I’ve been very busy this spring. We are opening a new store on Tremont Street in the South End. After we decided not to renew our lease on Harrison Ave last September, it was always sort of understood that I would eventually end up back in Boston when the time was right. So Maison Decor Boston “closed” in September 2013, and I went to Maison Decor Reading full time to focus on that location with my mother, Amy, and my brother, Colin.
Reading became our busiest and most successful location, by far. Our decision to let Boston go in order to keep all three of us under the same roof and harness our energy into building a singular and successful store proved to be correct.
Except I kept looking toward my old neighborhood in Boston.
I knew how busy we were with our one store in Reading, but I couldn’t help myself. I would casually look at commercial real estate listings in the city, just to see what was available. As luck would have it, nothing that attractive ever appeared. Probably for the best.
In March, Colin got a job offer to work for a big company in his chosen field of construction management. He spent four years at UMass-Amherst getting his degree, and he decided he was going to put it to use. We were all equal parts happy, excited, and nervous. Colin was a huge part of our business, and now my mom and I would be taking on his workload.
The transition of Colin leaving wasn’t too bad, but the first week or two wasn’t easy.
But then I found the perfect space.
Late one Saturday night, I was looking on Craigslist, not even one of the commercial real estate listing sites I use, and I found a posting for a place on Tremont Street, in the South End, and it was just the right size with a basement (storage) to boot. I was pumped. The next morning I made some calls, and I saw the space that Sunday afternoon. I brought my mom in to see it that Monday, and she fell in love with the space as well. We signed the lease that Friday.
So away I go. It was also sort of understood that if and when I would go back to Boston, chances are I would operate under a different name. Maison Decor began as my mom’s blog, it then applied to her first store that she opened up on her own, then to our subsequent stores we opened together as a family. She loves Frenchy decor so the name always made sense. As our old Maison Decor store on Harrison evolved, I continued to mold it in my vision, which was more vintage, Americana, antique, rustic, etc. In that vein, I decided to name the new store Pioneer Goods Co. I think it makes sense.
So the last month or so has been nuts. Negotiating leases and quickly moving to open up yet another store. We’ve hired a couple of great girls to help out in Reading part time, because basically, Amy has been doing all of that herself. Its a tall task because that store is very busy with customers who demand a lot of attention. We also run all of our shipping out of the Reading shop, and our online store has been cooking. I am so thankful that my mom has been running the show over there so that I can focus on Pioneer and spend nearly all of my time in the South End readying that store for opening.
And readying it I was, until yesterday. We had decided we could be ready to roll for a Sunday, June 1st opening and I was right on schedule to meet our self-imposed deadline. Until City Hall got in the way. I received a letter in the mail with the less-than-lovely heading (in all caps) ZONING CODE REFUSAL.
So this part of the story ain’t fun, and nobody likes bitching, so I’ll spare you the gory details. Long story short–the space used to be zoned for retail, it was changed to being zoned for a hair salon, and I applied to change it back. They rejected it and said simply, “furniture store forbidden.” I’m not exactly a furniture store, but hey, we sell it, so I guess that’s how they described it.
Mini Rant: Every election cycle, politicians, no matter what side of the aisle they sit, all agree that they “support small business and job creation.” It’s bullshit. Every business we own has faced some resistance from city government along the way. My mom had a hell of a time with the City of Malden when she brought her beautiful shop to a shitty block that nobody wanted anything to do with. Give me a break. Malden should have been worshiping the ground she walked on to have a shop of that caliber in that area. She got everything squared away, but not without jumping through a zillion hoops. I know face a similar problem. I’ve met some lovely people in my new neighborhood, and a great guy named Tim who lives in the building above Pioneer Goods. He came down to introduce himself on Monday, and had the nicest things to say. He said he was so excited a shop like mine was coming into the building, and that he has a lot invested in our neighborhood and he would do anything to help me along the way. Well, Tim, I need your help. The space I assumed had been vacant for almost a year before we took over. I don’t see how a vacant storefront is a better option than having a lovely small business run by passionate people with an investment in the community on one of the most prominent streets in the city, in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city.
So what does it all mean? Well you bet your ass Pioneer Goods Co. will be opening on 764 Tremont Street, maybe just not on June 1st. I’m headed over to the Boston Inspectional Services Department after I finish this post. (I’m not procrastinating, don’t worry, they’re not open yet as of the time of this post.) I will have to go through the appeals process, pay more money for appeals fees, and subsequently lose money that would have been generated from doing business as planned. Ugh.
Wish me luck and any advice or connections you guys have would be appreciated 😉
Here are some pictures of what I’ve done with the store so far. I hope you like ’em: