Cobblestone Convenience Proprietor Clashes With BHAC

After failing to reach what she deemed to be an amicable solution over a signage violation with the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission, the proprietor of a neighborhood convenience store expressed her frustration with the ruling during the commission’s Oct. 7 hearing at City Hall.

“The signage cost me $2,000, and I’m not going to spend any more money,” said Kristie Aussubel, owner of Cobblestone Convenience at 24 Joy St., as well as the owner and a real estate broker with Presidential Properties, which is located directly across the street from the store at 17 Myrtle St. “If you ask me to take it down, nothing is going to go back up, and it’s going to be an eyesore.”

Cobblestone Convenience (formerly Primo’s Convenience Store) at 24 Joy St. as seen from Myrtle Street then.
Cobblestone Convenience (formerly Primo’s Convenience Store) at 24 Joy St. as seen from Myrtle Street now.

Aussubel said she took ownership of the former Primo’s Convenience Store in July of 2018 and believed she had adhered to all city and neighborhood guidelines and restrictions until she was recently cited for the signage violation. 

“It’s been like this for well over a year…and it replicates exactly what was there for at least three decades,” she said regarding the four large removable banner stickers emblazoned with the Cobblestone Convenience logo and a white, opaque film below to obscure the store’s interior from the street – three facing Myrtle Street and one fronting Joy Street –  as well as a smaller sign on the front door adorned with the logo and business hours.

The signage was never approved by the commission, however, according to Miguel Rosales, its chair, and it was deemed inappropriate and excessive for the location. 

The commission voted unanimously to approve the existing signage on the front door and the adjacent window facing Myrtle Street but ordered that the film on the other three windows with the store logo be partially removed, leaving less signage in compliance with historic guidelines.

There was also a question about the non-historic green color used for the store exterior, which will be investigated further by Rosales.

In another matter, the commission approved by a vote of 3-1 an application to install a new in-fill roll-up door at 28 Pinckney St. rather than swinging doors.  (There was a concern expressed about continue to approve roll-up doors in the neighborhood, which potentially detract from the historic integrity of the buildings, according to some on the commission.)

“The net effect of the swinging doors dictates what happens inside the garage because you can only fit one car inside instead of two,” said Attorney Sander A. Rikleen in explaining the perceived hardship.

The commission originally approved this application in 2015, but that decision was allowed to lapse. When the application was resurrected earlier this year, it wasn’t approved after coming before the commission several times – a matter that Rikleen said was in litigation during last week’s hearing.

An application to install a new wooden blade sign, measuring approximately 30-by-30 inches, on the front façade of Ore Jewelry at 88 Charles St. was unanimously approved, with a proviso that it must consist of carved lettering for the store’s name, instead of gold foil lettering as was proposed so as to better relate to other similar signs along the street.

As for a violation for 86 Chestnut St. regarding the removal of a rear garden door and the installation of a front light, door handle and fire-alarm bell without BHAC approval, the commission voted to ratify the application, with provisos that the height of the bell be consistent with similar apparatus in the neighborhood (approximately 3 feet), and that the replacement door be painted black. The door handle and lantern will also be removed and replaced with more appropriate fixtures compatible with the district.

The commission unanimously approved an application to install an asphalt berm at the rear wall of the carriage barn at 28 Pinckney St. (Although the commission typically prefers granite berms, Historic New England has an easement on the building, and they prefer the use of asphalt, Rosales said.)

Also, the commission unanimously approved as submitted an application to repaint wood windows, trim and bays in kind on all facades of 9 Willow St., with the proviso that BHAC staff have final approval of the new paint color, which will be discussed on site after samples are prepared.  A preference was expressed for a darker tone than the existentingt one to minimize the visual impact of the tall multi-story building.

Another application for 150 Mt. Vernon St. to replace an existing electronic lock-and-key set and door knocker, as well an existing mail slot and door numbers, met with unanimous approval, with provisos that the color and placement of the hardware be in line with that of neighbors, and that the new mail slot be made of unlacquered brass for visual consistency.

