A New Shop in the South End of Boston?

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HELP!

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:

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36 thoughts on “A New Shop in the South End of Boston?

  1. Justin- Wow.. that’s unbelievable. I wish I knew someone at City Hall. Keep your chin up.
    Love what I see in the picture and can’t wait to see it in person!

  2. The store looks fab and if I didn’t live in Virginia, I would picket for its opening!!!! good luck with the red tape…something tells me they have met their match!

  3. Justin. You are your mother’s son. I have no doubt you will make this work and be a smashing success at your new endeavor! Now, go get ’em. You can beat city hall.

    Roseann

  4. Justin, I am so sorry this is happening right now, anyone who knows you or follows you on social media knows how passionate and proud you are of your business. Rest assured I will do whatever it takes to help you open the doors of pioneer goods co!

    • Thanks Jenn. Even the fact that people are reading this and leaving thoughtful comments of support make it easier. It’s been a punch to stomach and a certain change in the energy revolving around the new store. The support I’ve received today from people like you has been a hashtag blessing and it certainly helps. Thanks again bud.

  5. I love your name and brand. Don’t worry everything has a way of working out. The store is great. I love your vision. You will be in action soon. I just know it.
    Good Luck and hope to see you soon!

  6. Justin, Wow – now that’s the Pioneering Spirit! Must say I’m green with envy on the shops colors and decor, love the greens. And yes it’s sad but true, but most local bureaucrats are so blinded or nearsighted to their roles they play in sustaining our local communities that they forget that they’re elected officials ‘by-the-people to work for-the-people and not for their own agendas. However it was OK for a beauty shop to zone there with deadly toxic beauty chemicals flushing down into the cities water system and no one had a problem with that… Your new shop is located in the historic section of the city where tourist and locals alike would flock bringing commerce to buy antiques, vintage, rustic merchandise and relics thus in fact keeping history alive in a city that helped built the foundation of our American History. So, take on Bunker Hill and fight to keep the Pioneer Spirit alive at Tremont Street and SAVE OUR HISTORTY.

  7. Justin. Good for you! Sorry I haven’t been in touch, but glad that your not letting the AH’s get you down. Arleen

  8. Justin, you are sooo right about all the hoops we are made to jump through to open a small, successful business. It really is a wonder that so many of us continue to persist in an effort to sometimes preserve a part of history, to continue to revive parts of downtowns and to give customers wonderful options to the mall and big box stores. What you have done to your shop looks fabulous,

  9. Good luck. As a former small business owner it is not always easy. Keep a positive attitude and keep working towards what you want, if it is something you really want you will find a way.

  10. Hello Justin
    Your new shop looks lovely and I wish you all the luck in the world! I am your newest follower and look forward to seeing the journey.
    Wanda

  11. Dear Justin, I live in South Africa and receive your wonderful Mother’s blog. Just wanted you to know you have all my prayerful support for your new venture. SUCH a pity about all the hiccups and hope everything will be sorted out soon – if not, it means He has a better plan. Go bless

  12. Justin, your shop is awesome! I love French and have a lot in my house, but am really drawn to the more rustic French, American, and european look. You have a great eye and it will serve you well. Good luck with the government:). I hope to be in boston in the near future, so get ‘er done! Mary Reeves

  13. Justin,
    First of all your drive and determination are wonderful assets in this “new world” of entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, headaches of fighting the “red tape” and not to mention what it will cost you in money, which could be better used in building your business and new space. Keep strong and know in your heart you are doing something good for not only you but that of others.
    Best of luck.

  14. Justin…keep your dream alive! You will succeed..I know. Do whatever to get the city to grant you permission. If you need to start a petition count me in. Best.

  15. Hello from Vintage & Paint, stockist of Chalk Paint by #Annie Sloan in Stow on the Wold UK. We missed meeting Amy at the paint conference in New Orleans.Your shop looks great….Good luck x

  16. What a wake up call the city needs! How about an open letter ad? A letter to the mayor, call the local TV reporters. (again and again) Be pushy, your store looks FABULOUS. Justin you are one talented man! I know you won’t give up. Yes, you will succeed. Perhaps contact Ralph Lauren and others for direction, you have so much potential!!

  17. Hopefully, saner heads will prevail. Loose the potty talk and speak to them as if they were adults. With vision. Clearly you have it. They do not. It does not matter if you are in a big city or small town. There are always people who need to show a little hand of power to justify their jobs and what they are paid. Be damned the economic bonus to the community and area. Can’t believe they would just rubber stamp your store without looking at the viability of its venture. Good luck with dealing with ‘city hall’. You are a smart, hardworking guy and will make this fly.

  18. You will have a wonderful store once you get through the Kafkaesque nightmare that these politicos think nothing of imposing on the people that elect them to make things better for the community. Your story wouldn’t fit that bill??? And why not?? it is GORGEOUS!!
    ‘Teapot’ politicians..god save us from their ilk..
    Good luck to you!

    • I am so annoyed for you that I forgot to proof read..meant to say your ‘store’ not your ‘story’ ! Of course..though once this is all over and done with , it will be a good story of how you overcame these obstacles..

  19. What a beautiful store with lovely color and furnishings. I have been following Maison Decor for 2 years and I see how intelligent, motivated and savvy this family is. I KNOW you will prevail Justin, but I am sorry for your having to stop and deal with this with all your opening entails. I hope it will be resolved quickly as I can’t imagine them refusing to change the zoning back – it’s ludicrous.

  20. Too bad you can’t just set up a salon chair in the corner and please the zoning board that way. 🙂 You could specialize in “pioneer” haircuts- shouldn’t be that difficult to do, right?
    Seriously, I wish you luck and a quick resolution in your favor. Your shop looks great!

  21. Hi Justin,
    Can’t you create a petition list? I think you can get ENOUGH signatures from ppl that favor creating LOCAL businesses!
    All the best, Inge v.d.B

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