Community Supports Roslindale Businesses During Pandemic

Roslindale businesses are excited about the support that they received from community during pandemic. The following are

Birch St. House & Garden

Birch St. House & Garden gift store is celebrating 20 years in Roslindale Square this year, and owner Elizabeth Swanson has worked in the store since 2002, taking ownership in 2008.

“Instead of being like a niche store, we take more of a general approach,” Swanson said of the items the store sells. “We aim to have something for everyone in everyone’s budget.”

The store, which is located at 760 South St. in Roslindale, has always offered free gift wrapping for items purchased in the store, and Swanson said that many customers come in looking for gifts for kids’ birthday parties, housewarming parties, and other events.

Two weeks ago, a second smaller location of the store was opened inside Hebrew SeniorLife on Centre St. Swanson said this store gives “patients and their families an opportunity to have some retail therapy inside Hebrew SeniorLife,” as well as a “place where employees can come pick up quick gifts or cards, saving them time.”

That location, called Birch St. House & Garden Hebrew SeniorLife Branch, is currently open four days a week. The gift shop that previously occupied the space had not reopened since COVID hit, and now volunteers form the center are working at Swanson’s store.

“That’s been interesting for me,” she said. “I did’t have to hire anyone.”

Swanson also said she has really enjoyed chatting with the customers and learning more about the items they would like to see at the shop that would necessarily be at the main store, such as toiletry items and comfy and diabetic socks.

“It’s been great,” she said of the second location.

Before the pandemic hit, Swanson did not have an online store for folks to shop on, but once COVID hit Boston and businesses were required to shut down, she began creating an online store, as well as held live Facebook shopping events where she showcased different products for sale.

“I got a really good reaction to those live Facebook shopping events,” she said, which were held in the evenings. She personally delivered purchased items to people’s homes and placed them on porches for a safe, contact free shopping experience.

“When the weather got a little nicer, I decided to do safe curbside pickup,” she said. “All of that really helped and customers really rallied behind all the small businesses in the square.” She said this was “really heartening,” and “made it not so horrible to get through the pandemic.”

Last June, when stores were allowed to reopen, Birch St. reopened for in-person shopping, but for those who were not yet comfortable with returning to in-person shopping, Swanson offered concierge shopping, where customers could call, text, or email, and they would be shown a selection of products to choose from. They could then place an order over the phone and either have it delivered or pick it up curbside at the store.

Now, more and more people have returned to shopping indoors and the store hours have continually increased. Masks are required for in-person shopping, and two air purifiers are running at all times in the store. Hand sanitizer is available, and cleaning is conducted regularly. The concierge shopping is still available, but Swanson said that not too many folks are utilizing that at this point.

“I have no idea what will happen with the holidays,” she said, adding that she is prepared to implement any additional restrictions that could arise such as limiting the number of customers in-store.

Swanson, who is originally from the Midwest, said she likes Roslindale because “it jus feels very Midwest here. People talk to each other; take the time to say hi. People who move to the area are super excited to move to Roslindale.” Swanson said she makes every attempt “to make sure that they’re welcome.”

Additionally, “it’s walkable here. Everything’s kind of in a concentrated square loop thing. It just helps.”

She said the “communal spaces” in the square that have bee coordinated with Roslindale Village Main Street and business owners have been especially helpful during the pandemic and allow people to gather with friends and neighbors in a safer way.

“We’re super blessed that we have so many restaurants that have nice off-street courtyards to eat in,” Swanson said, and there are many families with children as well as empty nesters who live in the neighborhood.

As the holidays approach, Swanson said that the store is receiving shipments of new product “on an almost daily basis.” She said there are “lots of fun products,” and it’s “never too early to start holiday shopping. If you see it and you like it, you might want to buy it.”

For more information on Birch St. House & Garden as well as the online store, visit birchsthouseandgarden.com.

Centre Cuts Salon & Spa

Centre Cuts Salon & Spa is located at 6 Belgrade Ave. in Roslindale, and offers a full array of salon and spa services, including hair cuts, styling, coloring, skin care, waxing, and nail services. The salon also features a boutique called Toupe & Teal, where customers can shop for gifts, accessories, and clothes for men and women.

Owner Terry Fitzgerald told the Gazette that the salon originally opened at 763 Centre St. in Jamaica Plain in July of 1980, and after in years in that space, they decided they needed more room. Fizgerald said she went to Roslindale Village Main Streets and was convinced to open her salon in the neighborhood after being unable to find a suitable larger space in Jamaica Plain.

After building out the salon, Fitzgerald said she felt as though there was a need for a spa in the area, so she built out a spa at 8 Belgrade Ave ad expanded the offerings to services like nails and waxing.

