South End Spotlight
I feel so lucky that my family and I have spent more than a decade in the South End. And while our neighborhood transforms into an even more incredible place to live, I'm even more aware of the old school people who preserve heritage and connect us to the history of our special place.
Caroline Foscato and Carolyn MacNeil
Meet Carolyn and Caroline. These two incredibly inspiring women have become true pillars of the community through their creation of South End Soccer. South End Soccer uses the world’s most popular sport - soccer - as a tool to connect the kids of this diverse neighborhood. By using an innovative organizational model, SES has been able to draw in participants from all socioeconomic backgrounds - overcoming the obstacles that often hinder urban youth and underserved communities from getting on the field. In this program, no kid is turned away from joining based on ability to pay and equipment is available to all. SES does amazing work to bring together not only the kids of the community who are able to play, work and learn together - but they also bring together countless volunteers, sponsors, families and neighborhood stakeholders who make the program possible.
Names: Caroline Foscato and Carolyn MacNeil
Caroline: President & Co-Founder of South End Soccer
Carolyn: Boston Public Schools Ombudsperson & Co-Founder of South End Soccer
Caroline: South End Soccer is at P.O. Box 180833, Boston MA
Carolyn: My office is at the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, 2300 Washington Street, Roxbury MA
How long have you been in the South End:
Caroline: 25 years. Wow, a long, long, long time.
Carolyn: I live in West Roxbury but my connection to the South End dates back to 2000 when I worked for the Boston Police Department.
Caroline: I don’t have one! It ranges - from waking up in the morning and doing emails, having meetings with partners/finders, meeting with coaches and staff; I try to connect with parents and players as well. Every day is different and brings a new surprise. It definitely depends on what season we are currently in.
Carolyn: (laughs) My typical days are not soccer related. There is no typical day for me. My job is dealing with high level complaints and concerns revolving around Boston Public Schools. I am in charge of mediating parent issues in the schools as well as acting as a resource for the staff. I get lots of phone calls and emails from people in perceived crisis. It's constantly resolving issues and putting out fires.
Favorite thing about the South End:
Caroline: I love the community. Because of the work I do, I get to connect with people from all sorts of backgrounds. I love meeting someone whose family has lived in the South End for three generations and then meeting someone that is new to the neighborhood but wants to help out. I love the diversity here. Of course, the restaurants! The aesthetics of the neighborhood are really beautiful, too.
Carolyn: I’d say the beauty, the history and the diversity. I love the density of it too. There are just a lot of people in a small community and I’d say they are very tight knit. Everyone has great concern for their neighbors and that’s what makes a community. And I love how much the neighborhood has changed.
How have you seen the neighborhood change?
Caroline: Honestly, I’ve seen good and bad change in our community. A lot of people have moved in and are excited about the neighborhood - but at the same time, due to high cost of living, some people have needed to move out. There’s a great sense of community but the socio-economic divide has its challenges. The construction has gotten a little out of control. A lot of people added really beautiful things but not everyone has been able to benefit from these things. That’s the essence of it.
Carolyn: I love how much the neighborhood has changed since I’ve been acquainted with it. When I was first here, there were many families that lived here. Then, it changed to a lot of single people. Now, it has gone back to family. It really has been a change to see the family renaissance. Along with changes in family composition, there are changing demographics. The opioid crisis has affected the neighborhood in some very profound ways. There are some people here seeking services but also people seeking other things. It has defined the neighborhood in some ways. It has started a big conversation about what’s realistic for the neighborhood in terms of programs and social organizations and at the core: healthcare.
Caroline: I can’t pick one! A funny anecdote: I always tell people I never need to leave my neighborhood because we have so many great spots. Hmmm, I'll go with Picco - I love to eat there with the family. They have the best dark chocolate fudge. But wait: Foley’s burgers, Myers + Chang and Barcelona! I could go on.
Carolyn: Cinquecento and Stella. I love them both.
Best day of your life:
Caroline: That would be a tie. One was the day I married my husband. I'm Scottish so we had bagpipes that went in a parade down Boylston Street. The second is the day I found out I was having twins. It was really crazy because I was already five months pregnant! Those were fun calls to my family - I giggled for two days!
Carolyn: I have two kids so the natural reaction is the days they were born. But, there is one day that I remember fondly: it was the day I graduated from Suffolk Graduate School. I was a single parent so it was a lot. I was proud.
Caroline: We've taken some great ones! Wow. I think I have to say when our family went to the Grand Canyon and rafted and hiked. We camped at the bottom. That was an amazing family vacation. You know what they say: work hard, play hard!
Carolyn: I’ve traveled a lot but really I’m good w a beach and a book. I just love the Cape and I go there every summer.
Favorite junk food:
Caroline: Dark chocolate and bourbon (laughs). But that’s good for you, right?! Antioxidants!
Carolyn: I don’t eat a lot of junk food, but, I do love Twix bars. They are the perfect little crunch but I just eat the minis.
Caroline: I have very diverse and eclectic taste but I have to go with my girls Pink and Alicia Keys. If they come within 300 miles of Boston I go. Girl power!
Carolyn: I absolutely love Elton John! Wait, and I love Queen!
Caroline: We Are Marshall. It's based on a true story that took place in Virginia.
Carolyn: I’m not a big movie person. My favorite is Brooklyn - it's an indie film.
Caroline: Impolite people. If someone smiles, smile back! It’s not complicated.
Carolyn: Not acknowledging another person. I hate that. I also hate when people don’t return messages or phone calls. You return a phone call!
Caroline: I love to fish even though I’m not good at it. I also love jigsaw puzzles. Put one in front of me and I’ll stay up 36 hours.
Carolyn: I’ve done a few triathlons. I did one one in Duxbury and I was the only girl on the team… and I beat all the guys on my team! They were all Boston Police officers! I've also held a plank for 17 minutes.
Person you’d like to meet:
Caroline: I’d like to go back in time and meet my ancestors. I'd love to see who they were.
Where you’d like to be in 10 years:
Caroline: Hmm, I really need to work on my vision plan. I’d like to still be doing the community work I do. And I’d like to be happy and still vacationing with my kids and husband.
Carolyn: I’d like to be formally retired, but deciding how I’m going to spend some of my free time - probably another non-profit or social justice work of some sort. Maybe I’ll start something else!
What do you think the South End will look like in 10 years:
Caroline: My hope is that it will still be the unique and eclectic neighborhood that it is. I hope we don't get a lot of chain stores. I hope the various socio-economic groups will be more united.
Carolyn: Agreed! I was devastated to see the Tubman House leave, and now the Benjamin Franklin Institute. I hope the neighborhood protects and preserves the neighborhood housing.
Meet Trevor McLean. Trevor is a hardworking, light-hearted freshman on the basketball team at Emerson College. He spends his days juggling practice, weight-lifting with his teammates, homework and his work-study job at the campus gym. In the summers, Trevor moves back to the South End, where he grew up - where he is able to spend time with his family and work at local basketball camps. Having spent almost his whole life in the neighborhood, he has dreams of traveling the world or living on the west coast one day. Along with that youthful curiosity, though, he has an appreciation for all the different types of people who live in the South End who have helped shape him into who he is - and he has a keen perspective on the way that the neighborhood has evolved over his lifetime.
Name: Trevor McLean
Profession: College freshman and basketball player
Address: Emerson College, 120 Boylston Street, Boston
How long have you been in the South End: I am from the South End. I’ve been here all my life other than when I was at boarding school. Now, I go to Emerson so I’m still about five minutes from home. For boarding school, I went to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. It’s really pretty out there. It’s definitely really different from here - I wouldn’t say you’re isolated because there are so many other schools around, but it’s just not like being in the city. A lot of people at school say they’re surprised when they find out that I grew up five minutes away. Then, a lot of people ask why I came here. I could have chosen a different school in a different place but I’m really happy with where I ended up.
Typical day: I normally have class from 8:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon, then practice from 2:00 to 4:00. Then usually we have to go lift from 4:00 until 5:30 and from 5:30 to around 9:00 it’s either my work-study job - I work on campus at the tap desk where I let students into the gym - or it’s homework. I only get 8 hours of work-study per week but it still works out well. In the summer, I live with my mom in a small apartment in the South End. I work summer camps, three weeks at Cathedral High School. On Sundays, I used to help coach Pasta Guys. That was for about 4-5 years. Sometimes, I work camps outside of Boston in towns like Waltham. I also organize workouts with my teammates at Emerson.
