Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

In General on September 23, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Hey friends.  Please note that I’ve migrated the CityRetail blog over to , where all new posts will live.  There’s a new blog post up now, titled “Summer Lovers” – check it out at above cityretail link.  I’ll post updates on this site when new posts go up; therefore if you are subscribed you’ll still get the link.  Thanks for reading!  /Jesse

Quick update & some press

In Kendall Square on June 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I know it has been ages since last post but I assure you CityRetail is still alive and kicking. We’ve been working on a new that I’m hoping to bring live next week. It will be easier for you to read and easier for us to manage and update.

Generally, It’s been a great spring for CityRetail. Area Four opened three weeks ago and has been a big hit.  I’m super proud of CityRetail’s work on this deal and think the concept, food and team is so solid. Chef Gary Strack’s Firebrand Saints will open mid-Summer and as with Area Four, I think folks will be treated to something fresh, exciting and super tasty.  Also just opening is another one of CityRetail’s big projects from 2010, Bosse City Club (Health Club and Spa), which, like Area Four and Firebrand, is a highly entrepreneurial and innovative retail offering that matches the vibe here in Kendall. Oh, and then there’s Kendall’s very own 110 tap beer joint: Meadhall, which also opened last month…

I’ve got lots more to share and will do so with more regular posts as soon as the new site is up. For now though, here are a handful of links and press about some of our recent projects and neighborhood happenings:

Cambridge’s Hottest New Neighborhood for Foodies, Area 4” (WCVB TV Boston 5, ABC)

BioTech a la carte” (The Boston Globe)

Kendall Square: The Boston Area’s Next Restaurant Row?” (Blog)

Can you call it a gym if it features concierge service, a eucalyptus steam room and zen garden?” (The Boston Globe)

Luxury Fitness Center Expanding into Kendall Square” (Cambridge Chronicle)

Hip To Be Square” (Stuff Magazine)

Meet Patricia

In Our Team on April 13, 2011 at 11:09 am

I’ve known for a while that CityRetail’s bandwidth is significantly limited with just Dave and I running the show and I’ve thought hard over the past six months about the type of person we need to bolster the team.  Conventional wisdom suggests that I should bring on someone with extensive retail real estate experience but for now I’m going in another direction…

What CityRetail needs now is another entrepreneur – someone who appreciates and understand how we have created new space in the marketplace and somebody who understand that space. I want someone who has run their own small business; someone who understands the entrepreneurs and businesses we are working on deals with. The real estate and leasing stuff can be taught; what I nor anybody else can do is teach what it’s like to actually run a restaurant and make your living accordingly.

Patricia Woodard is the Patty in “Mike & Patty’s,” a sandwich shop in Boston’s Bay Village neighborhood. Mike & Patty’s is good; really good. It’s the number one rated restaurant on Yelp! Boston and it’s a local favorite.  Patricia recently (and on very good terms with Mike) left Mike & Patty’s and when I met with her earlier this year to talk about her transition we realized that CityRetail might be a great place for her to land.  We spent much of Feb and March talking about how this could work, Patricia took her real estate exam (and passed in flying colors!) and now we are off and running.

Patricia’s experiences have ranged from food writer to cheese buyer to cook. She’s been working in restaurants for all of her adult life and she’ll bring this experience to CityRetail, where she’ll continue working with restaurants and cafes. She’ll bring a new lens for us to look through at CityRetail and I’m super excited about it.

Field Trip

In General, Retail Thoughts on April 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Last Wednesday Patricia and I (more on Patricia in my next post) headed out of the city to two very fun meetings. The first was for a demonstration of a high-tech Rational induction oven at Trademark Equipment & Supplies HQ in Ashland, MA.  The second was a visit with the George Howell Coffee Co. at their HQ in Acton, MA.  Let’s start with the GHCC visit…

I. George Howell Coffee Co. is one of the country’s top roasters and distributors of coffees. George Howell, its founder, is the pioneer for the enlightened coffee scene  in the Boston area.  George previously owned the Coffee Connection, which he sold to Starbucks in 1994 when Starbucks was making its move into the Northeast. GHCC doesn’t have too much in common with Starbuck’s nowadays though.  George’s team has focused of late on sourcing some of the best coffee beans direct from farms across the globe, roasting them and making them available to us at high-end grocers, local cafes and restaurants.  I first learned about GHCC when my sis Liza and her partner Marley were doing their due diligence for opening Crema Cafe in Harvard Square.  Now, as CityRetail is talking with GHCC about a possible assignment, I figured it was about time to head to Acton, MA and see where it all goes down.

Patricia and I met our close friend Michael Staub at GHCC and as soon as we got there we jumped right in a with a cupping (“cupping” is coffee lingo for a tasting – see pic above) followed by some sourcing, roasting and brewing talk.  We then saw the roasting in action. The visit was fun and educational and I’m now confident asserting that the GHCC team is as good as it gets.

The coffee that comes from GHCC’s roasters is outstanding and the level of competence and attention to detail is amazing. Being somebody who actively seeks out the best cafes in every city I visit, I’ve experience barista culture at its best and worst. At its worst, it has an elitist edge that looks down upon those who aren’t informed about the best coffees and the best way to drink such coffees.  At it’s best though, it’s about enlightening people by introducing them to new coffees and new ways to drink it – it’s about education and inclusion.  George, Rebecca, Jenny, Janet, Doug and the rest of the GHCC team falls into this later category – they get it and want to share it. It’s now CityRetail’s goal to help them share it too.

