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

Last updated on June 20, 2014

733 Centre St.
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.]

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