What do you like best about the South End: I like the diversity of it. I think my mom introduced me to and showed me all different types of people at a really young age - people of different races and sexual orientations and ages - it is a mix of everything and I like that.
How have you seen the neighborhood change: It has definitely changed with all the new apartments and everything that has been built around the area where I live. Gentrification has definitely been a thing, and it seems like there is now some white flight going on. On the positive side, a lot of new restaurants and small businesses have been thriving.
Favorite restaurant: JJ Foleys. I’ve been going there ever since I was young.
Best day of your life: The day I decided to come to Emerson, actually. It was a perfect situation for me - I went to boarding school for four years so it felt like I was away from my family for so long. My family came to every basketball game throughout my high school career but it was hard for them because it was a two hour drive. Now, my mom is right down the street and I can go down to the South End easily. It’s much easier for me to see family and friends and people who are important to me - which was obviously much harder when I was at boarding school. They can come to my games without having to drive two hours there and back. I love being back in the city.
Best vacation: I went to Toronto for the first time - it was my first time being out of the country. It was cool to be in another city. It was my sophomore year of high school and I went to visit a family friend there. It’s a really cool city and the food was really good - the culture is definitely different.
Favorite junk food: Do poptarts count? Late night poptarts. The brown sugar ones are my favorite. S’mores are bomb too - but you have to put them in the microwave.
Favorite musician/band: I like hip hop and R+B. My favorite artists are Drake and J. Cole.
Favorite movie: The Town, for sure. I love crime movies - but that one being based here in Boston and having Ben Affleck in it, who is from here, is pretty cool. I have to watch it at least once a month.
Pet peeve: I’m a big hygiene guy. When people don’t smell good or have good hygiene or they’re germy - that bugs me. I don’t like germs.
Fun fact: I was born on January 1!
Person you’d most like to meet: I don’t want to say anything basketball related, so maybe J. Cole. I think he has some cool stories and he’s been through a lot. In his lyrics he talks about having to face oppression in a pretty serious way so I would like to pick his brain about that. And I’d like to hear his life stories.
Where you want to be in 10 years: Hopefully I’ll have a job that allows me to travel around and see the world. I don’t travel much because I’m always so busy with school and basketball. I definitely want to be doing something that I actually like doing and that I’m excited to wake up and do every day. I want to be in a city - don’t know if it’ll be Boston because I’ve already been here for so long and I’m going to be here for longer until I finish school. Maybe I’d like to try somewhere on the west coast - somewhere warm.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I think and hope it will still be as diverse as it is right now - with all the different types of people living in the same area. I hope businesses will still be doing well and thriving.
Meet Jack Repetti. Jack is the owner/operator of the South End institution, The Eagle (as well as the Olde Dutch Cottage Candy Shop next door). This somewhat gritty and unassuming neighborhood gay bar has been in business on Tremont Street since the early 80’s. Prior to making the move to the Tremont Street, Jack had run a business in Beacon Hill, which means he can easily recall the days before families and professionals were flocking to the tree lined streets of the South End. He recalls that at the time, the neighborhood was almost completely made up of rooming houses and was primarily inhabited by immigrants and socio-economic outcasts. While the neighborhood may have been looked down upon all those years ago, the South End pioneers brought with them rich culture - signs of which can still be found in the neighborhood today. Want to learn a little bit about the history of the South End? Look no further than The Eagle - where patrons find homages to gay culture and have the opportunity hear about the now-sought-after neighborhood’s origins right from the horse’s mouth. If you ask around about The Eagle, you’ll no doubt hear that Jack slings just as many tales of the South End as he does drinks.
Name: Jack Repetti
Profession: Great question! What does one answer when you "do" a little of everything? I'll go with South End resident.
Business address: Boston Eagle, 520 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118... I mean, it's only been here 39 years!
How long have you been in the South End: 55 years, can you imagine?
Typical day: My days vary depending on what I have to do. Between the Eagle and our Candy Shop and all the other things - there is never a dull moment.
What do you like best about the South End: There’s always been a love affair with the neighborhood. It’s always been a fascinating place. I travel all around the world and love to come home to all the beauty we have right here.
How have you seen the neighborhood change: When I came here, no one would live here and it was all rooming houses. Mayor White changed all of that. I walked around these streets when our businesses were still over in Beacon Hill. You’d walk down the street and you'd see the whole front of houses would be down. Mayor White wanted to sell them all. The South End has changed so drastically. It’s interesting to see it go from being a gay community to a homogenized, totally different part of city. The thing I find fascinating is that people come here and spend money and then the first thing they want to do is change everything. I find that wild. You came here because you liked it, why change it? Did you know that since December, four private parties have been booked at The Eagle… and they were all straight!
Favorite restaurant: We find ourselves at Fleming’s in Park Square. They have great steak if you feel like steak, and their fried calamari is out of this world. My favorite restaurant in Chinatown is The Golden Gate - did you know that place has been remodeled three times in 40 years?!
Best day of your life: Hmm, the day after I file my taxes? (laughs) What?! I’m just that kind of guy!
Best vacation: Where’s my favorite place in world other than Boston?! Paris.
Favorite junk food: I don’t have a whole lot of junk food. Wait, I know! Burger King's onion rings - those things go with anything! I go and buy two large orders then bring them home and warm them up with the rest of our dinner.
Favorite musician/band: I guess I appreciate the 80’s music more than any other genre. My new favorite artist that is out of this world is Kristin Chenoweth. Did you know she is only 4'11''?
Favorite movie: That’s easy - Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I had the opportunity to meet George Peppard. He came to Boston to do a TV series called Banner Check. He lived in a house on Mt. Vernon when our business was in Beacon Hill. I never get tired of watching that movie!
Pet peeve: Do I really have one? I wish they would take better care of our Dwight Street community garden.
Fun fact: I love the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I have gone there since I was 17 years old. I have her hanging up right there by the bar! I recommend everyone that comes in from out of town to go see it.
Person you’d most like to meet: Oh my goodness. I’ve had such a wild career, so I’ve gotten to meet interesting people. The most recent one was last year - Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He came in with his wife and little girls to buy retro candy.
Where you want to be in 10 years: Do you mean the plan?! Buy a little condo on the ship The World (Residences at Sea) and spend the rest of my life traveling around the world. Condos on The World are cheap but the restrictions are that you can’t be a celebrity (for security purposes), you have to have a minimum of $10 million in the bank and you have to own a home inland. Those are the only restrictions.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: That’s an interesting question for old timers like me - I’ll tell you why. I never expected, in my lifetime, to see the Herald and Quinzani’s bakery gone, and the neighborhood looking like it does over there. That’s was no man’s land and now it’s blossomed into high buildings and luxury real estate! I imagine they are running out of land. But, if I could predict, I think Albany Street will become the next hot spot.
Meet Dani McDonald. Dani is the owner/operator of Flock: a refuge for Bostonians in search of whimsical wares with a side of West Coast vibes. Whether you’re on a prolonged hunt for a perfect, understated gift for the sister-in-law you’ve never quite been able to impress or you’re three hours out from a flight and realize you have nothing to pack - Dani and her team at Flock have you covered. A Greater Boston native and alumni of Anthropologie’s Visual Merchandising team, Dani teamed up with her mom nine years ago to bring a carefully curated collection of bohemian goods to Shawmut Avenue location. By leaving Anthropologie and opening her own shop, she hoped to find true creative freedom in all areas of the business: from sourcing and searching for new brands to merchandising and beyond. Now, working alongside her colleague Alex Polcari, Dani has not only the brought her artistic vision of the shop to life, but has forged an unexpected connection to the clientele that frequents Flock.
Name: Dani McDonald
Profession: Owner/operator of Flock
Address: 274 Shawmut Avenue
How long have you been in the South End: I moved to the South End in 2005 and lived here until 2015. The only reason I moved away was that we were outgrowing our space with a growing family. My connection to the neighborhood is why I originally opened the shop here. Plus, there was definitely a need for it. I feel like I saw so many things that were wonderful about the South End: it is so residential, has so many great restaurants and small independently owned shops - but there just weren’t a lot of boutiques for clothing. So, that’s why I chose it. Now, the shop has been here for nine years.
