Like State Rep. Jay Livingstone, City Councilor Kenzie Bok believes it’s now largely incumbent on the neighborhood’s residents to shop locally to prevent any more Charles Street shops and retail establishments from closing.
“All of us should be shopping locally,” Councilor Bok said. “None of us want to see our independent businesses replaced by chain stores. That’s one of my greatest fears here, and shopping at local, independent businesses is one of the keys to preventing that from happening.”
But even then, the fate of these businesses is so tenuous that Councilor Bok believes innovative solutions must also be explored, such as the creation of an outdoor holiday market to showcase local retailers in a safe environment, as was recently suggested to her by one Charles Street merchant.
“I plan on exploring it internally with the city to see if it’s something we can do,” she said. “We’ve lost a bunch of businesses already, including some before the pandemic, so we’ve got to throw everything we can at the problem.”
And as the state waits to find out if any more federal funding is forthcoming to local businesses, Rep. Livingstone and Charles Street merchants are left holding their collective breath.
“The state’s ability to provide further financial assistance is really dependent on the federal government providing the state with more stimulus money,” he said, “so the approach that the state has taken is to try to defer payments that were due, like sales-tax payments, and to ease the rules on the approval of things like outdoor seating for restaurants.”
During his ongoing discussion with business owners on how to ease the financial burdens or regulatory burdens that are imposed on them, Rep. Livingstone said the resounding message he hears is that people must return to the city if its, and Charles Street’s, businesses are to survive.
“One thing facing all downtown neighborhoods is that there are significantly fewer people coming to Boston without sporting events and concerts at Fenway Park, conventions at the Hynes or the hundreds of thousands of office workers coming in from out of town is going to have a significant impact on every business here,” he said. “It’s going to be a struggle for any local business when a significant number of potential customers aren’t around, and that’s the situation they’re facing.”
So in their absence, Rep. Livingstone leaves it up to residents to ultimately save retail on Charles Street.
“What we can all do is continue to patronize local businesses,” he said.