Tuesday, January 10, 2006

'Plain' and simple?

My thoughts on JP after reading this profile in the Boston Globe Magazine. I do think that the profile captured the spirit of the place. I even emailed it to friends and family in other parts of the coutnry who don't understand how I can live in the city of Boston while not residing in downtown Boston.

I'm a recent transplant to Boston and have the same ambivalence about the place that many subjects in the article expressed. I enjoy the charm and the greenery, the open-minded spirit of the community. On the flip side I was dismayed to see how many 'useful things' the area lacks. Or, as Chris mentions, it doesn't function like a normal city neighborhood should. But, rents in Boston being what they are I found an affordable place in JP and would've been silly not to take it. I'm not saying that a Starbucks is a necessity, but a more mainstream supermarket would be great. I hate having to drive to West Roxbury or Brookline for everyday food- it makes me thankful I have a car. And where does one go to rent a mainstream movie in JP?

This is familiar turf for owner Vince Petryk, who walks into J.P. Licks just as my conversation with his customers is ending. Petryk, who's wearing a black-and-white scarf and has fogged eyeglasses from the cold, says that of his eight stores scattered around Greater Boston, his "mother ship"—as he calls the JP one, where all the ice cream is made—remains his busiest. And other than a few restaurants, such as Zon's, with its delicious comfort food, from mac and cheese to meatloaf to lamb burgers, and Ten Tables, one of Boston's most romantic spots, which has just landed one of the city's best chefs in Amanda Lydon, J.P. Licks might be the only destination in Jamaica Plain that draws outsiders to the strip.

Just this year, after the tired-looking post office next door was rebuilt, Petryk spruced up his own sidewalk table space, something he wishes more of his neighbors would do. It's hard not to notice the Chinese restaurant across the street with the graffiti-scarred metal grate, or the office building with the drab, worn-down signs.

Vince Petryk is correct when he suggests that other merchants on Centre Street work on the outward appearance of their businesses and of the street in general. It's got a bunch of cute stores, but it's not a cute street. And cute streets bring in the money. (Note- this does not mean conformist with all stores looking alike, it just means less shabby and more 'shabby chic').

There's no need to completely sell out to chains stores, but there must be some sort of happy medium.

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