Typical day: I’m usually in the shop two days per week - when I’ll work on processing new orders that come in, remerchandising with any new stuff that has arrived, changing displays, buying for next season or filling in gifts and home items that are sort of add ons to the business. In terms of the buying process, since I try to incorporate West Coast brands into the shop, I primarily use Instagram as a buying tool. Basically, I can discover new brands that I don’t see around the area. I used to attend West Coast trade shows for that reason but as my lifestyle has changed - being a mom, wanting to balance more time with my family - I’ve sacrificed doing those trips. Thankfully, I’ve been able to harness the power of social media and the internet to do brand research. It’s so interesting how social media has changed things - when I started, you really had to attend trade shows to discover brands. Now, the process is totally different and that change has enabled me to balance my home and work life. It’s been such a great aspect of social media despite that there are other aspects that I struggle with.
What do you like best about the South End: The community feel. I really get to know my customers and see them in their day to day lives: walking their dogs, walking with their kids after school... I meet a lot of women who come in and are living in the neighborhood. Then, they get engaged and maybe I’ll help them find a bridal shower dress. Then, a couple of years later, maybe they’re newly pregnant and we can bond over that experience. I can help them pick out their baby shower dress. In a way, I can be there for these life milestones for people who live in the neighborhood. It’s awesome to be a part of that. That was one of the most unexpected things that happened as a result of opening this business - you think you’re just going to open a shop… it was my vision to curate a collection of clothing and jewelry and gifts and that was almost the extent of the dream. It was unexpected that it became about more than just the goods. And that’s another part of what makes the South End special.
How have you seen the neighborhood change: The biggest change is seeing the expansion of the South End in terms of having buildings like Ink Block, Siena, Sepia - we’re seeing the community grow and in terms of business, we’ve been able to build a bigger clientele because of that.
Favorite restaurant: Myers + Chang.
Best day of your life: It’s super cliche but the days that my daughters were born!
Best vacation: Italy with my family my husband and our two daughters. We went to Puglia. We spent a week there and then went to Rome. It was pretty amazing to see my girls in Italy because the lifestyle there is so different. As Americans, it feels like your kids have to be super scheduled and go to bed at the same time every night - there, there were two year olds running around at midnight! So, we’re like, “Sure, they can have ice cream at 10pm - it’s gelato, not ice cream! It’s good for them!”
Favorite junk food: Those potato chips that come in a huge tin from Formaggio. Have you had them? No? Don’t. Or do… but you’ll get hooked. And it’s an expensive junk food habit.
Favorite musician: Phish. Flock is actually named after a Phish song. I’ve been to over 170 shows… we got married on Labor Day Weekend so that we can take time off to go to see Phish at Dick’s in Colorado that weekend every year. I was at a Phish show when I thought of the name Flock. I had been agonizing over it - not knowing what to name the store, not wanting to name it something stupid. Their creativity inspires my creativity in lots of ways… weird ways… so, they were playing “Birds of a Feather” and I wrote down “flock” on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket - that was in 2008. It’s cheesy, but it’s my thing.
Favorite movie: I don’t love to watch movies. Too much of a time commitment. If I had to say one: Forrest Gump. I just watched it and it was interesting to see it again it later in life. I can remember watching it with my parents in the theater and now, as a parent, I have a totally different take on it. I love the message, now that I think about it.
Pet peeve: Bad drivers.
Fun fact: I’m a die-hard Phish fan.
Person you’d most like to meet: Jimi Hendrix
Where you want to be in 10 years: I would love to have a strong web presence with Flock; and have my home filled with more kids and more dogs!
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: More high rises, higher skyline… but I hope that it’s filled with even more small shops and people who appreciate them.
Meet Valerie Gurdal. Along with her husband, she owns and operates all four locations of Formaggio Kitchen including the Shawmut Avenue shop that has been in business for 20 years. What makes Formaggio Kitchen unique is their unmatched commitment to understanding and appreciating the products that stock their shelves: their staff regularly travels the world in search of the best of the best in wines, meats, cheeses and chocolates. Valerie and her husband don’t rely on the typical food and wine purveyors in the region to bring them the same products that you could find at the grocery store. They find and then independently import the items that they love the most. Essentially, Valerie has and has created for many others, the best job in the world.
The people who you come across daily in the shop - maybe they’re prepping duck confit, testing a new bakery’s fresh olive bread or ringing people up behind the counter - they are actually the experts in Formaggio’s specialties.They have traveled to the source, learned about the producers, their ways of life and their methods of growing, creating and cultivating. So, not only are they incredibly knowledgeable but they stand behind their products - which just might make you a little more likely to try out something you’ve never heard of or feel confident grabbing a bottle of wine that looks different from your typical selection. Valerie has created an atmosphere where both her staff and her customers can ask questions, learn about authentic products, expand their horizons, experiment with something new and most importantly: appreciate foods and wines from all over the world.
Name: Valerie Gurdal
Profession: Owner/operator of Formaggio Kitchen
Business address: 268 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA; 244 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA; 94 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA; 120 Essex Street Market, New York, NY
How long have you been in the South End: We’ve been here since the end of 1999. Y2K.
Typical day: Now, I wake up and have coffee at home with my husband which I didn’t used to do. From there, I’ll go to the gym - unless we have a big file, lots of imports from Europe coming in, and we need all hands on deck to unload. That could be anywhere from 2 to 11 palettes, the higher volume coming in around holiday seasons. Once the palettes come in, we’re busy unloading, separating the inventory by store and deciding which store gets which products. Other than that, my day is spent either downstairs doing paperwork, invoicing and emails or coming upstairs to the shop. My favorite job is stocking the shelves - I love that. I love talking to customers. I have a really good staff so they do most of everything better than I do now, so I’m very lucky for that.
What you like best about the South End: Its diversity and the independent shops that make it unique.
How has the neighborhood changed: I’ve seen a lot of changes - like I said, we’ve been here for 20 years. When I first came to the block, most people said I shouldn’t open up on Shawmut Avenue, no one knows where that is. The only thing here was Franklin Cafe. Then, The Dish opened where Coppa is now - that was a restaurant. I don’t remember exactly when Flock and Michele Mercaldo opened but little by little, they opened. Barbara opened her restaurants and Joanne came in down the street. I walked this neighborhood for almost eight months trying to figure it out. The windows of this shop had paper over them so eventually I inquired because over those eight months, nothing here had changed. It was available, so we were lucky.
Favorite restaurant: We love going to Coppa. I love the tamales at Picco, they’re so good. I love Kava for its simplicity. When we’re in Cambridge, we go to Cafe Sushi.
Best day of your life: When I got married to my husband. We didn’t have a big thing, just a justice of the peace, a backyard, three friends. We’ve been married for 30 years now and together for 34.
Best vacation: My favorite vacation spot is Playa Negra in Costa Rica. We go a couple times a year and it is where I relax and unwind. The coolest vacation I’ve ever been on was recently - for my 60th birthday, we did a wilderness horseback trip into the Grand Tetons - it was everything I wanted.
Favorite junk food: Besides bread? I like crunchy snacky things like pretzels, tortilla chips and potato chips. I usually don’t open them, but if someone else does I’ll eat almost the whole bag.
Favorite music/band: My favorite musician is Kris Kristofferson. The first album I ever bought was The Silver Tongued Devil and I.
Favorite movie: I love the Turner Classic Movie channel - all the old movies. The sets, the clothing... and I love a good western.
Pet peeve: When people call me Val. And when people call it Formaggio’s. Formaggio’s Kitchen. Where’s the “s”?!
Fun fact: I was born and raised in Miami. Sometimes when people ask and I say I’m from Miami, they say “Really? You don’t seem like a Miami person.” What does that mean?
Person you’d most like to meet: Let’s go with some dead presidents - Lincoln and FDR. I’d also love to meet Obama. It’s not often l find someone I absolutely admire.
Where you want to be in 10 years: Working a whole lot less or not at all because I’ll be 70. I’d like to be someplace warm in the winter and here in the summer.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I hope it maintains its diversity. I love that we have Pine Street Inn, Villa Victoria, the Blackstone School... I love that there are not many chains here, other than maybe a few like the Starbucks on Tremont. It’s hard to find a neighborhood that is unique and diverse and stands out. I live in Cambridge and Harvard Square is just banks and telephone stores because no one else can afford any of the space. I hope the South End maintains its character and diversity. I think it will. The independently owned businesses, there are lots of them here. I’d like to see the Sahara Restaurant be something. That would be fantastic.
