JP Business Group Stands Firm on ‘No’ to Caffè Nero

Gerry Ford, founder of Caffè Nero, makes a point during a meeting with the JP Business & Professional Assoc. on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014.

Chris Helms

Gerry Ford, founder of Caffè Nero, makes a point during a meeting with the JP Business & Professional Assoc. on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014.

Give Caffè Nero executives credit — they waded into a basement meeting room crammed with local business owners already on record as not wanting the international coffee house chain in Jamaica Plain.

But while several members of the JP Business & Professional Assoc. were complimentary of the presentation and question-and-answer session provided by the U.K.-based coffee giant, Caffè Nero didn’t change any votes.

The presentation, the family-owned chain’s third so far in JP, came Thursday during a meeting at Prudential Realty on Centre Street.

Caffè Nero has a signed lease to move into 733 Centre St., across from Blanchards. Renovations are already underway behind the craft-paper covered windows.

But opening a business in Boston, perhaps especially JP, means passing several rounds of scrutiny from neighborhood groups, including the Business and Professional Assoc., JP Neighborhood Council and the directly affected neighborhood association. In this case, that’s the Jamaica Pond Assoc., which voted overwhelmingly last week not to hinder Caffè Nero’s plans.

It’s true, however, that these approvals are not binding: Downtown boards like the Zoning Board of Appeals can choose to ignore neighborhood wishes, though that’s rare.

Just as Caffè Nero did at the Pond Assoc. meeting, they brought several key executives to Thursday’s meeting. Founder Gerry Ford appeared Thursday, along with his brother Michael Ford-Deegan and Jay Gentile, the executive in charge of the chain’s nascent effort to crack the coffee market in the Americas.

Much of what the coffee chain’s brass had to say Thursday wasn’t new: It mirrored the previous presentation before the Jamaica Pond Assoc.

One new wrinkle came as a result of pointed questions from the audience of JP business people. Pressed for what plans the family-owned chain has for the U.S., Ford said they hoped to open 10-15 coffee houses in the Greater Boston area in the next two years.

That didn’t sit well with some JP business owners, including John Maxfield, who saw the attention being lavished on JP now as fading fast once the reality of running 650-plus coffee houses worldwide settled back in.

In April, Ford told the Telegraph (U.K.) he hoped to see “several hundred branches” in the U.S.

JP restaurateur David Doyle (Tres Gatos, Centre Street Cafe), pressed the executives on how much of each dollar they bring in would stay in the neighborhood. For Doyles’ own ventures, he said the figure is close to 100 percent.

Ford acknowledged that there’s nothing he could do to change the fact that they are not a JP company.

“If you’re going to have someone who is not JP, I think we are a good choice,” said Ford, who over the last 18 years has grown the company from a single coffee house to its present reach across seven countries.

Local Realtor Ken Sazama, who strongly opposes Caffè Nero and stood against Whole Foods when that controversy roiled the neighborhood, argued that the community needs to do its best to stop the chain.

“A Gap will come. A Starbucks will come. This is a way to plug the dam,” he told the group.

Interestingly, some of the local businesses you’d think most likely to lose business to Caffè Nero have not spoken up at the community meetings held so far, noted Brad Brown. He owns the Blue Frog Bakery and would face direct competition from the European-style coffee house.

“There are a finite number of cups of coffee sold in JP each morning,” he said, noting that his volume took a hit when new, local competitors appeared, such as City Feed and 7 Pond Coffee Bar.

In the end, no association board members voted in favor of a motion to support Caffè Nero.

Previous Jamaica Plain News coverage of Caffè Nero’s bid to come to JP:

[Editor’s note: While Jamaica Plain News is a member of the JP Business & Professional Assoc., we abstain from all votes taken by the group. Thursday’s vote on Caffè Nero was for board members only.]

  • rb

    Bravo! Thanks for standing firm. Chains will transform JP into Everytown, USA.

  • fp

    Lets work to welcome MARKET BASKET to build a store in jackson sq.and thus bring affordable food and jobs with justice to JP.

  • Wrong on Whole Foods. Wrong on Caffé Nero.

    • KM

      Curious what good you have seen from Whole Foods in JP. I have not seen them sponsor or support much in the neighborhood and with their deep pockets they could easily have their name plastered everywhere if they really did want to support this community. What good do you think Caffe Nero will bring?

      • Whole Foods gives a portion of their profit to local charities. The good I’ve seen from Whole Foods is that they transformed a dump of a grocery store into a beautiful place to purchase great food.

      • Pat Roberts

        Last year, Whole Foods donated a salad bar to the Curley School (it’s in JP). They donated a lot of money to Hyde Square Task Force right after they opened (HSTF is also in JP). It’s a very generous organization, and various JP organizations have received some of that generosity. Maybe you and David Doyle could spend a little time getting your facts together before you rush to comment.

  • Pat Roberts

    It would be nice to have a discussion without the bombast. David Doyle says almost 100% of the money he takes in stays in JP. So all his employees live in JP. All his vendors are local JP businesspeople, and they only provide local JP products. His utilities are JP utility companies. If he doesn’t want the competition, he should say so, instead of looking ridiculous with these absurd assertions.

    • KM

      This is not an anti-competitive movement this is a “what do we want our downtown and community to look like” movement. David Doyle is extremely generous within the JP community in a way that national, let alone international chains, rarely are. Local business owners are our neighbors, their children go to our schools, they attend our community events, they sit our our local non-profit boards…they are invested. Just look at the list of donors and supports of most of the JP community events that make the neighborhood special and you will find very few national chains on those lists. If you don’t believe me, just pick up the JP Open Studios map for this weekend. National chains are a money drain on the community, local businesses reinvest, over and over again.

