A bookstore or bookstore café would come as the most welcome addition to the neighborhood’s existing retail mix, according to a 2013 survey administered by the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) Retail Vacancy Task Force.
Of 395 respondents, 265 said a bookstore is the type of business or store they would like to see come to the neighborhood. Rounding out the top five most-desired businesses were a mid-range restaurant, which garnered 213 votes; a cheese shop, with 187 votes; a bakery, with 182 votes; and kitchenware, with 163 votes. (Respondents could vote for as many types or categories of businesses as they wished.)
“In terms of a bigger trend, the survey shows that people want things they need on a day-to-day basis,” said Michael Bruck, committee chair. “This isn’t surprising, since people in the neighborhood live here, many work here, and they shop here.”
In contrast, according to the survey, the five least desired types of businesses were an insurance company (3 votes), an accountant’s office (7 votes), a law firm (8 votes), a bank (9 votes) and a real estate office (9 votes).
“It didn’t surprise me that office-type businesses were at the bottom of the survey,” Bruck said. “I think the genesis of this sentiment was the Capital One issue, which made it very clear that the neighborhood has very strong opinions. It wasn’t an anti-bank movement. It was about keeping storefronts on Beacon Hill vibrant.”
Bruck said the comments section of survey affirms that neighborhood residents embrace unique and independently owned shops while eschewing chain stores, even those that meet their needs.
“People feel that Beacon Hill is a special and unique place, and they want to preserve its character,” Bruck said. “They believe businesses like chain stores contribute to the homogenization of the American shopping experience. They don’t want goods and services that can be found at any strip mall in any town.”