Meet Ibrahim Ali-Salaam, the son of Waheeda, who owns ōkẅ (pronounced oh-koo). ōkẅ is a South End haven for fine, cut-to-measure women’s clothing, fabrics you just can’t find anywhere else and clients who want an ultra-personal touch. Ibrahim has been helping his mother operate the store for nearly eleven years but it is an absolute South End staple, having been in business for 31 years - since Waheeda was a seamstress working for the previous owners.
In addition to producing his own art which is on display throughout the store (and can be found at the St. Botolph Club as well as in an upcoming show at the Piano Craft Gallery in October, 2019), Ibrahim manages ōkẅ. Up until about 2 years ago, you’d be likely to find Ibrahim in front of ōkẅ at its previous location Tremont Street, catching up with neighbors and playing with his son, Joaquin. Now, ōkẅ has moved to SoWa - the arts district of the South End - where they are tucked in amongst 200+ galleries, boutiques and artist studios. The location of ōkẅ has changed, but Ibrahim, Joaquin and Waheeda can still be found at the new store which, as always, is teeming with exquisite textiles, one-of-a-kind artwork and the love of this creative, entrepreneurial family.
Name: Ibrahim Ali-Salaam
Profession: General Manager of ōkẅ and artist
Business address: 450 Harrison Ave, Suite 67
How long have you been in the South End: About eleven years. We were at our old store on Tremont Street for eight years and it's been 2 years here on Harrison Ave. It has gotten better since we moved here to SoWa, and it’s changing: there is creative kids art space here now and a lot of the parents in the neighborhood bring their little ones. There’s a florist now where a gallery used to be so in a way, the area is pleasantly updating and changing itself, bringing different faces to the area. There is a really nice neighborhood vibe here in the sense that everyone shares the wealth. A lot of the clients who frequent the kids art space and the florist will also happen by our store. Or when the kids are drawing or painting, maybe parents will be encouraged to come stop by here to look around. The cool thing is that, having my sweet mom and Joaquin, the resident 6-year-old of the neighborhood, here, we have our own unique path or role to play in the area. So, we are able to do our own thing while still being part of this reciprocal business loop that involves all the business owners down here.
Typical day: On a slow day, when I come in, I’m cleaning, doing basic accounting and then work on figuring out merchandising for the store. I also paint during downtime so I have my watercolors here. Around 4pm, I pick up Joaquin from school and bring him back to the store and basically spend the afternoon playing dad. If a client comes in, it’s likely that they’ve known him since birth so it's pretty easy to still work with the client even if he's making a ruckus.
What you like best about the South End: The neighbors. The community. Everyone pretty much knows each other. And no matter what, it's always been good to me. The community was so accepting of our store, so coming in was very seamless. There was no sticker shock, no competitiveness. Everyone helped us out. In turn, we help others out too. It’s very much a family - with neighborly energy throughout. Since we moved to this location, it's been a little more business-like than our location on Tremont Street, but Joaquin still comes around and does what he wants to do. Everyone knows him. I can leave him in the store and do an errand and he's fine.
How has the neighborhood changed: The rent has gotten a lot higher across the board, which is why we moved from Tremont Street. Now we're in a great location. I love the fact that the neighbors are still the neighbors. I also feel that it’s gotten safer.
Favorite restaurant: Lately, it’s been The Gallows.
Best day of your life: Not to sound cheesy but, my son being born! June 29, 2012, one o’clock.
Best vacation: It has always been Martha's Vineyard. That place is never disappointing.
Favorite junk food: I don't really eat junk food, but a burger with everything in the kitchen sink on it, if that counts.
Favorite music/band: Redman
Favorite movie: Something I could never get tired of would be The Karate Kid. Pat Morita got robbed for that Oscar!
Pet peeve: People that are impolite.
Fun fact: I still get carded a lot, even though I’m in my forties. That might be a boring fun fact.
Person you'd most like to meet: Egon Schiele - that's my favorite artist.
Where you'd like to be in 10 years: Living in New York with my art in some major gallery.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I would like to see more men's clothing stores in the South End. I’d like to see lots of basic, honest, good mom-n-pop shops. I have a feeling it might go more Williamsburg, Brooklyn - but I'd like it to stay more Bronx.
Meet Jon Olinto: a South End resident for almost 20 years, co-founder of b.good, an entrepreneur, and my husband. Jon moved into an apartment on Shawmut Avenue in the South End shortly after we left Colby College. He opened his first business, b.good, on Dartmouth Street in 2004. Jon and his best friend from high school, Anthony Ackil, formed an amazing team and with the help of their dedicated staff and customers, they successfully grew their company from one disorganized store to 60 stores and franchises - and a loving following group that Jon deemed “family”. In 2010, Jon and Anthony were awarded with Small Business of the Year Award for continually changing and adapting their restaurants to keep up with current trends. It was an impressive feat given they had no prior restaurant experience.
On top of all this, Jon and Anthony have weaved qualities like generosity and innovation into the fibers of each b.good store: they constantly ensure that they’re helping make the communities around them better. Each b.good store has community partners in their neighborhood, usually a local non-profit organization, that they benefit through fundraisers, donations (sometimes 5% of sales!) and even more progressive programs like quarterly pay-what-you-can events. They even restored a farm... on an island... here in Boston (!!!)... where they donate 75% of their total harvest.
After 14 years of working around the clock, Jon is spending some QT at our home in the South End - which means he’s eating lots of takeout from Picco and playing basketball with the boys, but mostly he’s pinning down the plans for his next business venture. Thankfully, he’s in a neighborhood where he can find endless inspiration from the awesome local business owners who he has gotten to know over the years.
Name: Jon Olinto
Profession: Entrepreneur, co-founder of b.good
How long in the South End: Well the b.good on Dartmouth Street will be 14 in January, but I had an apartment on Shawmut for a couple years before that.
Typical day: I was the co-founder of b.good, so when I was working there, my typical days would entail a lot of traveling to our stores to make sure that they remained authentic to our original intention. I basically spent the last 14 years working the type of grueling schedule that’s required in the restaurant business. I transitioned away from my company in July so since then, my day starts with more time for my wife and three boys - whether that means taking them to school or hopefully getting them to go play hoops with me at the Cathedral gym. And my typical day now gives me the freedom to pursue other opportunities and ideas in the food business. So, I’ve used my new schedule to explore a kind of crazy farm to table idea that has led me to some very remote farms and food artisans and occasionally Canada (laughs). I guess the biggest thing is that my new “typical day” has given me the time to learn and get really excited about the idea of building something that stands for community, impact and goodness. I like the idea that you can use food to build community and I am trying to build my next business around that concept.
What do you like best about the South End: I like a lot of things - like the fact that my kids have a park less than 100 yards from where they live and they can walk to school in under 10 minutes. I like that almost every business you can support is independently owned and you can get to know the owner. You genuinely feel that you’re a part of the neighborhood - you feel that people want to help each other and that gives you a real sense of community.
How has the neighborhood changed since you arrived: Just in terms of our street, we’ve had tons of people move in so you’ve seen lots of dumpsters parked on the street for renovations and lots of new faces. I remember when Peter’s Park was a place where you would think twice about walking your dog at night. Now, you wouldn’t hesitate. We’ve lived on Dwight Street for 10 years and when we first moved in, there’d occasionally be people in the alley behind our house who were up to no good. My wife will tell you I use to chase after them in my boxers because our dog would start barking anytime someone sinister would walk behind our house. But now, it’s totally different and the only person sneaking around will probably be my middle son.
Favorite restaurant: Picco. It’s the best. Rick and I opened our businesses around the same time so we would go in with our kids when they were babies and Mel would want to kill me because Rick and I would be holding an impromptu business meeting while she was left wrangling the boys.
Best day of your life: I have four: the first was the day I was married. Then, each of the three days that my sons were born. My wife likes to say there are five because last year I brought chickens to the farm that I helped b.good restore on one of the Harbor Islands - and that was a good day. But no, I’d better stick with four.
