Business Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic: Birch St. House & Garden

Business Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic: Birch St. House & Garden

Written interviews with local business owners have been organized and written by members of the RVMS Marketing Committee. We will continue to share these interviews frequently as part of a series to share how best to support local businesses in Roslindale during this challenging time.

Birch St. House & Garden (BSHG), your neighborhood gift store, is located at the corner of South and Belgrade in the center of Roslindale Square and has been a part of the community since 2001. Owner Elizabeth Swanson began working at the store when it first opened, when it originally was located in the space of the former Cheese Shop, and purchased it in 2008.

BSHG offers an eclectic collection of gifts for you, your home, and your garden. In the summer, it carries garden decor including seeds, planters, and decorations, but not soil (which is asked often!). Home decor ranges from frames to small accent pieces of furniture and kitchen goods. There’s a kids section, which is great for last minute birthday gifts. Elizabeth is also proud to have always supported local artists, featuring local, original artwork in the store, and enjoys sprinkling in vintage finds throughout the year that she personally curates. Price points are all over the board. According to Elizabeth “If you need a token gift but don’t have a ton of money to spend, we have you covered. But, we can also handle gifts at higher price points for events like weddings and special anniversaries.”

Prior to the pandemic, Elizabeth was reluctant to open an online store, because she believes in community building and having customers run into their neighbors and friends while going on a treasure hunt in the store. With the stay-at-home order, she has set up an online store called the BirchShop (http://www.birchsthouseandgarden.com/shop) where limited items are posted for sale.

For Easter, she offered baskets which were delivered locally. She also has begun advertising parts of her collection through her website, social media, and email list. Individuals interested in purchasing items from the store can text, call, or email Elizabeth who is happy to send pictures. She can fit within any budget and would be happy to suggest items that may meet your needs. Once selected, they can be purchased via credit card over the phone, Venmo, or invoiced via PayPal.

Last week, Elizabeth tried a Facebook Live event for the very first time from her home, selling 500 and 1,000 piece puzzles. It was a huge success, which led to having to order more puzzles to fit all the orders! This Thursday, 4/16 at 7:30 pm ET she will host another Facebook Live event (https://www.facebook.com/birchsthouseandgarden) from the store, featuring her spring and summer line of scarves and handbags, ranging from small wrist bags to everyday totes.

While there are lots of ways to still shop at BSHG, you can also support the store right now by purchasing gift cards either online or via phone.

If there are customers out there who aren’t currently in a position to spend right now, sharing and liking posts on Instagram and Facebook really helps in reaching a wider net of people.

Lastly, Elizabeth notes that another way to support her is to “feel free to drop an email or text to say hi. I miss all my customers so much!” She will be in the store on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11 to 2 and would be thrilled to get a wave from those passing by.

Best contact info for customers: info@birchsthouseandgarden.com, 617.323.3269 (voicemail), or 617.686.1993 (text)

Celebrate Spring From Home

Celebrate Spring from Home!

While we had to cancel the RVMS Chick-or-Treat event due to COVID-19, we still want to celebrate the beginning of Spring with you and your little ones this weekend. 

First of all, look out for a special online ukulele performance on Facebook of our favorite Voice-of-Roslindale, Glenn Williams, on Saturday, April 11th at 11:00amClick here for our Facebook page.

Additionally, we are inviting your kiddos to make beautiful spring-themed art! Follow the directions below:

1. Draw or color a springy picture from scratch, or by coloring one of the coloring pages linked below. 

2. Once the masterpiece is complete, take a photo of your child’s art and either post it on Instagram with the hashtag #ROSlove OR email it to manager@roslindale.net. Then, next week we will compile the neighborhood’s artwork images and share them all together!

3. Place the art in the window of your home for all passersby to enjoy on their fresh air walks.

Here are links to FREE coloring pages, in case you don’t want to start from scratch or you’re looking for inspiration:

  • Click here to access many categories of spring-themed coloring pages to download from Crayola.
  • Click here for color & cut-out bunny and chick finger puppets.
  • Click here for a page of 9 differently designed eggs to color.
  • Click here to color a bunny.
  • Click here to color a star egg.
  • Click here OR here for eggs with flower designs.
  • Click here for an egg with swirls and hearts.

Happy coloring – we can’t wait to see and share all your beautiful springtime art!

Business Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic: DavisKelly CPAs

Business Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic: Nancy E. Kelly of DavisKelly CPAs

Written interviews with local business owners have been organized and written by members of the RVMS Marketing Committee. We will continue to share these interviews frequently as part of a series to share how best to support local businesses in Roslindale during this challenging time.

Many businesses and nonprofits are trying to figure out how their operations will survive during and after the COVID-19 outbreak.  Nancy E. Kelly, co-managing partner of DavisKelly CPAs had a teleconference with 40 of her clients April 2 to reassure them.

“I just wanted to make sure that they know that we are here to help them in any way,” Kelly said.   