II. Prior to GHCC, we started our day out in Ashland, MA with the Trademark Equipment team… (read more) Read the rest of this entry »

The Other Side, II

In General on March 27, 2011 at 10:32 pm

One of my favorite posts from last year was “The Other Side,” wherein I wrote about the topic of (and challenges with) working for tenants versus landlords.  In keeping with CityRetail’s entrepreneurial and experimental nature, it’s time to act on the above contemplations — now feels as good a time as ever to roll out several new projects with a select group of tenants.  Here’s our nonnegotiable checklist when evaluating tenant clients: (i) top-notch experience? (ii) proper financing? (iii) passion/entrepreneurship? (iv) good people? and (v) non-competitive with other assignments (i.e. we don’t want two clients with substantially similar space/location requirements)?

Given the above and our comfort working with restaurants, you wont be surprised that our first cluster of clients are as follows:

  1. Toro Restaurant, chef/owners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette.  What Ken and Jamie have done at Toro (and Coppa) is incredible and I don’t need to say anything more to promote these guys than what the rest of the culinary world has already said.
  2. Chef Steve “Nookie” Postal.  Executive Chef, Boston Red Sox.  Nookie brings to the table a really unique experience from his time with the Red Sox, where his team revamped Fenway’s premier food service dept. His restaurant will be quite different from Fenway Park though; it will be an intimate, chef driven, farm-to-table neighborhood establishment.
  3. Chef Daniel Bojorquez.  Executive Chef, Sel de la Terre. While Daniel has close to a decade’s worth of training at Boston’s flagship french restaurant, L’Espalier (most recently running sister restaurant Sel de la Terre in Natick), he’ll switch gears to a rustic neighborhood spot more in-line with the food he grew up cooking and eating in Northern Mexico.

I’m really excited about these three projects. They comprise a nice diversity of chefs with a range of experiences, accolades, concepts and requirements.

I strongly believe leveraging our last 3 years of work finding top-notch restauranteurs o/b/o some of the areas biggest LLs to now being engaged on “the other side” is a natural next step for CityRetail and an area wherein we can do some really fun and powerful work.

Stay tuned for more updates and shoot me a note at with any thoughts about the above or questions re: these three assignments and related requirements.

1154 Mass Ave

In General on January 26, 2011 at 8:09 am

1663 Massachusetts Ave (the Lesley University leasing assignment we took on in October) is a week or so away from completion and we are really excited about the operator.  Think great local bakery/cafe… I’ll get details out as soon as the lease is signed.  In the meantime, here’s some info on a similar space (size, desired use, etc.) on the other side of Harvard Square that CityRetail just started working on yesterday.

1154 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA is the former home of Arrow Street Crepes, which closed earlier this month.  Despite the rap that was given to the landlord by the former tenant in the Harvard Crimson article published last week, I can say first-hand that the building owners care about small business, the neighborhood and want a successful and responsible long-term tenant.  It’s CityRetail’s job to deliver such.

The space – approximately 750 square feet – sits at the corner of Arrow St and Mass Ave, has great street visibility and good foot traffic.  It’s about 100 yards from Harvard’s campus and across the street from The Inn at Harvard. Specific deal terms are as follows:

  • Desired use is quick serve restaurant/cafe that does not require full kitchen exhaust;
  • Base Rent is $5,000/mo increasing at 3% annually;
  • Tenant shall pay its proportionate share (15%) of increases in Building taxes over base year 2010 and certain limited common area maintenance charges estimated at $180/mo;
  • Space sits directly above BerryLine’s first location on Arrow Street (same building) and other neighboring retail includes Grafton Street Pub & Grill, Crate & Barrel, Zoe’s Kitchen and Au Bon Pain.

I’m excited about this project and my sense is that we’ll rent it quickly.  Shoot back thoughts and let us know what you’d like to see in this space.

Looking Back

In Closed Deals on January 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm

In late 2007, when my team first started kicking around the idea of doing some retail leasing, it was all about the 25,000 sf of vacant retail at the Watermark building (350 Third Street, Cambridge, MA) – this was our only project and our day one purpose. In early 2008 we started marketing the Watermark retail and shortly thereafter took on some other projects in Kendall Square.  In 2009 we closed our first wave of deals and started to realize we were onto something.  In 2010 we officially launched CityRetail and it was a year full of experiments: our first completed deal outside of Kendall Sq, our first project working on the tenant-side and the addition of a handful of new landlord clients.

Today, CityRetail’s reach extends beyond the Watermark (21,400 sf leased; remaining 3,600 under agreement) but our approach has been shaped by our past experiences.  When we got started three years ago it was a grind and there were no shortcuts – it took a lot of work and diligence to get top chefs and small business owners to (i) come visit us in Kendall Square and (ii) take our vision seriously. In retrospect, I think 2008 was about educating and exploring – both ourselves and our tenant prospects.  How could we recruit a restaurant without understanding the economics of the business, the challenges of building a kitchen and the players in the scene? How could we recruit that restaurant to Kendall Square without understanding and being able to articulate the opportunity, the challenges and the local players in neighborhood?  Well, we couldn’t; and we didn’t. Over the past couple of years though we’ve learned a lot about the neighborhood and about restaurants, dry cleaners, gyms, yoga studios, grocery stores and day care centers… We’ve got a ways to go but we’ve become smart.  Smart enough to know that this is still hard work and that we are only as good as our last project.  Accordingly, here are CityRetail’s last four closed projects from Q4 2010, which rounded out a great year:  (read more…) Read the rest of this entry »