Best vacation: We just went to Costa Rica over Thanksgiving. We surfed almost every day. We had fish tacos for Thanksgiving dinner, which we’ve obviously never done before - it was awesome.
Favorite junk food: Late July Bacon Habanero tortilla chips
Favorite music/band: I like a lot of diverse types of music. I listen to a lot of reggae and hip hop - my wife and I just went and saw The Roots at House of Blues last night. I also like indie-rock I guess, even though that doesn’t sound so cool. What do they call that, dad rock?
Favorite movie: I’ll tell you what my not favorite movie is: Manchester-by-the-Sea. That’s my least favorite movie. It’s so depressing. My favorite movie might be Rocky 4. Actually, I take that back. I think it’s Gladiator - wait, no, I meant Braveheart. Or Rudy. Or Scent of a Woman.
Pet peeve: I’ve never used an emoji in my life. I hate emojis. I won’t ever do it. I know it’s taking over, it’s the new form of communication. But - I’ll never do it.
Fun fact: I love basketball and run a hoops program for kids in the South End called "Pasta Guys". I started it 7 years ago at Cathedral High School's gym. Every Sunday morning in the winter, we coach kids from 3-10 years old. We've had hundreds of kids participate and we've used it as a way to raise money to fund scholarships for Cathedral students. Over the 7 years, we've raised almost $80,000.
Person you’d most like to meet: I'd like to meet Abraham Lincoln.
Where would you like to be in 10 years: In 10 years I'd like to be at 18 Dwight Street in a two-bedroom apartment with my wife, three teenage boys and a fully grown dog; eating Picco pizza and a bowl of bacon habanero chips.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I hope it can hold on to its personality, character and diversity. Most people have already identified that it’s becoming harder and harder to afford to live here. But, I think the best neighborhoods are ones where you can learn from other people who are different from you. I think if we’re going to have the best, healthiest neighborhood, we’ll keep lots of different people here as neighbors and friends.
Meet Joanne Chang, one of Boston’s most prolific restaurateurs and a South End pioneer. Joanne graduated with honors from Harvard with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics. In a turn of events she left her career as a management consultant to take a job as a garde-manger cook, eventually moving up to Pastry Chef before opening the first Flour location here in the South End in 2000. Now, she owns and operates seven Flour locations all over the city, as well as her Chinese restaurant (which is co-owned by her husband), Myers + Chang.
At Myers + Chang, Joanne (and the Executive Chef there, James Beard Award nominated Karen Akunowicz) aims to serve up dishes that remind her of her own mother’s cooking. It amazes me that the inspiration from her childhood has helped mold Joanne into such an influential South End business woman! My boys might not be inspired, per se, by my cooking, but I can still hope to leave as great an impression on them as Joanne’s mother left on her - and as Joanne will certainly leave on this neighborhood.
Name: Joanne Chang
Business Address: Myers + Chang at 1145 Washington Street and Flour at 1595 Washington Street (with additional locations in Harvard Square, Hynes Convention Center, Cambridgeport, Fort Point, Central Square and Back Bay Station)
How long in business: I’ve been in the business since 1993, so 24 years, but I opened Flour in 2000 so that’s 17 years.
Typical day: I definitely don’t have a typical day! Why don’t I just tell you about a day. Since it’s Friday, that can be a good example. I wake up early, go to a yoga class, then I go straight to Flour Central Square. I spend a couple hours there - talking to pastry chefs, cooks, people on the line and of course, customers. I just check in - “Hi, how are you, how’s the week going?”. I watch the service. I taste the food! Then I plant myself in my office that has a view of the floor where I am hidden but I can see everything! I answer some emails, but I mainly just watch. After 15 or 20 minutes, I repeat. I talk to the staff, customers, taste something else and then check in with the managers. I try to follow any problems through as best as I can. Then I go to Flour Harvard Square and repeat. There’s a production kitchen near Flour Harvard Square so I go there midday and spend some time with the executive pastry chefs. On Fridays, we have a finance meeting. I spend some time in the kitchens talking to the bakers. Then, on to Flour Back Bay at 3:00pm where I have a one-on-one with my manager, then I repeat my watch-taste-check-in process. It’s really hands-on! My goal when I’m at Flour is to find ten things to make better - ten things to improve on. I file three or four things away, write some emails on some and solve others. I’m always trying to keep the bakeries and restaurants delivering on the experience that they are supposed to deliver. I end my day at Myers + Chang, where I spend two hours tasting food, helping cook (even though, of course, Karen doesn’t need my help but I like to do it), and making sure everything tastes the way it should!
What do you like best about the South End: I love how diverse it is. It’s diverse from all points of view: socio-economic, religious, race, sexual preference - everything. It has changed and grown but it has kept its roots. It’s a bit of everything. I love it.
How has the neighborhood changed since you arrived: We got here at the beginning of the gentrification movement. So, you were really just starting to see million dollar condos. The silver line wasn’t here. Washington Street wasn’t even paved then, you know. So, I have seen everything flesh out - fully flesh out. It has become a well rounded neighborhood.
Favorite restaurant: Other than Myers + Chang? (Laughs) We eat here five nights a week! I also like Coppa, Ostra, Picco and Cafe Sushi.
Best day of your life: The best day would have to be December 31, 2005. I was in Paris with Christopher, my husband. We shopped, ate, walked around and did all the things you do in Paris. We had eaten all the things, you know - the butter, the snails, all of that - and I just needed Chinese food. I needed garlic, scallions and soy - and we found this little place. It was probably crappy Chinese, but in my mind it was wonderful. Then we went for a walk along the Seine and he proposed!
Best vacation: We went to Istanbul six or seven years ago. I didn’t really want to go to Turkey - I didn’t know much about it! We were there for two weeks and it was magical. The city is so diverse, the food is incredible and the people are so nice. I felt like we had a month-long vacation in two weeks because there is just so much to do there!
Favorite junk food: Sour Patch Kids
Favorite music/band: Alicia Keys
Favorite movie: That’s a hard question! Maybe Elf. I can watch that movie over and over again and it’s still so funny.
Pet peeve: This is very silly but when I’m trying to put on my chef jacket and the sleeves are not right. You know, you stick your hands in the sleeves but the sleeves are inside out? Ugh! That drives me crazy!
Fun fact: I have memorized fifty digits of Pi. (Me: “What does that mean? Are we talking about pie?”) No! Pi the number!
Person you’d most like to meet: Obama
Where you’d like to be in 10 years: I’d like to still be here, but maybe spending half my time in Paris!
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I hope it’s still diverse. I want Pine Street next to Ink Block. I want Villa Victoria next to the Royal. And I want all the diverse restaurants!
Meet Ken Hassett, the owner and operator of The Wholy Grain. Tucked away on the corner of Hanson and Shawmut Ave, The Wholy Grain is a haven for the busy residents, families and passers-by of the Eight Streets - and a definitive favorite amongst the cafes in the South End. Complete with a garden patio oasis that, in my opinion, is unmatched by the other cafes of Boston - The Wholy Grain is Ken’s passion project! Ken is a quintessential cafe owner and South End resident. One of the most admirable things about him, like most of our linchpins, is that they genuinely enjoy what they do. It’s not very often you meet people who go to work, even if they don’t have to, just because they think it’s fun! When he’s not behind the counter at The Wholy Grain, you will probably find Ken strolling the Eight Streets with his Golden Retriever, Bradley.
Name: Ken Hassett
Profession: Owner of The Wholy Grain
Business address: 275 Shawmut Ave
How long in business: Seven years in February. Wow, has it really been that long?
Typical day: Well, usually someone else opens but I love being here so I always pop down. We have lots of regulars and a lot of our neighbors come in. We like to make it fun for everyone involved. I'm usually done by mid afternoon but we are open until 6:00. I work behind counter for the first few hours, then I do some office stuff and usually there's work to be done on our garden out back!
What do you like best about the South End: It’s very neighborly! Very social! I've been here for 25 years and I’ve watched it grow from rough and gritty to a welcoming, sophisticated, diverse community. There’s never a dull moment! When you walk out in the street there is always something going on!
How has neighborhood changed: The neighborhood has become even more diverse and interesting, which has attracted all sorts of people. That has been great for property prices and business development. But still it remains family oriented and a pretty mixed community. The South End used to have much more gay culture than it has now, and it used to be even more diverse, but it all still works well together!