DavisKelly is a full-service public accounting and business consulting firm with offices in Roslindale Square on 4238 Washington Street and in New York City.  It is also a woman and minority-owned business that has catered to the nonprofit community for 25 years. Some of their clients include On The Rise, Paige Academy, and the Social Innovation Forum.

Kelly told her teleconference attendees that her firm was offering discounted services to all clients. The company provides support for applying for loans and government funding. It also has expertise as a fiscal first responder. Kelly provided disaster relief support for businesses after September 11 and Hurricane Sandy in New York. Prior to becoming a CPA, Kelly was an operating room nurse for ten years, which gives her a unique perspective on the current health crisis. 

“So, I understand first-hand the many complex issues facing organizations right now,” Kelly said.

DavisKelly is one of the few businesses in Roslindale still open during normal business hours because it provides essential financial services.   However, Kelly would prefer that people call or email the office first to make an appointment so they can speak to the right person for their immediate needs. If you would like to meet with any of them, they can set up a video conference or a conference call to conduct business. 

“We’re here and available,” Kelly said.  “People are struggling right now, but we can help people out here.”

More info: website: daviskellycpas.com, phone: 617-390-5734; email: info@daviskellycpas.com 

Business Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic: Solera, a Shrine to Wine

Business Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic: Maria Cecilia Valencia of Solera, Shrine to Wine

Written interviews with local business owners have been organized and written by members of the RVMS Marketing Committee. We will continue to share these interviews frequently as part of a series to share how best to support local businesses in Roslindale during this challenging time.

Solera – A Shrine To Wine, whose tagline is “Where Good Wines and Craft Beers Meet Expertise” first opened on Corinth Street back in 2000. Owner Maria Cecilia Valencia, originally from Colombia, South America, having recently purchased a home in the neighborhood, saw the revitalization of Roslindale Village as an opportunity to launch her dream to, in her words, “create a place for wine lovers where they could come in, feel comfortable browsing around and asking questions, and give people the opportunity to purchase quality wines without breaking the bank”. After operating for 11 years on Corinth Street, Solera moved around the corner to its current location at 16 Birch Street.

Winner of several awards, including Boston Magazine’s 2016 “Best of Boston” distinction and the Boston Phoenix’s 2001  “Best Mini-Wine Boutique in Boston”, Solera boasts nearly 500 selections of wine from all over the world along with a smaller selection of local craft beers. Maria prides herself on the high level of expertise, wine education, and personalized customer service which has earned her staff accolades from the presses and the designation of “well versed grape talkers”.

Now celebrating its 20th Anniversary, Solera finds itself at a crossroads.  Maria has not escaped the devastation that COVID-19 has wrought on small businesses everywhere. While Solera is exempt from the mandated State closure of “non-essential” businesses, Maria has been forced to cut back on her hours and limit the number of people allowed inside the store in order to observe “social distancing” requirements. However, the dramatic drop off in foot traffic from the closure of neighboring businesses and the stay-at-home advisories issued by the City and State has resulted in a drop of more than 25% of the shrine’s revenue. Fortunately, Solera has been able to stay afloat during this crisis thanks to their small base of loyal customers, but Maria fears that they will not be able to sustain the business in the event of a prolonged general economic shutdown. 

Given that protecting the health and safety of her staff and customers is her top priority, Maria is considering a temporary closure of Solera after Easter Sunday until the COVID-19 crisis eases and financial relief from the stimulus program is received. Without an immediate and substantial infusion of funds, Solera will have a difficult time ordering inventory, paying the staff, and meeting their monthly operating expenses.

Maria noted that even without COVID-19, operating a small wine business is extremely difficult. “People want convenience,” she noted. “It’s much easier to drive to a big supermarket with a liquor license where they have plenty of parking, long hours, and one-stop shopping where you can get beer and wine along with your groceries and everything else.” 

While Roslindale is noted for its superb restaurants, they must order their liquor from authorized distributors, which means that Solera cannot realize the economic benefits of partnering with the local restaurants for their beer and wine needs.

However, Maria is going all out to fulfill customers’ needs for the upcoming holiday. Solera offers a “First of the Month” discount where shoppers can get 10% off orders of a case of 6-11 wine bottles and 15% off a case of 12 or more.  Shoppers can take advantage of this discount between the hours of 2-6 p.m. this Friday 4/3 and Saturday 4/4. In addition, Maria is pleased to announce that Solera will be extending this promotion to next Friday (4/10) and Saturday (4/11) between the hours of 1-6 p.m. for Easter. Please call the store or check Solera’s web site https://solerashrinetowine.com or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Solera-A-Shrine-to-Wine-165848490121168/  for any possible changes to this schedule. Solera will be closed Sunday (4/5) through Thursday (4/9).

While walk-ins are welcome, please note that only two customers will be allowed inside the store at a time due to the health emergency. So please call ahead of time, and be sure to check Solera’s web site to confirm their hours of operation for Easter weekend.

You can call in your order to 617-469-4005 or e-mail your request to solerawines@verizon.net.  Maria’s staff will get your order ready with as little as a half hour notice for you to pick up during Solera’s posted hours.

