JP Centre/South Main Streets held its annual meeting virtually on March 10, where leaders discussed how the organization helped many small businesses in the district in the midst of a global pandemic, as well as heard from keynote speaker City Councilor Matt O’Malley.
First, board president Michael Reiskind said that though this past year has been extremely difficult for many, “one thing that’s the same is the importance of main streets in the City of Boston. For JP, the businesses went through an enormously difficult year, and I’m so happy that most of them have survived well,” he said.
Reskind said that although it was sad to see businesses like Taylor House Bed and Breakfast. Aviary Gallery, REPS Fitness Studio, and a few others like JP Knit and Stitch become online only, several businesses were actually able to open during the pandemic. These include: Cada Dia, Regenerate Movement, JP Lock and Security, Nckls & Dimes, DVSTY Consignment, and Said and Done Tattoos, which will open soon, he said.
Throughout the meeting, video testimonials were played from owners and employees of businesses like American Dry Cleaners, George’s Shoes, and Tres Gatos, Casa Verde, and Little Dipper, who talked about how JP Centre/South Main Streets has helped them stay afloat.
JP Centre/South Main Streets Executive Director Ginger Brown also provided remarks, and she looked back on the previous year and talked about how the organization was able to come together to help so many businesses.
She said that prior to 2020, “my job was a lot of fun.” She said there were “a lot of things such as fundraisers, trolley tours, and scavenger hunts.” And although “I really enjoyed that part of the job,” Brown said she “never felt particularly useful.”
But she said that those “community placemaking events” helped her to “build relationships with businesses,” which was very helpful when the pandemic hit and businesses were forced to shut down. “Businesses started reaching out to us to help them,” she said. “We were researching grants, loans, every single program that was available,” and provided that information to the businesses.”
She said there were around 34 volunteers who stepped up to help with various projects as well.
“It occurred to me that the fun events built the sense of community that we needed,” Brown said, and encouraged people to come out and help.”
There are three different “working groups” in response to the pandemic. The first group is “triage and Immediate Relief,” which, according to a slide presented at the meeting, provided 11 businesses with Boston Main Streets Foundation Relief Grands. The second group is “Long Term Sustenance and Advocacy,” and Councilor Matt O’Malley, Rep. Liz Malia, Rep. Nika Elugardo, and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz were able to help businesses in the long term with some of their work. The third group is the Recovery Task Force, Brown said.
She also said that 10 $1000 grants were provided to businesses in the district that set up outdoor seating areas, and JP Centre/South Main Streets ran its “Orange Means Open” campaign, where participating open businesses paid a small fee towards the cost of orange paper lanterns to hang outside their businesses to let people know they were open.
“I think it really made a nice festive look on the street,” Brown said. “We ought to repeat it this summer.
Brown also spoke about other events that happened over the past year, such as the JP Together/JP Unidas show, the parklet and programming on Green Street outside of Blue Frog Bakery, a Zoom Cocktail Hour, a virtual wine tasting and art auction, the Jamaica Plain Trivia Battle Royale, JP Movie Night, the Holiday Shopping Stroll, and the Holiday Light show, which was projected onto the steeple at First Baptist Church this past holiday season.
JP Centre/South Main Streets also received a grant from the Boston Main Streets Foundation for JP Holiday Delivery, where deliveries of purchases made from main streets businesses were delivered to people’s homes for three weeks in December. Brown said that the organization “learned a lot” from that experience, and is “exploring the possibility” of doing it again this holiday season.
Next up was City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who provided emotional remarks to attendees of the meeting. O’Malley has previously announced that he will not seek re-election after serving ten years as the District 6 City Councilor.
O’Malley said it’s “important to support local businesses,” and he commented on the number of closed businesses throughout the downtown area and the rest of the city. He said it was “chilling” to see these closures.
Through tears, O’Malley said that “growing up in this city, I got to meet some incredible people and friends. I’m so grateful to each and every one of you. The people on this call work every day to make this neighborhood better.”
He said that it has been “the greatest honor of my professional life to represent” District 6, and although he will not be a City Councilor at next year’s JP Centre/South Main Streets Annual Meeting, he will “continue to support the great work you’re all doing.”
O’Malley said that his campaign would match up to $1000 any money that was donated to JP Centre/South Main Streets before the end of the meeting, and Josh Muncey of the Muncey Group said the same.
O’Malley’s 6-month-old daughter, Margot Gillian, also made an appearance at the meeting.
JP resident Sarah Freeman provided remarks about O’Malley, thanking him for his years of dedication to climate and environmental issues in the city, especially his work on banning plastic bags in the city and on gas leaks.
JP Centre/South Main Streets will be holding its spring fundraiser virtually, and it will be another trivia night. This time, it will be guessing whether stories are “Fact or Fiction?,” and will be held on Thursday, April 1 from 7:30-8:30pm. More information and tickets can be found at eventbrite.com/e/fact-or-fiction-online-trivia-fundraiser-tickets-145103864565.
For more information on JP Centre/South Main Streets and to donate to the organization, visit jpcentresouth.com.