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A box of JoJo’s raw chocolates in exchange for a love story. (Photo by Jody)

This Valentine’s Day, Cupid has returned to the North End to celebrate the love stories that flourish here through a project started by Holistic Health Coach and North End resident Jody Grimm. Earlier this month, Jody set out to discover what makes people fall in love and stay in love. Whether it’s love for a friend, a dog, a sibling, or a spouse, Jody is getting the North End into the holiday spirit by highlighting the love stories all around us. In exchange for sharing a love story, Jody is giving individuals a box of her homemade Jo Jo’s Raw Kitchen chocolate truffles.

For the past ten years, Jody has lived in the North End where she offers private coaching sessions for physical and emotional health and also works as a raw chocolatier. In addition to these professional roles, Jody is a hopeless romantic. As Hallmark reminded consumers of the upcoming holiday, Jody, like so many of us, found herself curious about relationships – What builds a strong friendship? How do individuals fall in love? What makes relationships continue to tick? To answer these questions, Jody began looking for stories within her own North End neighborhood.

She didn’t have to look far. Jody found individuals from her daily life were more than willing to talk about their own special relationships. She interviewed shop owners, yoga teachers, and individuals who have spent most of their lives in the neighborhood. When asked about people’s reactions, she said feedback has been great. Men and women, young and old have been excited to share their stories and to encourage others to do the same. The other day, Jody was speaking to a Salem Street resident about his love story when he suddenly saw some friends and shouted out to them, “Hey! Get over here! She’s doin’ love stories!” Just like that she had two more interviewees – no Cupid arrows needed to spread the love.

These love stories are as beautiful and unique as the people who live them, right here in the North End. You can read some of the neighborhood’s heartwarming stories below. As Jody described it, “You’d be surprised how much people light up when they’re talking about the people they love.”

"You don't know me but, you're gonna be my wife," were his first words to her at a bus stop in Revere. They were 15 years old. She couldn't stand him at first, did all she could to avoid him, but Albie persisted and did in fact make that girl his wife. Fast forward thirty years, and he still feels as lucky as ever. "I don't know how people live like they do, not wanting to go home to their husband or wife…" he told me. "We give each other space, we do our own things, so that when we come home it's like, 'ahh,' he sighed, 'so how was your day?'" "The space is important, but also the trust," he explained, "you gotta have that." I've been buying produce from Albie's North End shop for almost ten years, and one thing I know about him is that he's a family man. Pictures of his wife and kids line the shelves of his shop, and he lights up as he tells stories about them. "Neither me or my wife is off partying or gambling… for both of us it's 100% about the family picture." So, of course, the box of truffles I gave Albie will be goin to his wife – and not because of any ONE thing he loves about her… "She's got it all," he told me, "she's the whole package." 🎁 ** For more of Albie's story and for the best produce in the neighborhood, stop by his shop next time you're swinging through the North End! Thank you @albaproduce !! ***Jo Jo's Raw Kitchen is celebrating Valentine's Day this year by sharing a series of neighborhood love stories. Chocolate in exchange for love stories. Pretty good deal, no? Hope you'll follow along! And keep an eye out for Jo Jo's Valentine's Day order info, coming soon. 💕

