Boston Business Journal

Coop in Harvard Square to get a new leader after 30-plus years

The Coop, a Harvard Square institution, is undergoing a leadership change. Jerry Murphy, left, is retiring after leading the store as CEO since 1991. He’ll be succeeded by Jodi Goldstein starting Sept. 1.

The official campus bookstore for Harvard and MIT will undergo its first leadership change in more than three decades in September.

The Harvard Crimson

Event Space ‘Dx’ Dances into Harvard Square

Event space Dx @Dunster will open next month in Harvard Square at the former location of John Harvard’s Brewery & Ale House.
The entertainment venue, located in the Harvard Square shopping center known as The Garage, will boast video screens, an audio system, and a bar. The space is prepared to host private events, corporate functions, and live entertainment.
Dx is owned by Cambridge attorney and entrepreneur Sean D. Hope — who also runs Cambridge dispensary Yamba Market — and former Cambridge City Councilor Larry Ward.
The opportunity to start Dx arose during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the mass closing of restaurants opened up several spaces in Harvard Square to new commercial tenants.
Hope said his venture is part of a new wave of businesses to revive the area’s entertainment scene post-pandemic.
“We really wanted to be part of that renaissance of Harvard Square,” Hope said in an interview.
Ward added that with the recent influx of national brands to Cambridge’s downtown, the city is at risk of losing its “charm.”
“We want to be a part of making sure that the local scene stays alive,” Ward said.
Hope and Ward have known each other for a long time, but they said this is their first time working together on a venture of this scale.
“We sort of see things from a very similar lens, but we come from very different backgrounds,” Ward said.
The duo’s differing experiences have allowed them to overcome logistical hurdles including lengthy licensing processes and getting up to code, they said.
“The biggest challenge is just getting in there and really bringing something to the people that they want,” Ward said.
However, Hope added that he sees the challenges facing businesses in Harvard Square, such as Covid-19 and high recent prices, as a source of potential.
“They created a lot of hardship, but they also created opportunity,” Hope said.
Going forward, Hope and Ward hope to expand the business into a broader enterprise focused on entertainment. In addition to the event space, this could include adult gaming as well as virtual reality experiences in the Garage.
Tying together this vision for an entertainment complex is the
Hope said the name “Dx,” which stands for “Destination x,” ties together his vision for an entertainment complex: The “Destination” is the space that the business provides and “x” is the variable that “allows you to insert your own experience.”
He added that behind his plans lies a “passion for placemaking,” or the practice of building a forgotten spot into something new.
“The design, the spacing, the ethos, you know — the little touches is what makes it a place, as opposed to just an empty box,” Hope said.
The Harvard Crimson

Latin American Restaurant Painted Burro Gallops Into Harvard Square

Painted Burro, which opened on Nov. 20, stands at the former location of the longstanding Border Cafe. By Nyla Nasir

Painted Burro, a Latin American restaurant and tequila bar, opened its third location in Harvard Square last Monday.

Located on 32 Church St., the new establishment stands in the former location of the Border Cafe and features a fuschia building facade.

Since opening in 2012 in Davis Square, the Painted Burro chain has since expanded to Waltham and now Harvard Square. There are also two Burro Bars — “smaller versions of Painted Burro” as described by chain owner and chef Joe Cassinelli — in the Boston area.

With its selection of grilled meats, fish, and moles, Painted Burro aims to highlight the diverse cuisines of Latin America. The restaurant also boasts an extensive alcohol menu, with margaritas, local beers, and a collection of more than 100 craft tequilas.

Painted Burro’s menu features classic Latin American appetizers, salads, and a wide variety of tacos ranging from cilantro grilled chicken to buffalo cauliflower. The restaurant also serves more sizable entrees, including swordfish, chimichangas, and more. On weekends, Painted Burro offers a bottomless brunch special — all-you-can-eat fare for $25.

To celebrate its grand opening, the restaurant is “throwing it back” to 2012 by featuring original dishes on the menu and 2012 prices, according to Cassinelli.

“You can expect some pretty attractive pricing,” Cassinelli added.

The opportunity to establish a Painted Burro location in Harvard Square arose when the space became available following the announcement of Border Cafe’s permanent closing in 2021.

“It was one of the easiest openings we’ve ever done,” Cassinelli said.

Customers can expect “great, upscale Mexican food” and a “lively environment,” according to Cassinelli. The 7,199-square-foot space is completely renovated and features two full bars, with a downstairs bar-lounge area open to private events.

The newly opened location has received positive feedback from diners.