Favorite restaurant: Tricky! So many! I like Coppa because it's my local. Quick, easy and great food. I think Banyan Bar + Refuge and Barcelona, also my locals, are good and interesting.
Best day of your life: What?! Okay - the day I got married to my long time partner David. Such a symbol of all the progress we've made and it was so nice to be surrounded by our family and friends for that day.
Best vacation: Italy! I have gone twice over the last few years - from Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast to Venice and Rome. Can't beat the food, culture and style.
Favorite junk food: Hmm, macaroni and cheese. Is that junk food? I love all the unique versions you can get these days too.
Favorite music/band: I like house and club music, which is more about a DJ than a band. If I had to pick a DJ it would be Maya Jane Coles - she's an English DJ.
Favorite movie: David is going to hate this (laughs), but the Jason Bourne movies and the new Blade Runner movie. Does this make me sound like a dad with a teenage son?
Pet peeve: Street cleaning!
Fun fact: I grew up in Ireland. Then I lived in England. Then I ran a business in P-Town for 15 years. Now, I'm in life number four, running Wholy Grain.
Person you’d most like to meet: The Prime Minister of Germany, Angela Merkel.
Where you’d like to be in 10 years: Sitting on a beach in Italy.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I think it's going to get busier and bigger and filled with even better things. It will still be a vibrant and bustling neighborhood.
Meet Marjorie Soto. Marjorie was introduced to the South End in 2005 when she became the Principal at the Hurley School - a K-8 Spanish-English immersion school that challenges students to learn and excel in two languages. Marjorie’s appreciation and respect for diversity shines through both in her interactions with all of the kids at Hurley, as well as in the mission of the school as a whole. She is committed, talented and hardworking - and has dedicated her life to instilling important values into our future forward-thinking, respectful South Enders. Are you fascinated by Principal Soto’s selflessness? You can thank her yourself! She’s outside The Hurley at drop off and pick up, Monday through Friday. She’ll be the one humming Marc Anthony and hugging babies.
Name: Marjorie Soto
Profession: Principal at the Hurley K-8 School
Business Address: 70 Worcester Street
How long in the South End: I became the Principal of the Hurley in 2005 so that was my introduction to the South End.
Typical day: There’s no such thing as a typical day when you work with children. Most days are somewhat predictable, there’s always a myriad of things you have to attend to daily. The main goal is to always protect and maintain a healthy, academically challenging and emotionally supportive classroom environment for all students to thrive.
What you like best about the South End: I like the strong sense of community and pride in the neighborhood. Of course, I absolutely love all the amazing restaurants and eateries within walking distance of the Hurley!
How has the neighborhood changed: It has attracted more young families who are forward thinkers and truly value the diversity of experiences that the community offers.
Favorite restaurant: El Centro on Shawmut Avenue
Best day of your life: The day my daughter was born.
Best vacation: Puerto Rico in 2010. I played tourist the whole week and experienced the island on a whole different level.
Favorite junk food: Cheetos
Favorite music/band: Marc Anthony
Favorite movie: The Godfather Parts 1 and 2. If I had to pick one, I would pick Part 2.
Pet peeve: When people mistake my kindness for weakness.
Fun fact: I was part of a singing group that opened for The Commitments.
Who you’d most like to meet: “Phil Dunphy” from the TV show Modern Family.
Where you’d like to be in 10 years: Still contributing to creating a better world, just from a small paradise where knowing what day or time it is is no longer important. Now is the only time that counts.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: It will continue to thrive and attract more racially and linguistically diverse members.
Meet Philip Saul - the owner of Sault New England. Philip moved to Boston almost 20 years ago, drawn here by his career in corporate retail. He quickly fell in love with the South End and all its independent businesses, eventually opting to leave his corporate gig and open his independent shop: Sault. Two permanent storefronts and one pop-up later, Philip is still hilarious, hard-working and hopeful for both himself and the neighborhood - which is why I felt he was a perfect representation of one of our South End Linchpins.
Name: Philip Saul
Profession: Owner, buyer and creative mind behind Sault New England
Business address: Our original store is at 577 Tremont Street. We have a holiday pop-up at 251 Shawmut Ave right now which will be open until December 31. Then, there’s the store that we have up north in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is at 10 Market Square.
How long in the South End: I’ve lived here for 16 years. I’m originally from outside of Philadelphia, and I moved from Philly to the South End for the job that I had at the time with Urban Outfitters. I’ve been in retail for over 25 years at this point - oh, God!
Typical day: I get woken up very early - around 6:00am - by my cat, Toby who wants to get fed. I go work out at the South End BSC. I head the store around 9:00. Once I’m here, I do everything from paying the bills to re-merchandising the store and interacting with customers. I have managers who do the same thing but I mean, I wash the windows, I vacuum. There’s always a project at one of the stores, though, there’s always something going on.
What you like best about the South End: I just love the history of the neighborhood and the architecture is beautiful. The mix of people is fun. There are little moments tucked away everywhere here, even though I know that sounds corny.
How has the neighborhood changed: It has changed a lot! I feel like the neighborhood has changed in the same way that the world has changed. For example, there’s not necessarily a separate gay neighborhood still, like there had to be in the past. Now, we’re more all in it together. The people in the street have changed - you see a lot more baby carriages. And that’s not a bad thing - but the people who lived here when I moved here were restaurant folks and bartenders - now it’s a lot of young families! It seems like a lot of empty nesters are coming in too - which is cool. They still act like young people - going out to dinner, having drinks with their friends, walking places - they’re fun. It’s still very diverse.
Favorite restaurant: Foodies is my favorite restaurant, since that’s where I get my groceries to cook! If I had to pick, I’d say Metropolis is great. The wait-staff is very nice and it has a cute bistro atmosphere. It’s also right across the street from our store.
Best day of your life: There have been a lot. One best day was when I signed the lease to my apartment in the South End and another was when I got the lease for the store - because those were the beginnings of those chapters. I value every day - it’s the little things that are beautiful. Like the first snowfall of the year or the first day of spring.
Best vacation: Probably hanging out with my friends in Provincetown. It’s not far but it’s fun!
Favorite junk food: Gifford’s toasted coconut ice cream. It’s made in Maine and they sell it at Foodies. Damn, it’s good.
Favorite music/band: I like any music that’s upbeat and fun so it can be from any genre, any movie and any time.
Favorite movie: Star Wars… followed by Jaws.
Pet peeve: People that litter. It’s just so rude. Littering at the beach - I can’t even start on that.
Fun fact: I didn’t go to college. I'm self taught, and no one has ever given me any money to start my business.
Who you’d most like to meet: I guess it depends on the time in my life. I’d like to meet my grandfather who I never got the opportunity to meet. I’d like to sit back and just watch him interact with my dad.
Where you’d like to be in 10 years: Just happy. And that could be anything - maybe with multiple stores or in a relationship - I’d just like to be comfortable and happy.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I hope it still holds its charm. I envision it being still very charming, but a little more modern. With all the new buildings that are coming in and new architecture that they’re bringing, you’ve really got this little gem of a neighborhood in the city. I think it will be filled with interesting people and independent retail stores, not just nail salons and banks.
Meet Caliga, the owner of Fenway Fido & Feline. She has been operating her pet-care company in the South End since 1990, which means Caliga knows the name of almost every dog in the neighborhood. Her exuberant spirit and compassion show through not only in her work with animals but in her love of the South End, the community that she made her home as a teenager. Her memories and stories about this neighborhood are rich, hilarious and countless!
Name: Caliga - I can legally use only one name because I’m in the art world.
Profession: I'm actually an RN. I was a city nurse for 25 years until 2013. I have had the pet care business, Fenway Fido & Feline, since 1990. We call it “Fenway” because Fenway is an icon in Boston, but the business started in the South End. I've also been volunteering in the Southwest Corridor for 27 years - I'm very devoted to it. I work that soil - that’s my soil. I have a community garden and teach about composting there.
Business address: Now, our business is at 32 Burnett Street in Jamaica Plain, JP. We were on St. Botolph and before that we were at 160 E Berkeley. In JP, we have indoor and outdoor space for training. But, I’m still a South Ender.
