For years, Shirley Avenue has been a bustling center of business, but none of the businesses have ever been able to unite behind creating a unified district as exists in our areas.
That, however, has changed recently as businesses have begun to unite to form one voice.
There were occasional complaints, or calls for help here and there to the City, but it was a fractured effort.
Now, that is all changing as the businesses along Shirley Avenue – from a Spanish hair salon to a Moroccan bakery to a Vietnamese restaurant to the tried and true Bagel Bin.
Already, they have had one meeting of the Shirley Avenue Business Association, and though it is still in its infancy, another meeting is planned and business owners are taking the lead.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Silvia Argueta, manager of the Tedeschi’s on Shirley Avenue. “I don’t see any of my neighboring businesses so much as competition, but as someone who can help. We need to work with each other to make things better. How are we going to keep the streets clean and safe for our customers if we don’t work together? If I shovel my sidewalk, and another business doesn’t, how is anyone going to get to any of the businesses? We need to have the same voice – all of us.”
At the critically acclaimed (by the Boston Globe) Cambodian Restaurant, Thmor Da, owner Bunsreng Sok said everyone has always just concentrated on their own space, but that has not solved the overall problems – such as trash.
He said with more cooperation, the Ave can become something even better than it is now.
“There are all these different businesses, but no one goes outside their business,” he said. “The one reason we need to get everyone together is we can get more people to come to the businesses. To do that, we need to have people feel comfortable and safe so that they will come for the first time. We have to do something together on the street so there is no trash, no papers and we have something better. Things are better here, but we can do better than this together.
“I have my own store; they have their own store, but none of us want trash in front of any of our stores,” he continued. “If we work together, we can get that done.”
The effort came to bear through a planning process directed by The Neighborhood Developers (TND). TND’s Elijah Plymesser said TND isn’t leading the way, but helping the businesses get started in their effort. He said they’ve done things like show restaurants and businesses how to get online, how to encourage online reviews and how to coordinate marketing.
“An important thing to note is all the work we’re doing is a result of a two-year Shirley Avenue Action Planning program,” he said. “We engaged hundreds of people and business owners. There are things the community identified as priorities. It’s very grass roots driven. It’s not just TND coming in bringing an expert who would steamroll the process. It’s really the community and business community that demanded these kinds of things.
“We’re just trying to lay the groundwork and create the good habit of getting together often,” he continued. “The businesses may decide that they don’t want a business district, or maybe they don’t. We want to show them the possibilities right now that are out there.”
Some of those things include creating a standing kiosk near Revere Beach Train Station advertising the businesses that exist on Shirley Avenue.
Plymesser said many people coming to the Beach may not know there is a vibrant business district that offers numerous services.
“We really want to tie the business district for the Beach and we want to encourage foodies to come here,” he said. “We want people to come and buy unique products at Angkor Thom market or Al Salam Market. These are places that have unique items and people from those countries come here to buy them. There are also the culturally adventurous. To have Central American, Moroccan, Cambodian and other cultures all on one block – that’s a date night for me. Half the battle is getting the word out.”
Anh Vo, who owns the recently opened Seaside Pharmacy, said she likes the idea of working with her fellow business owners, and especially likes the idea of a kiosk.
“That’s very valuable because unfortunately people don’t know there’s a pharmacy here or restaurants or the bakeries,” she said. “It’s been a good idea to get to know other businesses. I don’t know Shirley Avenue or Revere that well. I appreciate that effort and everybody has been very nice.”
Other ideas have also been peppered around, such as crosswalks decorated with different cultural motifs – such as Moroccan, Central American or others.
There’s also the problem with old lottery tickets littering the sidewalks. An idea has been suggested that Tedeschi’s offer a recycling program where customers would get 2 cents for every ticket they bring in to recycle. That’s still just an idea in the early stages, but owners from up and down the Ave – including Tedeschi’s – like it.
Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky said he is encouraged by the new group of businesses.
About a year ago, amidst concerns about parking in the Municipal Lot – which is completely metered, he was able to make some changes to get half of the lot reserved for business owner parking. There are now 22 spaces in there for such use, he said.
Another change he cited was getting six 30-minute parking spaces in front of the Casablanca Bakery – which thrives on people stopping for short periods of time.
“That was one thing they wanted and we were able to get that done,” he said.
Overall, he said the organization is helpful for him in being a city councillor.
“I’m open to that,” he said. “To me, when they do get together, it gives me a chance to talk to them all at the same time.”
Plymesser said more meetings are planned for the near future, and he encouraged other businesses on Shirley Avenue to get involved.