The commission voted unanimously to continue its ruling on an application to replace all the windows – both historic and replacement – on the north, west and south facades of 92 Pinckney St. and requested that the applicant return with “shop drawings” of all proposed replacement windows.

Likewise, the commission voted unanimously to continue its decision on an application for 151-153 Charles St. to replace a wooden picket fence-gate visible from Charles Street with a “metal diamond plate,” again asking the applicant to return with drawings to scale and without the use of metal diamond plate, which is atypical on Beacon Hill.

The commission voted unanimously to deny without prejudice an application to install a custom security grill on the lower-level window on the front façade of a home at 75 Hancock St, as well as another application for 33 Bowdoin St. for windows on the front façade to change their existing shade from white to black. Both proposals would have detracted from the historic integrity of the buildings, Rosales said.

Moreover, the commission unanimously approved as submitted applications to replace five wooden six-over-six windows at rear facades of 71 Beacon St. with the proviso that the new five six-over-six windows be true divided-light windows and not simulated as proposed; and for 10 Walnut St. to replace 14 double-hung, six-over-six wooden windows and install a horn, fire strobe and sprinkler connection.

Proviso for the latter application mandate that the height of the new fire-alarm elements must be consistent with those of neighbors, and that they be located lower, in the same plane and in a discrete location, Rosales said.

3 comments for “Cobblestone Convenience Proprietor Clashes With BHAC

  1. Kristie X. Aussubel
    October 26, 2019 at 1:11 am

    If you do not agree with the ruling of the BHAC please sign the petition:

    The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission ruled small business owner Kristie X. Aussubel of Cobblestone Convenience LLC to remove the interior window film containing the name of her business from 3 of the windows. Lettering has historically been on every window of this corner convenience store for decades with documented photographic evidence. The ruling will result as an eyesore to the neighborhood, will be a financial burden to the owner, and is just another case that the BHAC is spending time in bullying our small businesses when there are far greater issues that need to be addressed.

    On October 24, 2019 the following correspondence was sent from Beacon Hill small business owner, Kristie X. Aussubel, to the BHCA – specifically P.T. Vineburgh, Miguel Rosales, Joel Pierce, and Paul Donnelly. Not one of these men responded to her.

    “Good afternoon BHAC (also copied on this email are those who I believe may be able to add value & guidance),

    Since your ruling last Thursday I have received a tremendous amount of inquires from neighbors asking how and why this ruling can be made. I volunteer as the Eliot School Social Media Chair and was approached by several families after last night’s Family Council meeting with the following questions:

    “How will anyone know what the store is if you remove the signage from Joy Street?”
    “Please don’t take down the signage on Joy Street, it will look awful!”
    “Don’t they understand how horrible it looked before you took over, it now looks fantastic!”
    “Do they REALLY understand what they ruled? Can we start a petition?”

    Each and every day I’m in my office, Presidential Properties, located at 17 Myrtle St. (directly across from Cobblestone Convenience) and because we are a street level storefront we leave our door open welcoming neighbors, customers, and tourists. Since Friday there have been countless neighbors taking their time to visit and voice their opposing opinion to your ruling and again ask several questions that I do not know the answers to.

    I own three Beacon Hill small businesses, created over 25 employment positions, and dedicate my life ethically and sincerely influencing young professionals and families to not only move here, but to stay here. I personally write hundreds of leases each and every year and make it a point to know every customer’s name, their address, and provide them with opportunities to get positively involved in “all things” Boston. I even own the trademarks We Know Boston® and #WeKnowBoston®. Because of the great amount of time I spend promoting our great city, I feel frustrated with your ruling and can’t help but take it personally as a mom, small business owner and active member in our community.

    There has been signage in EVERY window of 24 Joy for decades. I have attached photos of the store to show history, placement, and consistency. I have also attached photos to show a “then/now”. I have not been able to find any legal documentation or policy that is agreeable with your ruling.