Business Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic: The Arredondo Family Foundation

Business Interview During COVID-19 Pandemic: Mélida Arredondo of The Arredondo Family Foundation

Written interviews with local business owners have been organized and written by members of the RVMS Marketing Committee. We will continue to share these interviews frequently as part of a series to share how best to support local businesses in Roslindale during this challenging time.

Along with our local businesses, Roslindale’s many non-profit organizations are suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency and the prolonged restrictions it has imposed on public life. One of those organizations is the Arredondo Family Foundation, located on the second floor of 4258 Washington Street in the Parkway Building. 

Founded in 2015 by Roslindale residents Carlos and Mélida Arredondo following the Boston Marathon bombings, the Foundation’s mission, as stated on their web site is, “to empower the Veterans’ community including military families and friends in the prevention of military related suicides and to provide support through education and services. The Foundation also provides suicide prevention training to the community at large and has recently started providing suicide prevention and support services to Spanish-speaking communities.”

In addition to organizing community suicide prevention training programs and personalized youth mental health first aid, the Foundation’s work includes funding the Arredondo Brothers Memorial Scholarships for military siblings, procuring and delivering groceries to shut-in veterans and military families, holding an annual 300+ turkey giveaway at Thanksgiving, beautifying Adams Park with flags and posters from local schools every Memorial Day, volunteering with the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Division, and many other philanthropic initiatives.

Co-founder Mélida Arredondo said that the postponement of the Boston Marathon due to the health emergency is having a devastating effect on the Foundation’s ability to maintain their current staffing levels and programs. “About 60% of our annual budget comes from our dedicated team of sponsored runners who collect donations on behalf of the Arredondo Family Foundation,” Mélida noted in our recent interview.

While she hopes to see most of this revenue realized when the Marathon is finally run on September 14th, the delay is causing serious cash flow challenges to scholarships that are provided to military siblings and children right now, an important ongoing project. To help bridge the gap, the Foundation is applying for funding from the SBA’s Economic Injury Loan program. But even if the loan is approved, it will only provide a fraction of the funds that the Foundation was counting on from the Marathon. And, with an economic downturn expected in the coming months, non-profit organizations such as the Arredondo Family Foundation will not be able to rely on the same level of corporate and local sponsorships they would normally receive. This makes contributions from individuals in the community even more critical.

However, the Foundation is doing everything possible to keep their programs going during the COVID-19 shutdown. Mélida is working hard to transition their signature Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) one-hour suicide prevention training program to an on-line model.  She affirmed: “We expect to have our QPR program on-line in about a week, at which time we will send a notice to Main Street and the community with instructions as to how to sign up.” 

Foundation staff and volunteers will also continue their food shopping and deliveries to veterans and military families most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. To help the larger community, the team also plans to head up to the Red Cross to help ease the current severe blood shortage.

They are currently seeking volunteers and drivers to help with their food deliveries.

More information: email melida@arredondofoundation.org, website: https://arredondofoundation.org/ and phone: 617-553-0002.

Boston Main Streets Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund

Boston Main Streets Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund

April 1, 2020

The impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic have created an economic crisis for the small businesses that are the heart and soul of Boston’s 20 Main Streets districts. More than ever, those small businesses, their owners, and their workers are in need of our support to manage through this crisis.

To assist in this challenging time, the Boston Main Streets Foundation (BMSF) has established a $100,000 COVID-19 Response Fund for small businesses in need. Crowdsourcing efforts with Patronicity will raise additional funds above this base contribution in an effort to reach as many small businesses as possible. This fund will distribute $1,000 grants to individual businesses with the following conditions:

1) Businesses with ten or fewer employees showing financial need amidst this economic crisis
[Preference given to businesses with 5 or fewer employees]

2) Business must be located in a Boston Main Streets district

3) Businesses that are “sole proprietors” are encouraged to apply

4) Businesses based in face-to-face/in person contact
[Example: salons, barber shops, retailers with little or no online sales, etc.]

5) Businesses that fall into the following categories: services, dry goods, and other “non-essential” retail businesses [While the BMSF wishes to support all businesses in need, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund is not currently targeted to bars and restaurants, as there are other emergency funds targeting those sectors such as the Boston Restaurant Strong Fund. Additional resources for small businesses can be found on the City of Boston’s Economic Development website.]

6) There is no reporting requirement for these grants

7) Grants can be used to pay employees or pay the business owner/manager themselves; pay business rent and/or utilities; buy for inventory /goods to resell; pay other business expenses

8) Businesses with an “Immigration Tax ID Number” are fully eligible

The application for small businesses to apply for funding goes live on April 1, 2020, with a preliminary application deadline of April 10, 2020. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis after April 10 if funds remain available.

All small businesses selected for grants will be required to provide a W9 as a prerequisite of their funding.

In these unprecedented times, the BMSF is striving to provide much needed support directly to small local business owners. Please reach out your Boston Main Streets Director (director@roslindale.net) with any questions regarding the COVID-19 Fund or additional City resources.

We’re all here to support you in this time of need.