In anticipation of the Roslindale Village Main Street 30th anniversary celebration, we’ve invited guest writers to provide insight into our neighborhood, and how it came to be.
By Steve Gag
Roslindale Village Main Street has 30 proud years of accomplishments and the theme that resonates throughout the
dozens of projects that RVMS has undertaken is community building. What is community building? Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement (I had the good fortune to share breakfast with her 40 years ago and she is one of my heroes), summed it up well:
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
I was first introduced to the power of community building in 1993 when my wife and I joined 700 other Roslindale residents under the leadership of RVMS to create the Roslindale Food Coop. This was shortly after Kelleher’s Market closed its doors leaving the neighborhood without a supermarket. Dozens of community and business leaders came together to raise money, find a site and work with the City and Commonwealth to bring an anchor tenant into the Village. Although the dream of a community owned cooperative was lost because of the high cost of remediating toxic waste that was found on the building site, the project ultimately led to the opening of Roslindale Village Market five years later.
Another good example of community building is the RVMS Farmers Market. I knew we were building strong community ties when I met several new residents who said they moved to Roslindale because of the farmers market. RVMS started one of the first Boston neighborhood farmers markets 30 years ago in the lower MBTA parking lot. Seven years ago we moved the market to Adams Park. A vibrant group of 15 or so foodies, “farmer wannabes” and business owners came together to reorganize the market and within three years, the average daily customer count had grown from 100 per day to 2,500 and our once modest market was seen as the best in Boston.
My final examples of community building are the recent campaigns to stop large formula businesses from entering Roslindale Village. The very essence of Roslindale Village is the small, locally owned shop that provides a unique set of products and services. Scan the list of Roslindale Village businesses and you will find very few formula businesses, also known as “chains.” Two years ago, Dominos listened to hundreds of Roslindale residents and shop owners who opposed their plans and the large corporation decided not to locate in the Village. Petco did not listen and will be opening shortly on South Street across from Wall Paper City. However, because the neighborhood was so united on this issue, the city, in conjunction with RVMS and Boston Main Streets is looking at ways to give neighborhoods more say when chains decide to come into neighborhood business districts.
My belief is that like Dorothy Day, coming together as a community is what makes us human. RVMS provides people with a place and a way to build community. In many ways the process of bringing people together is just as important as the project itself. One of the leaders of the Petco organizing committee, Adam Shutes, told me that he decided to buy and re-open the Cheese Cellar because the Petco campaign reemphasized for him how important small, locally owned businesses are for the community. Relationships, ideas and friendships are sparked at every Farmers Market and every project meeting. Building community is what RVMS is about.