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"We talked for two hours about whether or not we should kiss," she told me, "because we both knew that what we were really talking about was whether or not we should get married." Marian, my favorite boutique owner in Boston, and her husband, Nelson, met in math class when they were fourteen. Nearly a decade of friendship followed. As friends, these two traveled cross country, doubled dated, and met for coffee regularly to vent about their relationships. Then there was a moment at Rockport Beach… "I'm not sure if it was the ocean, or the sun, but I started to see him differently that day," Marian remembered 🏖 Well, soon after, these two friends did kiss. And just as they'd thought, it led to marriage. After raising two kids, and soon to celebrate thirty years of marriage, Marian and Nelson's connection remains strong and fulfilling. Adventurous as ever, this couple takes trips to Thailand, Paris and everywhere in between ✈️ (Marian's boutique collection is inspired by many of her travels!) When home in Boston, they cook and take walks together, every night. Oh, and they've recently rediscovered ping pong! "He's my partner in life," Marian acknowledged. "After twenty years of raising kids, some spouses look at each other and say, 'Oh, well, I'm not sure I like you anymore,' but we looked at each other and said, 'Yes, I get you back!" 👫 **It was such a joy talking to Marian (as always) and hearing about the someone she loves. Next time you're in the North End, come chat with Marian and check out her beautiful shop (clothes, handmade jewelry, home goods, etc. etc.)! @shakethetreeboston ** Jo Jo's Raw Kitchen (that's me!) is celebrating Valentine's Day this year by sharing a series of neighborhood love stories. Chocolate in exchange for love stories. Pretty good deal, no? Hope you'll follow along! And keep an eye out for Jo Jo's Valentine's Day order info, coming very soon 💕

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"He saw my soul beyond my skin," Jo told me, referring to her boyfriend, Mark. Every Saturday around noon I find my way back to myself in Joanna's class at North End Yoga. And every Saturday her boyfriend Mark is also there, on his mat, in the same room where they met almost four years ago. At the time Jo wasn't looking for love, and besides, she didn't think Mark was her type. But she couldn't deny the connection. "I just loved being around him," Jo remembered, "it was easy." So much so that they continued to hang out as friends for two years. Now, two years into their relationship, Jo is sure their friendship is what makes them so strong. "He takes care of me, he's incredibly patient… and he makes me the happiest," she said, all smiles 👫 So, Mark certainly gets a box of chocolates, but Jo wouldn't stop there. "I'd need at least four boxes," she told me, "to spread the love. Everybody needs a little…" 💝 Next on her list would be her sister, Amanda, her best friend. "She just had a baby and is working so hard… she deserves some chocolate." And then, Jo thought, "I'd give a box to someone in Thinking Cup," her favorite North End cafe. "Someone who remembers my name, you know, anyone who gives me my hot water and lemon, and makes my day just a bit better, without even knowing it." And lastly, Jo would give a box to one of her yoga students. "Every day someone says something or looks at me a certain way that reminds me how much I love my work," she explained. "It's the people around me who make me who I am, and my students have no idea how much I'm nourished by them." *** I knew to talk love, I needn't look any further than Jo. One of the most genuine and truly kind people I know, Jo radiates with love and receives love in return. If you've never taken Jo's class, get yourself in there! Thank you, beautiful Jo, for sharing your time and stories with me 😘 @jojobeno ** Are you ready to get your chocolate and share with the someones you love? Jo Jo's Valentines Day chocolate is ready for purchase! Click on the link in my Insta profile to get yours! #jojosrawkitchen

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"She worked up the street and she'd pass by here every day to see Bentley," Steve told me. Steve, a much loved and talented designer, makes and sells custom made hats and leather goods in his North End. And Bentley, his Bernese Mountain Dog, typically sprawled on his dog bed outside the shop, is easily the most loved dog in the neighborhood. If you know these two, you can imagine why a girl would make a point to stop by and chat🐶 "It took me months to work up the courage to ask her out," Steve told me, "and when I was finally ready to do it, she stopped coming by!" Just his luck. He asked around and found out she'd been transferred to another location 😩 Months later, he found himself in East Boston, making a run to the Dollar Store. Luckily he had his eyes open cuz guess who he spotted on the street? Same girl. "Let's get some ice cream sometime," he said, without hesitation. And the rest is history. Just a few months later, they now live together. "We just hit it off," Steve explained. "I mean, I have Bentley," he smiled, "and this, the shop… I'd been so focused on business, I wasn't going around looking for girls. But if I see something in someone, I feel it right away, and that's how it was with her." 💕 Every time I walk into Steve's retro shop, I feel like I've been taken back in time. The same way I felt hearing his love story. There was no talk of Facebook or texting, just an old school, serendipitous meeting of two hearts. Go check out Steve's shop and give some love to Bentley while you're there! @wcworkshop ***And while you're thinking of those YOU love, click on the link in my Insta profile to order your Valentine's Day chocolates!

