On October 31, 2016, a very special coffee shop in the heart of the North End closed its doors. To a group of regulars, Boston Common Coffee meant a space for making friends, sharing birthdays and having a window to the North End’s cast of characters.
Sitting at the windows, we sometimes would say it was better than the movies. Our neighbors would walk by and we could wave a kind hello. We could invite them in for a quick chat or even a coffee. The regulars – Avril, Ray, Gabe, Jerry, Ann and Zara, Tony, Tony and Sunny – all had a place to check in and chat.
Like so many of our neighborhood businesses, the local coffee shop fell victim to increasing competition. A brief conversation with Tony, one of the owners, made it clear the extent to which competition in the neighborhood and outside in the downtown area made a difference in his decision. For Boston Common, it wasn’t the rent. Tony let us know that the landlord was willing to work with them. It was the time and competition. With 4 BCC stores in total, it was difficult to manage. For such a small operation, hiring a General Manager didn’t make sense financially even though it was needed logistically. Adding to the burden were other activities, such as catering and coffee roasting (plus the other stores). As a result, it just made sense to close.
With over 100 restaurants and coffee shops in one square mile the North End represents a mecca for tourists. Slowly but surely, the needs of neighborhood residents are left out of the equation.
Boston Common was the “Cheers” of coffee shops. Everyone knew my name for sure. My 60th birthday party was held inside the coffee shop and loads of friends and strangers shared my delicious cake courtesy of Sandy Russo of Lulu’s. Sitting at the window bar, bright faces could be seen watching me blow out my candles and cut my pink frosted cake. All were invited to share in the celebration. It was an urban birthday, in place that had room for us all.
Over the years, owners Tony and Peter have been good to us. Opening on Thanksgiving and offering free coffee, shoveling enough to open on stormy days when everything else was closed. Many of the staff have become part of our coffee shop family. These urban relationships play an important role in our daily coffee ritual. They provide grounding when our biological families are far away.
Finding a new home for all of us is going to be a challenge. The window on Salem Street is a hard thing to replace. Who offers soy chai, would let “Sunny” in and let us linger. It was sad for co-owner Tony as well. He met his wife at the Salem Street location a year after it opened. That’s where he fell in love.
Boston Common Coffee will be difficult to replace. Thank you to Tony and Peter for their commitment to this neighborhood. We will miss you.
Article by North End resident, Donna Lubrano.