may be coming to a storefront in Cambridge.
According to an article in Cambridge Day, Taiyaki NYC and The Dough Club are planning to open in the Harvard Square section of Cambridge, moving into the space on Church Street that had been home to Mint Julep, a boutique shop that moved to a new location on Brattle Street. Taiyaki NYC and The Dough Club are both part of Daruma Hospitality Group, with the former offering ice cream in fish-shaped cones (and having a location in Boston’s Seaport District) and the latter featuring mochi doughnuts.
The address for the proposed Taiyaki NYC and Dough Club in Harvard Square is 6 Church Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138. The website for Taiyaki NYC can be found at https://taiyakinyc.com/ while the website for The Dough Club is at https://www.thedoughclub.com/cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc
With a new owner, Brattle Square flower shop relocates just down the street.
Several months after Brattle Square Florist was slated to close, the beloved flower shop has opened in a new location just steps away from its former storefront.
Longtime manager and new owner Stephen Zedros said he worked until 11 p.m. the night before to prepare for Wednesday’s grand reopening at 52 Brattle St. in Harvard Square.
“This is the perfect place,” said Zedros. “I think we’ve landed in the right spot. There are a ton of mom and pop stores on this block too, so it feels like old Harvard Square.”
The new location, just two blocks and across the street from the old one, is the latest development in the 105-year history of the florist, which began when Zedros’ grandparents opened Gomatos Brothers Fresh Produce in 1917. It later became Brattle Square Florist, and over the years, the shop has developed into a mainstay of the Harvard Square community.
Zedros said while it was difficult to break the news of the move to customers who had visited the 31 Brattle St. location for decades, many patrons were happy that the flower shop would remain open at all.
In late December, former owner Randy Ricker announced that Brattle Square Florist would be closing due to increasing costs, the labor shortage, and uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Inspired by his family legacy and community support, Zedros decided to take over as owner in early February.
Elements of the florist’s former location remain at the smaller 1,200-square-foot store, including its classic brick façade and hanging plants. An hour after the new spot opened its doors, the shop had already had nearly 15 customers, Zedros said.
“[The customers] are incredibly loyal and supportive people,” he said. “Being able to keep the place alive and keep the store running was my priority, and it worked out.”
Supply chain issues and the skyrocketing cost of certain blooms still persist, Zedros said. But he remains optimistic for the store’s next 100 years, with goals to “keep everybody here employed, and keep [Brattle Square Florist] the way it used to be.”
I had heard about the removal of parking spaces in Porter Square from concerned retail store owners and worried that the entire shopping district would be lost without any meaningful debate or, for that matter, the knowledge of people who rely on so many stores and restaurants in the area.
The Boston Calling music festival at Harvard University returned for the first time in three years with a line-up of big names and local favorites, including Wellesley native Cam Meekins. Performers and the audience were ready to rock, groove, or whatever the vibe might be, rain or shine.
The festival, cancelled the past two years due to the pandemic, was still feeling the effects of COVID-19 right into this year’s event. It lost Day 2 headliner The Strokes the day before they were to perform due to a positive COVID-19 test. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard was a late COVID cancelation, too. Nine Inch Nails, the headliner for Day 1, graciously agreed to perform a second night in place of The Strokes, with Metallica wrapping up the event on Sunday, taking on the Celtics-Miami Game 7 NBA conference final. Due to health considerations, the festival did not have its usual indoor respite from the weather in the hockey arena, where in the past comedians and podcasters have entertained.
– The three-day festival has wrapped up and cleaning crews have now taken over Harvard Athletic Complex. More than 50 artists performed at Boston Calling, including headliners Metallica and Nine Inch Nails. It’s the first time the music festival returned to the stage after the Covid-19 pandemic and it wasn’t without a few bumps in the road.
Friday night event organizers announced another change in the line-up, after a positive COVID case for their Saturday night headliner, The Strokes. Instead, Friday night’s headlining band, Nine Inch Nails, would play a second set on Saturday night.