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"Every day, for three years, he'd ask me what his chances with me were, on a scale of 1 to 10. And every day I gave him the same answer: zero." 😩 But Julio knew Regina was worth the effort. So, he kept showing up. After a long day of work he'd visit Regina at her job, at Theo's Cozy Corner, a restaurant that feels like home to many locals in the North End. "I was working late cleaning the restaurant in those days," Regina told me, "so he'd come by and help me. For three years he cleaned the restaurant with me for free!" And finally, Julio made his move. "One day, while cleaning the kitchen floor, he caught me off guard and passionately stole a kiss," Regina remembered. Over fifteen years have passed since that day. Regina and Julio are not only happily married but for over a decade have worked together at Theo's, where they can be found six days a week whipping up the best breakfast in the neighborhood, moqueca (Brazilian fish stew), or a very full plate of Chicken Tortellini Alfredo 🍝 "He's a good husband, thank God," Regina told me. "He loves me a lot and takes very good care of me." *** It was such a treat to hang with these two, as always, and to hear more about their love. Next time you're in the neighborhood stop by @theoscozycorner for a big smile from Regina and a delicious (and very filling) plate of food. Both your heart and your belly will leave happy. *** Have you been thinking about your own love stories? Send a box of chocolate to someone you love by clicking the link in my profile! To receive by Valentine's Day order must be placed by next Wednesday! 💝

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"What's that guy starring at?" Rosa wondered out loud. She'd looked up from her BINGO game and seen Joseph gazing at her. That was over fifty years ago, on a boat, making it's way from Italy to America. Joseph and Rosa were in their twenties and in the seven days it took that boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean, they began their life together (although of course, they didn't yet know it at the time). Once in the States, Rosa and Joseph went separate ways, she to Boston and he, to New York. Not long after they'd settled into their two cities, Joseph made his next move. With her address in hand, and her image still in mind, he sent Rosa a birthday package 📦His attempt to reconnect was not in vain, and was followed by regular phone calls, and eventually Joseph's move to Boston. Joseph and I got to talking about his love story when I stopped into the North End shop he runs, Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shoppe 🍝 "She passed eight years ago and I still think of her every day," he told me, "every day." He pointed at a picture of the two of them that hangs on the wall at the shop and told me he visits her gravestone every Monday morning. "There was never one specific thing I loved about her. She was just a phenomenal woman," he said. Through forty years of marriage, co-owning multiple businesses, and having two children, I wondered what kept these two together. "We had our ups and downs, of course," Joseph explained, "but we never went to bed mad. We always knew how to compromise." Joseph's description of his relationship was one of a partnership, an intimate connection. "She was absolutely my best friend. We knew everything about each other. There was nowhere I'd go without her. There was no 'you pay for this and I'll pay for that'… no, we shared everything." He laughed and continued, "I don't think I ever bought my own clothes during our marriage! She knew me so well. She knew my size and knew what I liked. It's hard now without her." When talking with Joseph I remembered a line I recently read… **(cont. reading in comments below…)

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This Valentine’s Day, go out and tell the special people in your life how much they mean to you! To learn more about Jody, visit her website: jodygrimm.com


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Amanda. Uplifting and happy stories. So creative of you to post the photos of the neighborhood people with their journeys to love !

  2. You will never know how much I/We thoroughly enjoyed reading your stories..especially today. 70 years ago, while walking home from the Michaelangelo school, that we both attended, I gave my “crush” my first gift, It was a gold locket that she wore today as a rememberance of that day walking up Hull Street. We married and left the North End many years ago. We traveled the country and the world over during my military career, but the North End will always be our home. Happy Valentines Day to you and all your readers, and a special “wish” to all who shared their stories. Stay the course..

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