      • Pat Roberts

        However generous David Doyle might be, for him to assert that nearly 100% of the money he takes in stays in JP is silly, and it makes him look like he’s striking a pose, not trying to have a real discussion.

        • KM

          I am quite sure that what David likely meant to say is that all of the money that he gives away or donates is given back to JP organizations. He hosts regular fundraisers for community organizations, opens his business for First Thursday, etc. Just the fact that we know his name as the owner of Tres Gatos says something. Anyone know the name of the manager of Whole Foods or Bank of America??? Seen him or her at any community events lately?

          • I don’t know the name of the manager of Bank of America, but I needed a document notarised, and they did it quickly and cheerfully, without asking is I had an account at the bank. Great customer service.

      • It is an anti-competitive movement.

        JP Local First opposes Multinational Coffee Chain July 4, 2014
        ““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.”

        • CharlesMcEnerney

          It’s really not anti-competitive, it’s simply pro-local. You know how big corporations stay big? They put the little guys out of business. See the business models and practices of Wal-mart, Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, etc. They all have the revenue to play the long game and outlast small businesses who don’t have the cash to out-market them and deeply discount prices. I’m not against Caffe Nero. If it’s good it will last and if it’s not, it won’t. But local businesses have every right to voice their concerns and push back. Granted it’s a powerful voice here in JP, but I’ve never seen a place that is so vigilant about not ending up like everyplace else in America. I’m extremely grateful for that. Lastly, any national chain that wants to open a business (anywhere) needs to commit long-term (not just around their opening) to giving back to the community through sponsorships and community grants. Generally, when you go into a chain, they refer you back to a regional manager who refers you back to their headquarters where they say, “well, we get a lot of organizations asking for money, so…” and that’s where it ends. If you are a big, corporate-owned entity, you need to have some social conscious (currently lacking in the US) where you see yourself as a part of the community, not just making cash from it to benefit stock holders or the family that holds the business. That’s just common sense. Local businesses do that because they know being part of the local community really matters. Big companies generally don’t care enough to re-invest some money where it’s needed.

          • KM

            You said everything I tried to say, but way better! I too, am so thankful for the community dialogue that always takes place around these types of issues in JP. If we aren’t careful, we will one day wake up and centre street will look like Harvard Square, which in my opinion has lost it’s sense of place.

          • I wish we could actually hear from the community when new businesses move to JP. Usually it’s just a vocal minority that is opposed.

          • CharlesMcEnerney

            I agree that we consumers should have a voice in what we want/need in town. It shouldn’t only be “business interests” that get to decide everything for us. Maybe Chris Helms can find a WordPress plug-in and have a monthly poll where JP-residents have a platform for one vote (kind of like the “what business should go into this empty space?” articles) so that can be included in the mix. I know there are many things that we all have to drive to the suburbs to get that aren’t available in town (or in Boston proper, really) which bothers me. Maybe if retailers knew there was enough demand for things it could spur other stores to open that serves those local needs. Get on right on that, Chris! ; )

          • Great idea, Charlie. I’ll look into it…

  • Caffé Nero will certainly support local charities and art. Go to a meeting and hear from them before raising pitchforks.

  • FYI, these are the members of the JP Business & Professional Assoc per their website,

    Ace Hardware City
    Andrew Zuroff CP A. P .C
    Arborview Realty
    Boing! JP’s Toy Shop
    Brigham & Women’s Advanced Primary Care
    Canary Square
    Classic Cleaners Inc.
    Clean Getaway Laundry
    Commonwealth Cooperative Bank
    Dr. Elsa Guzman, DDS
    Eastern Bank
    Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts
    Ferris Wheels Bike Shop
    Fiore’s Bakery
    Fire Opal
    Footlight Club
    Fresh Hair
    Jamaica Hill Realty
    JP Licks
    Laurie A. McKeown, esq.
    Mann & Rodgers Funeral Home
    McCormack & Scanlan Real Estate
    Millipede Shoes
    Mt. Washington Bank
    On Centre
    Optical Designs
    Peoples Federal Savings Bank
    Polka Dog Bakery
    Purple Cactus
    So. J. P. Health Center
    Taylor House Bed & Breakfast
    Ten Tables & TT Bar
    The Blue Frog Bakery
    The First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain
    Tonic Restaurant
    Tres Gatos
    West Cork Auto
    When Pigs Fly Bakery
    Wonder Spice Café
    Yumont Hardware
    Carloz Icaza
    Michael Reiskind
    Sandra Storey
    Arva Clark

    I wonder which members might be in favor of Caffé Nero?

  • ImmodestyBlaise

    I tried the one in Downtown Crossing. Food was staleish and the coffee was not all that. This place will sink under its own mediocrity.

    • Did you you mention your thoughts on the food to the manager when you were in there? I’m sure they would have replaced it to your liking.

      • ImmodestyBlaise

        I’m not sure if your question was sincere or sarcastic. In hopes it was the former, I had to order my items to go as I was late to a meeting. So it was too late to bring to a manager’s attention.

  • seven

    This place is starbucks on steroids, (and the fare is not all that), another large corp, coming in to take, and going where with their profits? (shareholders) To that magical place where little taxes are paid and Gerry Ford wipes out our keepin it local ethos along with our coffee shops.

  • KarlaV

    I’m with Steve Garfield: I believe we can and should welcome Caffe Nero. The more insular and unwelcoming JP gets, the less I like living here. As I’ve said on this site before, I am a *very* strong supporter of local business; but I do not take kindly to other businesses trying to keep out a new business that might meet my needs as a consumer. I also have yet to get an answer to my question about why some chains are considered OK in JP and others are not. Can someone please explain to me the reasoning behind why multiple CVSs, multiple Dunkies, a Bank of America and an Ace hardware store are all “allowed” in when other chains are not? At least if a principle is going to be upheld, it should be consistent.

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