The nonprofit local business organization JP Local First has issued a letter opposing the opening of a U.K.-based coffee franchise on Centre Street. The local Main Streets organization’s board opposes it as well and is actively seeking alternatives.
Caffè Nero, similar to Starbucks or Au Bon Pain, is planning on opening its second American location at 733 Centre St., the former home of the Commonwealth Bank. Its first location is already open in the Financial District.
“They’re a large multinational corporation moving into a business district where they’re going to be competing with small, local businesses,” JP Local First Coordinator Marta Terrupato told the Gazette. “As an organization that supports locally-owned businesses, we felt that we needed to say something.”
“We already have three other businesses providing coffee, baked goods, and sandwiches. We would rather see a new independent or locally-owned business that can provide a new or necessary service rather than another coffee and sandwich shop that will directly compete with the existing locally owned businesses providing the same needs,” she added, in an email.
Forty seven businesses signed the letter, intended to be sent to the Corey family, the landlords at 733 Centre St. It was mistakenly addressed to Christine Elder, a member of the family who does not deal with that piece of real estate.
The Corey family has already signed a lease with Caffé Nero, according to Centre/South Main Streets (CSMS) Executive Director Andrew Zarro.
Zarro said that CSMS’s top priority is “the health and well-being of the financial corridor,” which means supporting the landlords as well as the businesses. But CSMS’s board voted to not support Caffé Nero’s move to the corridor, Zarro said.
That said, he added that CSMS is “working with all players” to broker a solution. The idea currently being discussed is relocating Caffé Nero to another storefront owned by the Corey family and finding a new business to take over the Centre Street location– ideally, a retailer, Zarro said.
“A vacant storefront isn’t healthy for the corridor,” Zarro said. “We’re actively looking for an established retailer to open a second location, something like a bookstore, arts and crafts store, or women’s retail, to liven up the space and make it a destination.”
Caffé Nero spokesperson Ceri Aiken sent the following prepared statement to the Gazette in response to a request for comment: “Caffè Nero are really pleased to have an opportunity to move to Jamaica Plain, as we recognize it as a great community. We are a European, family-run coffee house business and … so far we have been delighted with the reaction from our [American] customers. We are hoping to open our second store sometime later in 2014 and will be talking to those in the Jamaica Plain community who’d like to know more about us in due course.”
The Jamaica Plain Business and Professional Association (JP BAPA) will be discussing the possibility of sending a similar letter of opposition to the Corey family at its next meeting, Vice President Carlos Icaza told the Gazette.
“There’s no yay or nay on this” at the moment, Icaza said. “It’s on the agenda.”
Terrupato told the Gazette that JP Local First is expecting JP BAPA to follow in its footsteps.
JP Local First was created by the owners of City Feed and Supply, Red Sun Press and Boing! Toy Shop in February and focuses on marketing local JP businesses to local customers. Its website is jplocalfirst.org.