The boutique was also created in the front section of the spa, but has bee recently built up even more. “We had always sold seasonal accessories and seemed to do well with it,” Fitzgerald said, and “we really overhauled it and expanded it when COVID hit,” she said. She said the boutique now has “tons of merchandise in it,” and encourages people to start holiday shopping early.

During the COVID shutdown, Fitzgerald said she came to the salon “every single day” and cleaned every inch of the space. She and her business partner, Edna O’Malley, began to prepare the space according to state, city, federal, and cosmetology board requirements. They put up partitions, purchased PPE, and ensured they were ready to follow all guidelines.

“We were really, really in compliance,” she said. “I remember the nurses that came in as clients; they told us that what we were doing was pretty much what the hospitals were doing.”

She said that word spread about the cleanliness of the salon, which brought in many new clients once it was able to reopen. Fitzgerald said that she had been keeping clients updated throughout the shutdown with emails. “I really let them know what was going on and what to expect when they came in,” she said.

“We were very fortunate,” Fitzgerald added, in that they were able to receive two rounds of funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as well as some smaller and larger grants. She said she was able to retain all of her staff.

Today the salon is still following all guidelines required of businesses in the City of Boston, including wearing masks at all times by clients and staff. Though the partitions between chairs have since been taken down, surfaces are still regularly wiped down with disinfectant wipes.

Fitzgerald said that Centre St, Salon & Spa is special because “we truly work as a team; everybody does everything in our salon. If a person’s regular technician is not available, we always offer someone else to take care of them,” she said.

Additionally, the salon prides itself on its cleanliness, both prior to and during the pandemic.

“We have a very diversified clientele and we have diversified technicians who can provide the services for our diversified clientele,” Fitzgerald said.

When it comes to the Roslindale neighborhood, Fitzgerald said “I think the community is just outstanding. I think the merchants watch out for each other, and I think the community is extremely supportive.”

The salon is very busy these days, Fitzgerald said, and “it’s wonderful. I just hope it continues. I have a fantastic bunch of employees; they’re committed. We all worked very, very, very hard to get through this. We need to get through this winter, but I feel we’re in a good place right now.”

For more information about Centre Cuts Salon & Spa, visit centrecuts.com.

The Square Root

Square Root cafe owner Anthony Giordano never pictured himself owning a cafe.

“Four years ago, if someone told me I’d be running a cafe in Roslindale Square, I wouldn’t believe it,” he told the Gazette. Giordano bought the building at 2 Corinth St. and tried to rent it out, but after several “unsuccessful attempts” to do so, he decided to open up the coffee shop “with the intentions of having live entertainment and beer and wine.”

Square Root opened in February of 2019, and is much more than your average coffee shop, offering live music and events along with beer and wine in the evenings, as well as coffee, pastries, and other food during the day.

During the pandemic shutdown, the cafe was able to offer takeout via online ordering and the team “configured the space to allow a little place for people to come in and pick up takeout and so forth.”

He said that the “good thing about Rozzie” is that the “community is very supportive of businesses.”

Giordano said that the cafe was “met with a lot of positive business. People were supportive throughout the whole process.” He also said he was able to keep that majority of his staff, and those who did have to be furloughed were able to be rehired “due to some financial aid from city, state, and federal entities,” Giordano said.

Today, COVID restrictions are still followed, including the requiring of masks when not actively eating or drinking. “That goes for the daytime, early morning, to nighttime shows to people hanging out, listening to music,” Giordano said.

Live music returned to the space in late July of this year, when it was permitted by the city ad state. The cafe has offered private events, karaoke, an open mic night, a singalong, and other similar events. “We’re multimode,” Giordano said.

Aside from a variety of coffees, teas, and other soft drinks, Square Root serves a variety of beers and wines in the evening. Food items include things like pizza, quesadillas, and sandwiches.

Giordano said that he highly recommends the BLT. “I think we have the best bacon,” he said, adding that it’ a local bacon and “it really makes an amazing sandwich.”

He said that when creating the menu, he took a look around at other restaurants and coffee shops in the area and tried to offer “things that weren’t already being offered.” Giordano said that as Square Root was opening up, Diane’s Baker was closing, so he tried to have some of the items they offered, and the menu also consists of “generally stuff that I like to eat as well,” he said.

Giordano said he appreciates the Roslindale neighborhood, where he grew up. While he now lives in West Roxbury how, he said of Roslindale, “its’ diverse, it’s loyal, it’s got its heart in the right place.”

He said he appreciates feedback from customers and tries to offer things they want and need, but right now, the food supply chain is very limited. He said prices have also increased, and suppliers are having a difficult time keeping up with the demands of many restaurants that have more recently opened their doors back up.

“I appreciate the flexibility of our customers, but we need more of that,” he said.

For more information about Square Root Rozzie and a calendar of upcoming events, visit squarerootrozzie.com.

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