How long in the South End: I grew up first in the suburbs but then I started staying in Roxbury by middle school. I was on my own at 17, I started working when I was 12 - I’m a poor Cuban immigrant’s daughter. I lived on my own on Worcester Square around then. I knew the South End when Shawmut Ave was all Greek, Syrian and Lebanese immigrants. Deeper in the South End, around Rutland Street, a lot of African American families owned the brownstones. It was very diverse.
Typical day: We work seven days a week - and I love it! I have five rescue cats and a poodle that I rescued at 13 - he's 15 now! Sometimes we have early training, day care, or overnight care. I bike down the corridor, year-round, and start walking dogs or doing cat care. Sometimes other animals, too - next week I’ll be taking care of a tortoise! I love animals. Their love is totally unconditional. Animals are just pure.
What you like best about the South End: It has changed a lot but it's still a community. And it's funky. It's not uptight. I love the architecture.
How has the neighborhood changed: Sometimes people come in who are not invested in the community - they've moved here because the location is desirable. But then they leave for the next desirable location, maybe the suburbs. We need young families to stay and raise their kids here. A lot of times they leave once their kids are school age. I think city kids can be a more resilient to teen angst, and have much more culturally diverse opportunities. People should stay and raise their kids here.
Favorite restaurant: I'm vegan - House of Siam will clean out a wok and make vegan food for me, so I love it there! FoMu has the best ice cream ever and it's vegan. Addis Red Sea has very authentic Ethiopian food - a lot of Ethiopian food is vegan. And I like Nicole’s, on Tremont, they make a good Mediterranean plate and they're a good family!
Best day of your life: I've had many - I'm a pretty positive person. So many. It's simple things - like feeding squirrels in the park on my birthday, or going out with the girls. Exploring the world with my husband. Visiting different countries like Venezuela and Haiti.
Best vacation: Cancun has given me some of the best days of my life - the clubs are great, I love to dance. The beaches are great. I had a lot of Mexican friends so I was seeing stuff that the turistas weren't seeing!
Favorite junk food: Alexia onion rings and popcorn with nutritional yeast on it - maybe that's not a junk food?
Favorite music/band: I'm a DJ. My favorite music is acid jazz which no one plays anymore. I love hip hop and house. You wouldn't think so - I'm 62 years old. I also love Eminem's lyrics.
Favorite movie: I have three, maybe four. The Wizard of Oz, Harold and Maude, Daughters of the Dust and Ruthless People.
Pet peeve: People hurting each other - and animals or any other creatures. Humans thinking they own the planet.
Fun fact: I can dance a 20 year old under the table at a club. I love to dance! I dance every day. That’s my exercise. With dogs, and sometimes cats! And I DJ-ed my way through nursing school.
Who you’d most like to meet: I've met a lot of performers so I’m not too star struck. I enjoy meeting people who others might say are rather ordinary. I think I'd like to meet people who have passed on that I love.
Where you’d like to be in 10 years: In a warm climate in the winter! But always with ties to the South End.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I hope it stays diversified. I hope they build more research labs than high rises. I hope it's a rainbow nation - that there are all kinds of people of different socioeconomic levels and ethnicities.
Coach Larry Merritt
Meet Coach Larry Merritt, the Athletic Director and Boy’s Basketball Coach at Cathedral High School. In addition to his work at Cathedral High, Larry helps organize and run a community youth basketball league that brings kids from all different backgrounds together. Born and raised in the South End, I had to profile him as my fifth South End Linchpin. When you have lived in the South End for 44 years, you are sure to have seen plenty of the changes that our neighborhood has gone through. Apparently, there are more pets here now - but the locals’ love of JJ Foley’s has stayed the same!
Name: Larry Merritt
Profession: Athletic Director and Head Boy's Basketball Coach
Business address: Cathedral High School, 74 Union Park Street
How long have you been in the South End: 44 years - since 1973! I was born and raised in the Cathedral projects right across the street from where I work every day. I'm a true product of the South End. I went to elementary school at the Mackey (now the McKinley on Warren). Then, I went to middle school at Blackstone on Shawmut and high school right here at Cathedral.
Typical Day: As an A.D. it's all about administration, organization and communication. As a Head Coach, it starts with the most important thing - making sure all my student athletes are at school on time and then attending all classes.
What you like best about the South End: I love the diversity of the community. It represents people from all walks of life.
How has the neighborhood changed: In 1973, you had the Orange Line running through the heart of the South End. It's a totally different world now. So, there are actually too many changes to list. But, I'll tell you one little known thing that I notice - there were a lot less pets in our neighborhood back in the day!
Favorite restaurant: In the South End?! Come on, now! It's J.J. Foley's for wings! Outside the neighborhood, it's the Cheesecake Factory.
Best day of your life: May 18, 1996. It was my birthday and the day I graduated college. But, the reason why it was the best day - I gave my mother my diploma as a present. I was the first in my family to graduate from college.
Best vacation: 5 years ago, we went to Hawaii. I snorkeled, hiked, and even did horseback riding! I almost died on that vacation!
Favorite junk food: Peanut M&M's. I used to eat a pack before every high school game.
Favorite music/band: Michael Jackson
Favorite movie: Coach Carter with Samuel L. Jackson
Pet peeve: Parents living through their kids - not just in terms of athletics.
Fun fact: I live in a house full of women - wife, 3 daughters, and a female dog named Sophie.
Person you'd most like to meet: My sister. She's 35 years old and lives in Nebraska. I’ve never met her.
Where you'd like to be in 10 years: I'd like to be an Athletic Director at a DI college program.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I love my neighborhood and where I grew up. But, I have to say my only concern is that in 10 years it will be too expensive for lower and middle class families to afford to live here.
Kevin O'Donnell + Michael Lombardi
Meet Kevin O’Donnell and Michael Lombardi, the chefs and co-owners of SRV. These two share almost everything in life - they are best friends who shared the vision of opening a Venetian-style bacaro in Boston when they met in Italy almost a decade ago. Now they share a commitment to clocking countless hours at SRV. When it was time to open the restaurant of their dreams, they vied for a location in the South End so that their food could become part of a culinary community as vibrant as the plates that they serve, and as tightknit as their team in the kitchen.
I'm appreciative for the new people who commit their lives to building small businesses that maintain the authenticity and originality of our community.
Names: Kevin O’Donnell and Michael Lombardi
Business/Address: SRV, 569 Columbus Ave
How long in business: (Kevin) SRV opened almost two years ago.
Typical day: (Michael) Crazy. We split who opens the restaurant, check in with the prep cooks and check out the pasta production downstairs in the mill room. Edgar, one of our prep cooks, makes the pasta every morning with the flour milled here by Meg and Suzie, our pastry team. (Kevin) Edgar is the nicest guy - his brother and cousin work here now, too. One of us is here every single day at all hours of the day.
What you like best about the South End: (Kevin) I love the feel of the South End. (Michael) The South End is actually a neighborhood. I love that we’re feeding the people who actually live here. Most of our regulars live within a ten minute walk so we’ve gotten to know a lot of people who actually live and work here. Almost half our staff now gets their hair cut at the Cut N Edge around the corner, and sometimes the barbers hang out here. We love when staff from other South End restaurants come by, like the bartenders from Anchovies or anyone from The Butcher Shop. (Kevin) One of our neighbors who is an editor, Jon Walley, even made this awesome drone video of the inside of the restaurant when we first opened.
How has the neighborhood changed since you arrived? (Kevin) We haven’t seen too much change because it’s been such a short time, compared to the lifespan of a neighborhood and a culture. I mean, Northeastern is building up down the street, Laced is around the corner now. We’re here, and Mida is new. Hopefully people are starting to see that there’s a lot of opportunity on this side of the South End.
Favorite restaurant: (Kevin) Anywhere in the world?! (Michael) We don’t get to eat out a lot - we’re always here! I mean, in the South End, definitely still Toro. In Boston as a whole, obviously Oleana but also Sofra and Sarma. I also love Mamaleh’s in Kendall Square. (Kevin) Toro and Coppa in the South End.
Best day of your life: (Kevin) Gotta say it - the day I got married! Hopefully my wife reads this. But the day the two of us met is right up there! (Michael) It would have been the day I got married but now I can’t say that. But there was this awesome day in Paris at a place called L’Avant Comptoir - Kev and I were drinking wine and eating with this Corsican wine maker named Antoine Arena, who would fill your glass to the top if you weren’t looking. We were just drinking and having all these different amazing small bites of food. That day actually inspired what we do here at SRV.
