When Bow Market opens on May 12, the complex will revitalize a bizarre, “vaguely pentagonal” structure and offer up tiny storefronts for budding businesses. Many of the spaces clock in at around 160 square feet.
From nabbing the renowned Comedy Studio from Harvard Square to providing brick-and-mortar spaces for beloved local pop-ups, the marketplace bears the opportunity to fundamentally change the way that people conceive of and patronize the already vibrant Union Square.
We’ve rounded up Union Square’s newest business owners to tell us about themselves, why they chose Somerville, and what they’ll bring to the building.
For a Night Out
The Comedy Studio
The Comedy Studio topped the Hong Kong Restaurant in Harvard Square for decades, but it’s finally finding new ground in Somerville. And having its own space is going to open up a world of possibilities, according to founder Rick Jenkins.
“Now we will be able to do whatever a comedic person can think of,” he says. “We’re planning to shoot video, record podcasts, we’ll have shows, writer’s workshops, pretty much anything that can help the scene.”
The 110-seat theater will have a bar area, and people can bring in food from the complex’s other restaurants.
Jenkins sees Somerville as having much of the feel that Cambridge had when he first started shows there.
“Harvard Square is going through their own renaissance. Bow Market and Somerville fit in more with our original feelings,” he says. “There’s no problem with Harvard Square, it’s just if you want to go to a small, independent comic book store, you have to go to Somerville.”
Bow Market’s largest tenant will be a brewery capable of making 30 kegs of beer at a time, offering a barrel room, a tap room, and a beer garden.
The brewery’s name is a nod to the Bow Market building’s history. “We got a lot of influence from the structure itself,” says co-founder Dave Kushner. “The building is this leftover of that time period when Somerville had an explosion of commercial and industrial land use, and it’s literally a remnant that’s been sitting back there from that time period. That’s really motivated us to find other remnant materials in the area to use in our space.”
Remnant Brewing’s owners don’t plan on distributing their beer, at least at first. Instead, they hope to encourage visitors to engage with the entire complex, according to Kushner. The brewery will host both private and public events, including TED-style talks and beer garden movie nights. In the morning, people can grab a coffee and do work in the space while watching the head brewer make beer.
Kristina Burkey finds that Somerville gets her sense of humor. She plans to stock her Bow Market stationary store with “sassy” and “sharp” cards, handmade notebooks, pens, and locally made items. She wants her items to be fun, but also to serve a function in people’s lives.
“Connection to others is the most important thing that human beings have,” she says. “Whether it’s celebrating with someone or sharing in their grief and just being there for someone, sending them a note saying I’m thinking of you, I see you, you’re not alone, that’s super important. I have cards for infertility, I have cards for breakups, I have cards for serious illness, I have cards for loss, I have cards for seasonal affective disorder. Those are the most important cards to me, because those are the ones that are more needed than any other occasion.”
After hitting the market and pop-up scene for five years, art store 9000 Things is settling down in Bow Market. The space seems big to Alexandra Horeanopoulos, who has squeezed into a 30-square-foot space before, so she’s planning on devoting a quarter of the brick-and-mortar location to a small studio. And she’s excited: “Somerville is my spirit animal,” she tells Scout in an email.
Jeremy Sullivan of Vinyl Index wants you to picture his record store as a library: a place where you can browse, learn, and explore. Offering up both new and used vinyl records, this shop will also provide cleaning services and access to the staff’s vast store of musical knowledge.
Jillian Melnyk will bring her photography, fiber art, and embroidery to Bow Market to make a shop full of art and home decor. Homeslice will also offer up handmade items created by other artists.
Make and Mend
Embroidery artist Emily Tirella saw how her students struggled to afford art supplies and came up with a solution: cleaning up and selling gently used materials.
“There are so many artists in the area, myself included, and it pains me to go to like Blick and buy a $6 tube of paint for something I’m only ever going to use once,” she says. “For my weaving class this year I spent $90 on supplies and I didn’t really fall in love with weaving, so I’m out $90 for a class I didn’t super enjoy. I think a lot of people are in the same position, where they’re trying to find something they really enjoy, but it’s so expensive to start.”