“It’s not that expensive,” Jim Brown, a Cambridge resident, said. “The food is generous, and it’s good quality.”

Brown said his grits were “delicious” and spoke about how friendly the waitstaff were at the Painted Burro.

“I know three names, and I don’t remember names,” Brown said.

Painted Burro opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends and closes around midnight. Brown added that their hours are a “big positive” for those who like to stay up late.

Charlotte Wagner, a local resident, said she had a “great experience” and mentioned how well decorated the space was, but thought that Painted Burro has to find its “mojo.”

“It has a really amazing bar, and I can imagine it with students and more people — and it’ll have its own vibe,” Wagner said.

Boston Business Journal

Clover Food Lab files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Clover Food Lab
A Clover Food Lab location in Harvard Square in Cambridge.

The Boston-area healthy-eating chain Clover Food Lab has filed for bankruptcy protection, with its CEO describing troubles stemming from the pandemic and the lending environment following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

The Harvard Crimson

Hundreds Haunt Harvard Square for Halloween Block Party

A Halloween block party lit up Harvard Square over the weekend, bringing live artists, excited crowds, and glowing art installations to JFK Street ahead of the holiday.

Organized by the Harvard Square Business Association and the City of Cambridge, Harvard Square’s Illuminated Halloween Block Party drew hundreds of Cambridge and Boston area residents Friday and Saturday evening, from children dressed up as astronauts and princesses to adults masquerading as pirates and ghouls.

The celebration featured a variety of performances, including classic rock band Rumboat Chili on Friday and Berklee College of Music student Lumanyano Mzi on Saturday.

Harvard Square was transformed into a light show during the celebration, with many attendees wearing glowing bracelets against the backdrop of a dynamic art installation, which projected scenes and optical illusions on the sides of buildings lining the street.

Also lighting up the Square was an interactive installation by art studio Pneuhaus called “Canopy,” which used bike-driven generators to inflate and illuminate vibrant neon tree sculptures. Children and adults alike lined up to pedal the bikes and power the exhibit.

Pneuhaus co-founder Levi Bedall said the project helped people understand energy in a unique way, adding that it could make the idea of “going green” feel “more tangible.”

“Power can be generated through lots of ways,” Bedall said. “As simple as turning a wheel with your legs, you can create power to power LEDs and a fan, which I think is hard to really get your mind around.”

Attendees also said they appreciated the participation of local businesses in addition to the immersive art installations.

“It’s nice to see people getting together in their communities and appreciating the local businesses and coming together to appreciate the arts, and the music is really good,” said attendee Rebecca L. Rutherford.

El Jefe’s Taqueria hosted a beer garden that bustled with activity both nights, and Russell House Tavern was also packed with partygoers during the celebration.

“It’s a very nice sort of social escape for a lot of people at this point with everything going on,” said attendee Ahmad A. Naqvi, a post-doctoral student at Harvard Medical School.

As fun as it was for many residents to celebrate in costume in Harvard Square, the Halloween theme was the product of coincidence — the block party was originally intended to coincide with the 58th Head of the Charles Regatta, but was postponed by a week due to rain.

Organizers quickly rebranded the event to match its rescheduled dates, which fell right before Halloween.

Regardless of the party’s theme, Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said she was glad to see so many residents turn out for the celebration.

“The decision was made to attempt to create a little street that would be more pedestrian-friendly on the weekend,” Jillson said. “It’s really lovely to build a community that’s safe and clean and welcoming.”

“When you have events like this and the community responds, and they come out to support it, it feels good, and it feels like an accomplishment,” she added.

The Harvard Crimson

Donut Miss Out: Union Square Donuts Rolls into Harvard Square

Boston-based donut chain Union Square Donuts made its debut in Harvard Square on Saturday.

Situated at 15 JFK St., the new location is the latest addition to Union Square Donuts’ existing roster of stores in Boston, Brookline, and Somerville.

The award-winning shop opened their first location 10 years ago in Somerville before moving to 20 Bow St. in Concord, Massachusetts. According to co-founder Josh Danoff, Union Square Donuts has been “actively looking” for a location in Harvard Square throughout the chain’s “slow and steady” growth.

“We’ve always had our eye on Harvard Square. It really was always a location that we wanted to have,” Danoff said.

According to Danoff, Union Square Donuts has been involved in Harvard spaces for a number of years, including bringing donuts to the Tuesday farmers’ markets in Harvard’s Science Center Plaza.

