It is the time of year when the tourist traffic starts to dwindle and neighborhood businesses often decide to make a change, remodel or even close the doors for good. North Ender Adam Castiglioni wandered the streets recently and noticed a growing number of closed storefronts. Here’s a recap.

The Italian 7 art and gallery shop has closed. A building permit sign in the window cites renovations, but no word on a reopening date.

Closed for good is the Green Cross Pharmacy at the corner of Hanover and Clark Streets. The Giangregorio brothers have retired (see their recent award). Work is underway at the space for another type of shop but there are few other details at this time.

The poster child for failed development is at Cross Street Plaza (198 Hanover St.) where the property owned by Charter Realty has remained empty despite a “Spring 2019 Opening” sign for new retail and restaurant. A proposal last year by Starbucks was withdrawn after neighboring businesses opposed the coffee company. Since then, there has been no mention of new tenants and work is at a standstill for the new building.

Abutting the Prado on Hanover Street, the storefront of the former Maurizio’s remains empty after two years amid speculation of a new restaurant opening in the space.

On the corner of Commercial and Hanover Streets, the former 7-Eleven store remains empty as work continues on the building that was condemned due to structural concerns. Work is progressing but residents of 454-464 Hanover Street have still not been allowed to re-occupy their units on the upper floors.

Photos by Adam Castiglioni.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. I’m surprised not to see the vacant former High Gear Jewelry at 204 Hanover, though he seemed to focus on more recent closings. That has been empty since at least 2013, much longer than Cross Street Plaza.

  2. I wonder if the decision to stop short-term rentals in non-owner-occupied units has had an effect on local businesses. Seems many have closed their doors in the last year, since the ruling went into effect.

    • The Airbnb ruling jut went into effect on Sept 1, 2019. It has nothing to do with retail space being vacant and everything to do with crazy high rents that it seems only restaurants, hair salons and nail salons can afford to pay and stay in business

  3. Premium leases require that you have a product that moves rapidly due to the size of these floor spaces. Tourist type business is more difficult because the owner has to pay the same lease in the shoulder season when foot traffic is low. Something else is happening now. The cost of labor is rising. The tight labor market means you have to attract workers by showing them a better rate than they get now. Lack of labor, plus high rentals are squeezing small businesses.

  4. I’ve lived here mora than half of my life. Landlords of these buildings/businesses need to step up and support small business. Small business owners are what give this neighborhood its uniqueness, charm and make this neighborhood better. With rents that are unattainable because of the landlords greed, it’s impossible to succeed. Something needs to change. Nobody wants to see Chase bank as the face of this neighborhood.

    • I’m pretty sure having national chains is a lot better for the neighborhood than a vacant lot. It’s this level of isolationism and aversion to bigger businesses that led to the North End looking like a shanty town.

      • Nobody wants to come to the North End for a national chain, Vince. Sounds to me like you’re one of the greedy landlords of the hood that I was referring too above.

        There is nothing more isolating than the UNWILLING landowners. The North End is prime real estate. With the exception of the “Smoke Shop” every chain has failed since the deliberate arson of the Dunkin’ Donuts on Salem Street. And I’m not sure why or how the “Smoke Shop” was ever approved for this area in the first place.

        It’s time for the landlords to step up, make the North End affordable and support small businesses. Quit whining about how you’re losing money because of Encore, etc. Invest in your neighborhood and you’ll reap the real rewards.

        • FYI unless the space is a change of use that requires a zoning variation appeal or a restaurant looking to transfer or obtain a new liquor license a landlord does not need neighborhood approval for the business he chooses as a tenant.
          The former Salem Street Hardware store was and is zoned commercial and the building owner rented that space to someone he knew would be able to pay the rent based on his due diligence of the owners financials . The Smoke Shop is a LOCAL chain not a national much like DePasquale Ventures and the Strega restaurants.

      • Not sure if you live here, Vince but…the North End does not look like a :shanty town”. Every neighborhood is going to have empty storefronts from time to time.

        I used to think the same way….national chain is better than empty but….I’m beginning to think differently. If the place stays empty long enough, maybe the owners drop the rent. I honestly would rather see places empty for a few months than put in yet another restaurant. I doubt it will happen but I’d love to see the city put a moratorium on restaurants in the neighborhood. Maybe then rents will come down to make it affordable for anything other than a bank or a restaurant.

  5. modern economic blight: the economies are not working for small businesses, rental costs are prohibitive and the landlords are delusional. we are so extinct.