    I have broken up my defense to your ruling into 3 categories:
    1. Historic Consistency/Look
    2. Placement Reasoning
    3. Small Business Branding

    The historic consistency and look of the windows has remained the same for many, many years. There has been interior sticker lettering on all windows of this non conforming retail store for decades, see attached photos. It is my understanding that the purpose of the BHAC is to make decisions based on historical/architectural value. The history of the window signage is documented in photos with a clear consistency of lettering placed on every window. I was advised by many that the signage placement on all windows as it is now, is “grandfathered in”. Your ruling is to void this history and is unprecedented.

    The placement of the film serves the purpose of hiding the backs of the peg board shelving and the product. I do not believe anyone wants to see the back of our shelves, chips, bleach bottles, and other convenience store items. If the store name is removed from the film as you ruled, at least half of the shelving and product will be visible from the public way. The brand new shelving units were made special order with dimensions to coincide with the signage placement.

    Cobblestone Convenience is a small neighborhood corner store. By ruling to remove the stores name from the film you are ruling to remove it’s brand and identity. By ruling to remove the name from the Joy Street window film there will be no name provided, nor commercial explanation of what the property is. If no one knows who or what the store is, how will my small business succeed and thrive? Joy Street is highly trafficked amongst tourists. Many people are walking from the Boston Common into our neighborhood and /or from the State House. When walking from these directions there will be no visible signage at all. My small business relies solely on foot traffic since there is no parking available.

    When the past tenant of this space moved out, it took over a year of my time, efforts, and cost to provide a beautiful, clean store for my neighbors to enjoy. I followed the guidance of the city and neighbors to actively make sure I was following all the proper channels and permitting. I spent many days at 1010 Mass Ave ensuring this. I had no idea that I had to ask your permission to change the interior sticker name from Primos Convenience to Cobblestone Convenience, and I apologize. I paid the fee for the violation/application and for childcare to attend last Thursday. This store is a financial burden and if you pursue your ruling I will not be able to make any future modifications nor replacements. After the past few days I am most certain the neighborhood will not be happy with the way the store looks. It is my understanding that I will have to obtain legal council to appeal your ruling. Mothers at last night’s meeting stated “you have to appeal!” and suggested they create a “Go Fund Me” account titled “BHAC, the Beacon Hill Bullies of Small Business” in order to raise enough money for an attorney.

    On the front page of today’s Beacon Hill Times portrayed a less than flattering description of my statements made last Thursday and caused another wave of supportive neighbors to come into my office. A Revere Street resident asked for a list of city officials to reach out to on my behalf. Another from Hancock Street asked if they could create an online petition against your ruling. Because of the extravagant uproar from the community against your ruling I am reaching out to see if there is a way we can amicably come to a resolution so you can reverse the ruling and avoid the consumption of everyone’s time and high expenses that I will encounter appealing your ruling in Superior Court. At a day/time of your choice, I would be grateful for your time to meet with me at Cobblestone Convenience where I will treat you to a cup of coffee and physically show you what you have ruled and the repercussions of your ruling.

    I look forward to your response and can be found in my office every day and by email [email protected]

    Thank you for your time,
    Kristie X. Aussubel”

  2. Kristie X. Aussubel
    October 26, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    Miguel Rosales, P.T. Vineburgh, Joel Pierce, and Paul Donnelly of the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission called the historic interior window signage located at 24 Joy Street “not appropriate and excessive”. They ruled to remove the interior window film containing the name of the business “Cobblestone Convenience” from 3 of the windows which will result as an eyesore to the neighborhood and a financial burden to the small business owner. If you do not agree with the BHAC’s ruling please sign this petition:

  3. A. Collins
    October 28, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Is there a process to appeal a decision made by the BHAC if its is deemed inappropriate or excessive by the residents or store owners?

    From my understanding the commissioners are not elected officials, but have the power to subject residents and business owners to fines up to $1,000 per day? [Reference: Historical Beacon Hill District Architectural Guidelines, p.1]

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