Make and Mend will offer up used oil paints, canvases (typically with a new canvas wrapped around a used frame), high-end brushes, sewing materials, and more. She’s able to sell the supplies for about half what they would cost new.
Nibble, Somerville Arts Council’s culinary arm that supports diversity and entrepreneurship in Union Square, is set to open a kitchen in Bow Market.
Nibble began with tours of the square’s international markets and developed into an umbrella organization that runs a culinary entrepreneurship program, cooking classes, and pop-up restaurants—all of which focus on the myriad immigrant communities in Union Square.
“Our dream has always been to not be nomadic and have a location where we can do our cooking classes, continue with our entrepreneurship training, but also do regular retail vending to the public in a location that has good foot traffic,” says Rachel Strutt, program manager for the arts council.
Strutt says Bow Market felt like a good match for Nibble due to its central location and its startup-friendly setup. She could envision Nibble entrepreneurs graduating from the program and opening their own shops in the complex.
“Their project is a great concept,” Strutt says. “It reflects Union Square in that it is international in focus, I think it’s entrepreneurial in focus, it’s a group of young, artsy, entrepreneurial folks who collectively are going to make a very exciting market experience. So we just felt like Nibble was a good fit because of the ethos of the place and also because of the location.”
Melissa Stefanini and Sebastian Galvez, two Miami transplants, are bringing their revered empanadas and sauces to Bow Market. Buenas is the one-stop shop for South American food, whether you want to pick up empanadas to go or grab the ingredients you need to cook at home.
Saus offers 15 signature sauces at its Boston location—from bacon-parm to avo-goddess to hot beer mustard—alongside sandwiches, salads, and poutine. Its Bow Market location will be fully vegetarian.
Sisters Vanessa and Casey White will serve up their delectable pierogies hot (or frozen in to-go packages), with flavors ranging from sweet potato and caramelized onion to jalapeño cheddar to the classic potato and cheese.
Owner Ellie Tiglao will use food, cocktails, music, art, and more to tell a variety of stories, including from her own experiences of being Filipino-American.
Bobby MacLean thinks Union Square needs better access to seasonal, fresh produce. The store will offer up prepared foods (think smoothies, salads, and soups) and essential shelved items like milk and organic eggs.
North South (restaurant name not yet finalized)
The owners of Mike & Patty’s will bring a dueling menu to Bow Market, offering up both roast beef and bar pizza—North Shore and South Shore staples, respectively.
Jimmy Rider, who delivers Christmas trees, fish, and more through his company EverGreen Delivery, will open a fish store and restaurant in the complex.
“Hooked” will serve up local fish. Because of the store’s tight quarters (165 square feet), Rider will mostly serve up raw and smoked dishes that fit a ready-to-eat, street-food-inspired theme. He’ll partner with chef Jason Tucker, who’s leading the menu’s “creative side.”
“I heard about Bow Market, I thought it was a wonderful concept,” Rider says. “I’ve been in Union Square since 2001, and just love Union Square. I liked the idea, and it’s such a small space and the rent’s very low. There is no real fish shop in Union Square, so I thought there could be a good need for people getting local, smoked fish all the time and also provide us a little bit of space to make some creative, fun food.”
This macaronerie melds characters from “Star Wars” to “Pok?mon” to “Despicable Me” with bold, original tastes. Rotating flavors have included Fruity Pebbles, maple bacon, and lychee rose.
gâté comme des filles
Chocolatier Alexandra Whisnant first launched her store in Paris, where she studied pastry-making. She specializes in seasonal offerings and makes fresh batches of her chocolates every week. She regularly uses “special” ingredients, she says, like hazelnuts from Oregon or a lemon from her sister’s tree. Her chocolates don’t contain preservatives, so they’re meant to be eaten within a week. The shop will also feature seasonal mousse flavors served in ice cream cones, European-style hot chocolate, and dark chocolate brownies.