  6. I still can’t believe IlPanino Express became Quattro that was literally one of the best sit downs for lunch, pizza, subs, etc it was that huge too. The only mistake Depasquale made. NE is definitly changing though sadly.

  7. The Cross Street vacancies are almost suspicious.

    Clearly the floor plans are too large, so the landlords should rework the layouts. I heard they are asking insane rents for those places. The neighborhood should engage the landlords in a respectful and productive way because that is a terrible look. Are they holding out for some large development? Not trying to stir the pot – honestly do not understand how they can let those go empty all this time.

    On the topic of chains, how is it ok to have JP Morgan and not Starbucks? Both are national brands and JP Morgan is a MUCH larger company. I personally think railroading Starbucks was silly. And we cannot just pull the “greed” card – but I definitely think the neighborhood deserves at least an explanation about why they are sitting there vacant.

  8. More than landlords are an issue here. They need to pay the propeties and income taxes which run higher and more numerous than residential taxes. The state and city take their bite from both the landlord and commercial tenant. Again, and what was surprising me, there is a trend where businesses are closing down because they can’t get available help. 90% of new businesses fail within their first 5 years, this is not a new statistic. The article simply points out businesses that have closed. You’d almost need to examine each case to know why.

  9. The simple places have slowly disappeared over the years,,there used to be at least a dozen butchers all whom did well enough to raise their families feeding north end families, they got pushed out merely because cost to stay afloat was t enough,,we were fortunate to grow up in a personalized north end,,now there’s still some families doing biz and doing it well to keep going (Monica’s is one) this used to be my playground,,,,

  10. I shed no tears for the closed businesses because people are failing to see the other side. We have SOME restaurants that serve mediocre food and bring you the check and main course at the same time. that have lines on the street. Every place seems to be packed every weekend so each place should be looked at differently as I don’t think every place closed for the same reason.

  11. I own the building on Lewis Street where Tenoch is located. Maintaining a commercial space is expensive and a nuisance. Taxes and insurance are much higher and tenants want long term leases. That’s why so many of our old North End storefronts have been turned into short term rentals or condos. It’s tragic and really changes the character of a neighborhood. Street activity is what makes a neighborhood safe and what gives it character. The city could do much more to encourage storefronts by taxing them at a more reasonable rate. The commercial tax rate is the same for a 600 sq ft storefront as for a financial district high rise.

  12. Years ago an old respected wise guy said to me “look around in 20 years everything you see families and stores. (Some stores were landmarks in the NE).I said to him with all due respect your nuts) He said it was because of $ & greed. As time has gone by I now realize he was right. In another twenty years the only places left will be Chase Bank & Mike’s pastry.

  13. Years ago an old respected wise guy said to me “look around in 20 years everything you see families and stores. (Some stores were landmarks in the NE) will be gone.
    .I said to him with all due respect your nuts) He said it was because of $ & greed. As time has gone by I now realize he was right. In another twenty years the only places left will be Chase Bank & Mike’s pastry.

  14. After successfully operating my restaurant (Four Winds Bar and Grill) for more than 45 yrs. , my wife and I made a decision to sell our business and property to retire and travel to places we always yearned to visit and enjoy.
    Being in our late sixties and tiring of the constant stress and pressure that operating a restaurant and bar entails is daunting and tiring to say the least. Even owning the property mortgage free does not diminish the risks that owning a restaurant presents in terms of total operating expenses. In our situation the property tax alone amounted to $600 + per week in addition to payroll costs , insurance (building,contents,liquor and public liability, product liability, workers compensation, plus cost of utilities, state and city meals taxes, licensing fees, parking fees, credit card processing fees , etc. After all of this you pray that all of your equipment remains operating which could be a nightmare in itself. Most of all, the ability to hire and retain a great staff with so much competition around is forcing many small family operations to close. The opening of Encore has pulled many employees to that location.
    I hope I am wrong but I predict that the restaurants of the future will be national brands at the expense of all the wonderful small mom and pops that we love to visit. In conclusion, I love most of the people I have met and befriended but I will not miss the long hours and the stress.
    Tom Gioia

  15. As far as I’m concern and just one opinion in many. The city of Boston high rates makes it hard to get a business started. The N.E. Can use another nice neighborhood hardware store. The one on Salem strret had a little bit of everything. And the one on Fleet Street is never open, or does not open. Folks come into the North End because it’s the N.E. You need to have a business that fits the charm and of course a person who can afford it. And to add, unless the city, mayor, city council person and the Police don’t start to clean up the North End with its druggies and homeless who are mostly on drugs, who wants to open a business.

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