“This just feels really great, having gone from having our donuts in the case on a rack at the Harvard farmers’ market to having a brick and mortar,” Danoff said.

“It’s a small shop, but I walked in and I had a smile on my face,” he added. “Our team did such an amazing job of taking a very small space — and with all the requirements that go into a space — and just getting everything in there that we needed.”

The shop’s interior features a glass display of their donut offerings. Aside from the classic flavors of donuts, Union Square Donuts offers specialized flavors such as “Pumpkin Cheesecake Bar” and “Salted Brown Butter Cruller,” and the store is “constantly coming up with seasonal flavors.”

“This is donut weather, so we have a lot of apple and pumpkin and just those fall flavors that, when you live in New England, you just gravitate towards,” Danoff said.

Christine Li, a visitor to Cambridge, said she wanted to see what food Cambridge had to offer and decided to try out Union Square Donuts, which she described as a “great store experience.”

“It leaned on the sweet side, but I think there was a depth of flavor that balanced out the sweetness,” Li said.

Lauren Crum, a customer, described her donut as “delicious” and was impressed by the “huge sample sizes.”

The store’s free sample tastings are a “plus,” according to customer Emily Song, because customers can try the flavor before ordering.

“I don’t see that at any other shops,” Song said.

Union Square Donuts is currently open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with plans to extend hours as they finalize logistics.

“We took the opportunity and are incredibly, incredibly excited to be able to call Harvard Square home for Union Square Donuts,” Danoff said.

The Harvard Crimson

‘We Love the Atmosphere’: Harvard Square Celebrates Oktoberfest and Honk!

Harvard Square filled with live music, food trucks, and people on Sunday to celebrate the 44th annual Harvard Square Oktoberfest and 18th annual Honk! Parade.

The Honk! festival featured a parade of local activist groups and free live performances from street bands. The festival lasted from Oct. 6 to Oct. 8, traveling to various neighborhoods in the Boston area.

Honk! is a street band movement that is “outrageous and inclusive, brass and brash, percussive and persuasive” and draws inspiration from a diverse range of music styles from around the world, according to its website.

David Brancazio, a pianist who has been participating in Honk! since 2015, said he originally saw the Honk! parade go down Massachusetts Avenue and knew he had to join, but he knew he couldn’t push a piano down the street and learned the melodica instead. He said that the festival has now “become a pretty big part” of his life.

Honk! is built as an activist festival, Brancazio said.

“People are used to going out and chanting the same things over and over, but when they have a street band with them, it becomes more fun for everybody and becomes more powerful,” Brancazio said.

Like Brancazio, who started the Boston Area Brigade of Activist Musicians, Chantal Sanchez also attended Honk! to support local activism.

Sanchez, a recent graduate of the Harvard Divinity School, is a member of the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign, which combats inequality at the intersection of systemic racism, poverty, environmental destruction, militarism, and religious nationalism.

Sanchez said the Poor People’s Campaign and Honk! use music and art as a way to “connect with people and get the word out.”

Declan J. Devine, who is from Roslindale, Massachusetts, joined the Jamaica Plains Honk! band about a year and a half ago. He said his favorite part of the band is “seeing so many people who are comfortable being themselves in the bands, who are just expressing themselves and not worrying about judgment.”

Abby A. Fechtman, a Cambridge resident, attended with her spouse and two daughters. She said she and her family are “Huge Honk! fans” and have been following Honk! for about 15 years.

“We love the atmosphere in Harvard Square and how lively it is, and we missed it during Covid,” Fechtman said.

Their daughters, Isabel H. Macedo and Luisa E. Macedo, grew up going to the festival. Isabel Macedo — who is now a sophomore at Cornell — said she remembers getting her palm read in middle school by a palm reader who predicted that she would have three kids one day.

Having lived in Cambridge for 21 years, Marcille C. Macedo — Fechtman’s spouse — considers Honk! his favorite event of the year.

“I love the spirit of Honk!” he said.

As Honk! concluded its three-day festival Sunday evening, Brancazio said he looks forward to seeing Honk! continue “to be a force for helping people fighting for social justice, economic justice, racial justice.”

The Crimson

Dual Manhole Explosions Shut Down Traffic in Harvard Square, Injure One Firefighter

Two manhole explosions on Brattle Street shut down traffic in Harvard Square amid undergraduate move-in Wednesday morning, according to the Cambridge Fire and Police departments.

No bystanders were reported injured, but a firefighter was hospitalized due to smoke inhalation.