Whisnant shares a space in Aeronaut Brewing Company with Somerville Chocolate, and is looking forward to having her own store at Bow Market.
“I wanted to have my own store but I didn’t want it to be isolated, off by itself,” she says. “I like having this sort of family around me. Aeronaut was good because there are always people around, but this is going to be even more diverse and interesting in terms of what people are doing and how we can support each other.”
Her 163-square-foot shop in Bow Market will mostly be an open kitchen where visitors can see her making the chocolates. She hopes to be able to squeeze in some stools or an antique loveseat.
Clothing, Accessories, and Beauty
Adelante Shoe Co.
Adelante pairs up with Guatemalan craftsmen to create made-to-order leather shoes, paying the shoemakers above the “Living Well Line” to make sure that they are compensated fairly. “Our theory is that if we pay our craftsmen over the Living Well Line, they will invest their increased income back into their family and community. This theory is grounded in the belief that economic security is the key driver of social mobility,” the company’s website explains.
Who doesn’t love a good vintage clothing store? Sandra Rossi has found objects with histories fascinating since she was a kid growing up in Tampa, Fla. “Always drawn to travel, counterculture, dive bars, and the unpredictability of off-the-beaten-path antique and vintage markets, my idea wheels started turning. ‘What if I could merge old with new?’” she tells Scout in an email. Rossi had wanted to move We Thieves into Somerville, so Bow Market seemed like to perfect opportunity to transition from a SoWa pop-up into a brick-and-mortar location.
Filomena Demarco Jewelry
Ashley Vick describes her jewelry as “edgy yet wearable” and “material-driven.” Everything is handmade, and she sticks to gemstones, sterling silver, and gold in her work. Visitors will get to see her crafting new pieces at her workbench in the rear of the store.
The materials behind what you’ll find at PESTON have a backstory. Whether it’s fabric from a mom-and-pop store in Louisiana or vintage beads from Rhode Island, Ellyx Ferguson and Cassandra Cacoq painstakingly source the components of their lifestyle brand.
The pair wouldn’t have imagined they’d be opening up a shop in Bow Market this spring. Ferguson teaches children with autism and Cacoq used to be in pharmaceuticals. The two craft accessories and clothing out of their home studio, traveling and exploring thrift stores to find components.
“Prior to being approached by Zach while vending at Central Flea last summer, we [hadn’t] even thought about having our own store,” the makers told Scout in an email. “It just seemed unattainable at the time and something we wouldn’t be able to accomplish until much later down the line. Bow Market is such a unique opportunity that gives independent artists like ourselves a way to showcase our products in a manner that aligns with what we believe.”
Brows by Renata
“Everyone deserves to feel beautiful,” Renata Goncalves tells Scout in an email. Goncalves works to help people feel that way through facial waxing and eyebrow shaping, striking out on her own after working in an Everett shop for two years. She moved to Somerville from Brazil when she was four years old and says she feels “blessed to establish my business here.”
Blue Bandana Relics
Blue Bandana Relics, offering vintage items and antiques, will take up two spaces in the complex. “Our style and vibe can best be described as mantiques collides with Americana,” founder Keith Tate tells Scout in an email.
The Happy Cactus
Nature can be hard to come by in city living, but The Happy Cactus aims to supply plants to your heart’s content. In addition to succulents and other plants, the store will stock butterflies, fossils, and crystals. The owners of The Happy Cactus are graduating from Northeastern University this spring, and were able to develop the shop through the school’s co-op program.
Kmoe unites vintage lighting, leather goods, and modern art under one roof. The company repurposes found objects, giving them a new life with the intention of making “things cooler than they were.” Bow Market will be kmoe’s second brick-and-mortar location, joining a space in Provincetown.
This story appears in the Arts & Architecture issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.
Like what you’re reading? Consider supporting Scout on Patreon!
Reena Karasin is the editor-in-chief at Scout Somerville and Scout Cambridge. Follow her on Twitter @reenakarasin.