JP Local First Urges Landlord to Tear Up Lease with UK Coffee Giant

733 Centre St.

Chris Helms

733 Centre St.

The neighborhood would be better served if the landlord at 733 Centre St. picked a tenant other than Caffè Nero, the London-based coffee and sandwich chain which plans to open a second Boston location there. At least that’s the argument one local business group is making.

JP Local First wrote a letter to Christine Elder, who owns the former Commonwealth Bank spot. Elder is a well-known figure in JP and Boston business circles as president of Blanchards Wines & Spirits.

“We are concerned in particular about the effect that Caffè Nero would have on existing small businesses in the Centre/South street area,” read part of the letter. “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.”

Renovations are already underway at the 733 Centre St. spot. As the letter acknowledges, a lease has already been signed. JP Local First urged Elder to reconsider the lease.

Another JP business group, the JP Business & Professional Assoc., is drafting a similar letter. During discussion of the idea of formally opposing Caffè Nero at Wednesday’s meeting of the group, sentiment ran heavily in opposition.

“This is like Starbucks on steroids,” said Leo Moulis, assistant treasurer and branch manager for Peoples Federal Savings Bank.

One local business owner, Jeffrey Ferris of Ferris Wheels Bike Shop, asked the group what the grounds were for opposing that particular business.

Sandee Storey, founder of the Jamaica Plain Gazette and now a columnist for the paper, said the Business & Professional Assoc. has traditionally been most skeptical of giving approval to businesses with far-flung headquarters.

Eric Johnson of Red Sun Press said lobbying for an international chain to stay out of the neighborhood wasn’t harassment.

“When these places come into our neighborhood,” he said, “they undercut [our own businesses.]”

A total of 49 local businesspeople signed the JP Local First letter, including: Kim Mitchell, Boing! Toy Shop; David Warner, City Feed & Supply; Pam Kristan, Pamela Kristan Consulting; Deb Beatty Mel, Boston Building Resources and George Kordan, Will Mow Lawn. A full copy of the letter is embedded below.

If you’d like a preview of what Caffè Nero’s JP location might be like, just take the Orange Line to Chinatown or Downtown Crossing. There’s a Caffè Nero at Millennium Place, 560 Washington St. As of February, the company had more than 650 locations around the world, according to the Boston Globe.

[Editor’s note: The original post incorrectly stated the number of local businesspeople who had signed the JP Local First letter.]


  • rb

    With so many enterprising local businesspeople, there is no reason to invite chains into the neighborhood.

  • Kate Hutchinson

    The owner of the property is also a local businesswoman. This is how she is choosing to run her business.

    The real point here is that JP has a vibrant local community and has lots of people who prioritize shopping local. Centre St also has CVS, Dunkin Donuts, Tedeschis, Bank of America, Citizens Bank and other “chains.” If one more chain comes here, I can’t imagine that a single coffee shop is going to disrupt the local businesses.

    This is more JP wringing its hands over nothing.

  • inJPwithCOMMONsense

    Are these the same degenerates who blubbered endlessly about Whole Foods several years ago? The same ones I see at Whole Foods every time I go?

    • AmoJPHaters

      I thought there was a rule on this site requiring people to use their real first and last names, so we don’t have moronic bullshit comments like this choking out all the useful discussion. Apparently not.

      • inJPwithCOMMONsense

        Pot, Meet Kettle. I see the hacks at the JPNDC signed the letter as well, that’s always a good sign.

      • JamaicaPlainNews

        Hi, it’s Chris Helms with Jamaica Plain News. We haven’t set any policies yet for commenting as the site is new and I want to see how the commenting culture evolves organically. Maybe it’s time for a commenting policy.

        I’ll keep an eye on the comments. Meanwhile, if we just remember we’re all neighbors and don’t say stuff online you wouldn’t say face to face, we’ll have useful comment sections here.

        • AmoJPHaters

          Chris, it is absolutely time for a commenting policy. Nothing good came of the haters scaring everyone with their anonymous vitriol on JP Patch, and nothing good will come of it here. Thanks.

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  • Chain status aside, we just don’t need a coffee shop there. There are two Dunkin Donuts, City Feed, and Fiore’s all in the span on a few blocks.

  • Matt Lee

    I like JP licks but there are few other places I feel I could actually get some work done. Caffe Nero downtown is a great place to work. Its not clear that a decent local coffee shop will ever open. City Feed is slow and impractical for example.

    The corporate Capital One 360 bank in Back Bay is already a preferable place to work than any coffee shop in JP.

    • JamaicaPlainNews

      Thanks, Matt. I took a scouting trip today down to the existing Caffe Nero. On Monday I’ll post photos. It was certainly easy to work there (though they did mess up my sandwich order).

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  • ImmodestyBlaise

    Yes, it would be great if the space went to a local business. But it didn’t. As Kate Hutchinson noted below, the decision to rent to Caffe Nero was made by a local businesswoman; doesn’t she deserve a way to monetize her property? Perhaps she can secure a concession from them to hire a certain percentage of local residents. Doesn’t that do just as much good?

    I understand the distrust of chains, and how if we let one in, that makes it easier to turn all of Centre Street into Downtown Crossing. On the other hand, a lot of the places mentioned in the article and in the comments are not set up for people to be among the community, work, linger, and spend money over the span of a few hours. City Feed and Dunkin Donuts are not meant to be work spaces, for instance. I love Ula and 7 Pond, but good luck getting a place to sit, or checking your email at 12pm. I wrote half my grad school thesis in 2005 at the old Emack & Bolio’s; it was hard to find space then, and we have even more contributors to the creative and startup economies now. The old bank space doesn’t look that big to be that much of a threat to everyone else.

  • CharlesMcEnerney

    I’d be happy if Dunkin Donuts, CVS, Tedeshi’s, and all the corporate banks left JP to be honest. Corporations are now running the world. They wield an enormous amount of power in local and national politics, dictating policy based on their profits, which impacts everyone everywhere. They are not looking out for communities the way a local business owner does. The only way to undo the mess that the US has created is to take some financial power away from corporations. It’s not easy, but I, for one, love the fact that JP puts up a stink every time a corporation tries to get another foot hold here. It gives me faith that the human race is not ready to be controlled by corporate thinking. Most places around the country do not put up a stink at all, but it’s vital to make some noise (even if you end up shopping at Whole Foods!).

  • Patty Neal

    I am so excited to have Caffe Nero come to JP! I had never heard of this coffee shop until people I work with from overseas told me how excited they were that Boston was getting one. If it is anything like the one downtown it will have a cozy place to sit with excellent coffee. Welcome to the neighborhood!

  • Pat Roberts

    Some of the chains in JP were started by local people: Dunkin Donuts, Store 24 (which recently sold to Tedeschi’s), CVS. JP Licks is apparently a chain–they have multiple locations. Ten Tables has at least two locations–another chain? If a chain is started by someone from Boston, is that okay? If a single retail establishment is operating in JP but the owner doesn’t live here, is that okay, or are they an outsider? Maybe the “no chains, no outsiders” people could clarify.

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