The first explosion took place at 8:34 a.m. Wednesday just outside Bluestone Lane, a Harvard Square coffee shop at 27 Brattle St., sending up a plume of brownish-gray smoke. The fire department responded soon after, with police severely restricting access to the Square.

Shortly after the fire department arrived at the scene, a second manhole exploded, with flames coming out of both, Fire Chief Thomas F. Cahill Jr. said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters observe smoke rising from the scene of a manhole explosion at 27 Brattle Street on Wednesday morning.

Firefighters observe smoke rising from the scene of a manhole explosion at 27 Brattle Street on Wednesday morning. By Courtesy of Maggie Dawson

It was not immediately clear what had caused the blasts, though manhole explosions are typically the result of an electrical spark igniting the gas within the manhole. Manholes, which allow access to a city’s sewer system, can contain high levels of hazardous gases like hydrogen sulfide, methane, and carbon monoxide.

Cahill said it would be impossible to identify what led to the blast until someone can inspect the inside of the manhole, which could take a few days.

“Until you can get your eyes on it, there’s really no way to determine the cause,” Cahill said. He added that he believed the cause was related to the electric equipment within the manhole.

Christopher R. McKinnon, a spokesperson for residential energy company Eversource, wrote in an email that the company was responding to a damaged “underground secondary cable.”

“We responded just before nine o’clock this morning for reports of a manhole fire and immediately coordinated with Cambridge police and fire on scene to isolate the damaged cable and make the area safe,” McKinnon wrote.

Cahill said the fire department detected carbon monoxide levels above 100 parts per million in several businesses in the area, leading to their evacuations. He did not give a timeline for the business’ reopening. He added that despite the fire department’s efforts to lower carbon monoxide levels, they still registered in excess of 25 parts per million in some businesses at the time of the press conference, around 3:30 p.m.

A CPD alert shortly before 10:00 a.m. reported a “major traffic disruption” due to the blasts and warned residents to avoid the area.

“As a result of this explosion and subsequent response, Harvard Square is closed to vehicle traffic, and pedestrian traffic is restricted. If at all possible, people should avoid traveling through Harvard Square until further notice,” the alert read.

As of 11:37 a.m., at least five fire trucks remained outside the site of the explosion, though the flames had been extinguished, according to a firefighter on the scene. Firefighters were packing up their hoses and preparing to do a final check for carbon monoxide. The traffic closure appeared to be limited to the Brattle Square area by that point, with vehicular traffic resuming on JFK Street shortly before noon.

At least five fire trucks remained in the vicinity of the blasts shortly before noon, though by then, the flames had been extinguished.

At least five fire trucks remained in the vicinity of the blasts shortly before noon, though by then, the flames had been extinguished. By Ian C. Hua

Luis Garcia, a front-of-house manager at Felipe’s Taqueria on Brattle Street, described watching a growing cloud of smoke and active flames outside the restaurant.

“We were all inside the building, and all of a sudden, we hear a little explosion, and the lights went on and off,” Garcia said.

“Then we came out of the building and we saw a lot of smoke next door,” he added, referring to the area outside Bluestone Lane.

Cahill also said during the press conference that Eversource was working to turn off power to a third manhole that had been actively emitting carbon monoxide. He said that because manholes are connected underground, it is typical to see multiple failures at one time.

McKinnon, the Eversource spokesperson, confirmed later Wednesday evening that power had been cut off for the third manhole.

Harvard Square Business Association Executive Director Denise Jillson wrote in an email to HSBA members that Eversource’s ongoing work would leave some businesses in the area without power.

McKinnon wrote that Eversource brought a generator to the area on Wednesday afternoon for customers who had lost power, and that customers would be hooked up to the generator once Eversource receives approval from the City of Cambridge.

The manhole explosion and emergency response did not significantly impact student move-in Wednesday — the designated move-in date for freshmen not participating in pre-orientation programs and the first scheduled date for upperclassmen to arrive on campus. The explosions did not appear to cut off access to the Yard or upperclassman Houses by the late morning.

WBZ News Radio

Harvard Square Welcomes 38th Annual MayFair Festival

Photo: Suzanne Sausville/ (WBZ NewsRadio)

CAMBRIDGE (WBZNewsRadio) — It was a beautiful sunny day for the 38th annual MayFair Festival in Harvard Square on Sunday.

Streets were closed to traffic, opening the location up for festivalgoers to enjoy all the activities including street performers, live music, dance, and sidewalk sales.

There were three beer gardens and a wide variety of international food vendors serving everything from cannoli to Mexican street corn, to jumbo turkey legs