Best vacation: (Michael) Honeymoon! Beat you that time. We rented a house in Vieques and drove all over Puerto Rico.
Favorite junk food: (Kevin) Pizza. Is that junk food? (Michael) Potato chips. I can finish a whole bag - no matter what size the bag is. If it gets opened, I will finish it.
Favorite music/band: (Kevin) That answer changes so much from day to day, with the seasons, what time of day it is. My favorite genre is probably hip hop, and favorite artist is Common. (Michael) Anything mellow, most of the time. Folk music, reggae.
Favorite movie: (Kevin) That’s a hard one. I don’t like to re-watch movies but one that I’ve seen a bunch of times and always like is the Birdcage. Simple, funny, all the characters are hilarious. (Michael) This seems so quintessential Boston but Good Will Hunting. I watched it when I was really young and my parents got mad at me for watching a rated R movie.
Pet peeve: (Kevin) So many. (Michael) So many. (Kevin) Interrupting. Not listening. People looking at my tickets in the kitchen. (Michael) When people don’t take two seconds to think about how to solve a problem before asking someone else to solve the problem.
Fun fact about yourself: (Michael) I love adrenaline sports. Don’t get to do them often but when I do, I love it. (Kevin) I’m obsessed with dogs.
Person you’d most like to meet: (Kevin) Obama. (Michael) I’m doubling down on Barack, he’s so interesting historically - more than just as a president.
Where you want to be in 10 years: (Kevin) In a restaurant. Still running a restaurant in Boston. (Michael) Agreed. I’d love to have another place in the South End because it’s such a great neighborhood for food.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: (Kevin) I hope it doesn’t look too different. Hopefully there will be even more diverse, unique restaurants and bakeries. (Michael) But I want the architecture and the character of the South End to stay.
Meet Vera Mastin, my vivacious neighbor who is a fixture in the cafes and parks throughout the 8 Streets. Whether hollering "good morning" to whoever crosses her path, serving as a neighborhood watchdog, helping to keep our parks beautiful, or even convincing you to buy her a cup of coffee, Vera imparts her own original spirit of enthusiasm, vitality, and love to our neighborhood.
Name: Vera Mastin
Business/Address: Shawmut Ave
Typical day: I walk and I talk! And I try to clean up the neighborhood as much as I can. Today, I cleaned up that park on Taylor Street.
What do you like best about the South End: The way the people here treat each other and how they treat me.
How has the neighborhood changed since you arrived: I remember the old days when I'd find needles in the park or people would be up to no good. If I see anyone moving in a way that I don't like, I call the police. I'm sure gonna call the police if I see anyone up to no good in our neighborhood.
Best day of your life: Last Christmas. I received so many gifts from my neighbors here.
Best vacation: Birmingham, Alabama. That's where I was raised. I haven't been back for vacation there in 20 years but I'm hoping to get back this Summer.
Favorite restaurant: Boston Chops. I order steak, side of shrimp, and french fries... and tomato juice to drink.
Favorite junk food: Hot dogs from Harry O's.
Favorite band or singer: Michael Jackson. My favorite song he signs is "Billie Jean".
Favorite movie: Bonanza! I just like that movie and watching them shoot 'em up!
Pet Peve: People honking their horn for no reason.
Fun fact about yourself: I love to sing. I sing at church every Sunday.
Person you’d most like to meet: Steve Harvey! Steve Harvey is a sharp man to me!
Where you want to be in 10 years: In Boston on Shawmut Ave. I love this place!
Meet Megan Flynn of M. Flynn. Megan and her sister Moria represent the spirit of entrepreneurial creativity that resonates throughout our neighborhood. Their store, like so many artist studios and small businesses in our community, takes a little digging to find. But, once you discover M. Flynn, I am certain that they will keep you coming back to see their latest beautiful creations. Keep exploring, friends -- you never know what you will find in the South End!
Name: Megan Flynn
Business name and address: M. Flynn Jewelry, 40 Waltham Street
How long in business: 14 years in this building. 8 years in this storefront.
Typical Day: I live in South Boston... are you allowed to talk about South Boston? I usually start every morning with a smoothie that my husband makes for me. He makes all our meals because I'm inept in the kitchen. Then, I go to Recycle Studio for spinning class. It's a block away from my store. After that, I'm at the store all day except for a quick lunch at Buttery. All my lunch money is spent at the Buttery and Foodie's!
What you like best about South End: I love that I'm friendly with a lot of other small business owners in the neighborhood. We share the attitude that we're all in it together. In fact, the owner of Hudson helped me decorate my store. Everyone is just truly happy for each other's success and we really try to support one another.
How has the neighborhood changed since you arrived: [Laughing] So much! I am a little nostalgic for the way it was.... remember Pho Republique?! We used to rent it out for NYE and have Colby parties there. Now, you barely need to leave the neighborhood! You can grocery shop at Foodie's and Siena Farms, eat out at great restaurants, visit nice shops. But, yet there's still so much to discover since each street is unique. There really are artist's buildings and small businesses everywhere.
Favorite restaurant: Myers + Chang because it's the only cuisine my husband can't make at home.
Best day of your life: The day I got married?! Or maybe, the day we got Stewart, my Yorkie. We bought him after a trunk show for the business when we were just getting started. We were so excited to make $500 that I bought my pup to celebrate!
Best vacation: Northern Brazil with my sister and business partner.
Favorite junk food: Pizza! I love Picco!
Favorite music band/singer: Madonna. I'll always love Madonna
Favorite movie: "Pretty in Pink" -- just like every girl from the 80's
Pet peeve: Dirty glass and finger prints. I am crazy about cleaning the glass on the jewelry cases in here!
Fun fact about yourself: I am married to a Slovenian. It's a part of former Yugoslavia and there are 3 million of them. He's a rare find!
Person you’d most like to meet: Mayor Menino was and then I met him! I was probably the last person to meet him because he was so good about getting out. I wish I could have met Elizabeth Taylor. She had the most important jewelry collection. I traveled to New York to see it before the Christie's auction. For someone who loves jewelry, it was an emotional experience.
Where you want to be in 10 years: Here! I love the South End and I want to continue to growing our business here. I love custom jewelry and creating pieces that are a part of people's lives forever.
What will the neighborhood look like in 10 years: I hope we can preserve this community of unique retail businesses. It's harder then ever for small businesses to survive. The high rents worry me. I want to stay and I think that's why people love to live here. You can walk to all these unique places that only exist here!
Meet Mr. Foley, the 3rd generation owner of J.J. Foley's who has dedicated his life to the pub his grandfather started over 100 years ago. Along with 3 of his sons (and a grandson in the summer), Mr. Foley is the patriarch of a neighborhood institution that he fills with history, community and love.
Name: Jerry Foley
Business/Address: J.J. Foley's Cafe, 117 East Berkeley Street
How long in business: 108 years
Typical day: I start here and end here. I get in at 6:30pm. I leave after a couple hours. But, back by 11pm to be here until we close at 2am.
What do you like best about the South End: The people.
How has the neighborhood changed since you arrived: It has changed drastically -- high buildings and new people.
Favorite restaurant: My favorite all-time is NaNina's in Field's Corner, Dorchester and being there with all of my kids. It closed years ago but I loved it and we'd go as a family every Monday night no matter what. It was a real old school family restaurant. The waitresses would take the kids on adventures to the kitchen so we could eat. Now that NaNina's is gone, my favorite is Stella on Washington Street. Evan Deluty is the best chef.
Best day of your life: The day I got married.
Best vacation: I took 7 grandchildren to Disney World... it was horrible! (That was before I had number 8 and soon-to-be my number 9 grandchild.) We went down each ride 20 times. I love roller coasters. But, I didn't know there were water rides. My grandkids said, "Papa stand right there." I got soaked.
Favorite junk food: Cheetos with my grandchildren--not the spicy ones, just the original. They are the vacuum cleaner.
Favorite band or singer: Bono. He was here at Foley's.
Favorite movie: I like Rocky. 1, 2, 3... was there a 4?
Fun fact about yourself: I want everyone around me to have a good time.
Person you’d most like to meet: I met the Pope John Paul II. I have photos with the kids to prove it. So, I met him already. Everything after that is a step down.
Where you want to be in 10 years: Here. Right here, at J.J. Foley's.