I have a simple but powerful message: the people of West Roxbury support local business.
Since the beginning of 2011, 16 new businesses have opened along Centre and Spring streets - an astounding number considering the current economy. Shop and restaurant owners come to our neighborhood because they know you will shop local. The numbers tell the story: West Roxbury Main Streets is one of 20 Main Streets districts across the City of Boston, and is one of the largest district by area and by number of businesses (more than 200). But we also have the lowest number of vacancies, at 5.
Think about that. West Roxbury has been home to a neighborhood downtown renewal for the better part of a decade, since neighborhood anchors like Roche Bros., Starbucks Coffee and West on Centre opened for business. Culinary destinations like Masona Grill followed, and so did specialty shops like Wicked Sharp Ski & Sports. In the last two years, a "Restaurant Row" has emerged on a two-block stretch of Centre Street, with the opening of Los Amigos, Banh Mi Ngon and The Red-Eyed Pig adding to the existing mix with West on Centre, Himalayan Bistro, the 2012 Burger Wars award-winning Porter Cafe.
On the western side of the district, a fitness scene has emerged with Koko Fit Club and Get In Shape for Women sharing the Shaw's Plaza with new healthy fast food restaurant LeanWorks. Farther down the block is Fairview Corner, with it's cluster of women-owned businesses. Clothiers Fabutique and Top It Off Accessories, winners of the Boston Main Streets Deck the Halls Window Decorations competition last season, joined Kalembar Dune to liven up Spring Street as seen with the recent Fashion Mob event. BakerBaker will soon join the group with gourmet pastries and lunch service.
Throughout this time, West Roxbury Main Streets has been working to support and promote our neighborhood's small businesses with a broad spectrum of events and services. We are always available for members in need of funds for storefront improvement, or simply help navigating city permitting and licensing issues, among many other services. Our Economic Restructuring Committee has worked to address back office business needs with seminars on issues like social media, employment and real estate law, and energy efficiency. Through our promotions, like the recent Highland Hash Fun Run series, we have partnered with community groups like the Parkway Running Club to expose new audiences to the neighborhood's restaurants.
And of course, through the tireless work of Executive Director Kara O'Connor and a hardy army of volunteers (including Jennifer Onishuk, Kristen Donahue, Francesca Desforges, Jennifer Elliott, Bill McGregor, Claire O'Brien, Mary Mulvey Jacobsen, Karyn Martin and Allyson Lewis) we hosted the first Annual Taste of West Roxbury at the newly refurbished Irish Social Club, bringing a marquee social event back to the neighborhood. More than 450 people attended with more than two dozen area restaurants participating, and $19,000 was raised to help continue to support our mission. The second annual Taste will take place next May at the Club.
I am stepping down from my two-year term as President of the Board of Directors, and want to take the time to thank the other board members for their service, including Secretary Karen Hickman, Corporate Buddy Anne Green of The Cooperative Bank, Corporate Buddy Rich Sliney of Blue Hills Bank, Rox Diner owner John Fortin, and residents Carl Koebler and Sarah Brannelly. Each will continue serving on the board, with current treasurer Matthew Gruber assuming the role of president. We will also welcome in new board member-residents Eric Hultmark, Dominic Rebelo, Adrienne Vaughan and Neil Crowley. I would also like to take the time to thank board members who concluded their service in the past year, including past-president Nicholas Anastasopoulos and counsel Andrew Dean, and a special thank you to Kara O'Connor for her exceptional achievements in the role of executive director (our organization's only paid position).
Lastly, I want to thank our business owners for their dedication to the community. It is shown through their support of events like the Taste, the upcoming Holiday events, Burger Wars and so on. Sixteen entrepreneurs have taken a chance on West Roxbury in the last two years, and their success is a testament to the vitality of our community. They cannot succeed without the support of our neighbors, who dine, shop and bank in our district. Thank you to the people who make West Roxbury Boston's Destination Neighborhood.
Michael Loconto is the outgoing president of West Roxbury Main Streets' Board of Directors.
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If you would like to get involved with the Advisory Board, our Economic Restructuring or Promotions Committees or volunteer for the Taste of West Roxbury or any of our other events, please contact us through our website at wrms.org. Thank you again for your support.