Thank you, Billy Ruane

Billy Ruane in front of the Middle East on Mass Ave, 1988

Stores, as vital as they are to the health and wealth of a city, are ultimately cold shadows compared to the people that make the streets hum and breathe.

 

We learned this the hard way when Boston music patron, impresario, wild dancer, and all around beloved friend Billy Ruane passed away last week at the age of 53.

While I did not know him personally (although many of my friends did), I am celebrating all that he brought to the city. I did not know it in my music days, but I had Billy to thank for bringing music to the Middle East, and helping to establish countless bands.

Thank you for making Mass Ave such a vibrant place, Billy. You will be missed.

Central Square Banksy mural removed

Before

After
So what do you do when you get a mural on the side of your building by a world-famous artist whose other murals have been valued at upwards of $600,000? You remove it of course!

In all fairness, I don’t know if it was Supercuts or the City of Cambridge who had it removed, but either way, bad move.

(Thanks JJ for the heads up)

Oriental Dynasty Furniture is closing

Another venerable member of the old Mass Ave furniture row is closing. This time it’s Oriental Dynasty Furniture, which sold new and used Asian furniture and home accessories. I sensed the end was coming a few months back when I saw the “Now taking consignments” sign in the window, followed by a permanent sale sign. That and almost every other furniture store on the block has closed (closely watching Bo Concept and Crate & Barrel now).

Please excuse the lame photo. I am now working full time far, far from Cambridge and can’t get over to photograph that often. Or post for that matter!

Have any tips or photos you would like me to post? Let me know: lotuspadyoga [at] gmail [dot] com

Rodney’s Bookstore is closing

This one is really depressing. I love Rodneys. I love it for so many reasons – not only do they have one of the biggest and best collections of used books in the area, they also have an amazing selection of new books, toys, posters, and most importantly, kids books. Rodneys is one of the few kid-friendly retail destinations left in the neighborhood. And it is a destination, about as much fun to go to as the park for my daughter.

Apparently, they will be open through the summer. Everything is 50% off. Come fall, Central Square will shed a collective tear.

UPDATE: Rodney’s is most definitely NOT closing. When asked why, the terse clerk responded that the “city stepped in.” He clearly did not want to discuss it,  so does anyone else have the story?

Empty Mass Ave in the Harvard Crimson

Our little blog got a mention in today’s Harvard Crimson, which we thought was pretty cool.

I was excited to hear that “many of the businesses whose closings are documented on Downey’s blog already have been or will soon be replaced.” Great news!

Apparently there are plans to demolish the old Bowl & Board and replace it with a new construction (wonder if it will include retail?), and certainly the old Adidas/Briggs & Briggs store seems to be getting some action. But I would love to know the plans for many of the others, including the old Alpha Omega store, and the row of empty storefronts that run from about Trowbridge Street to Dana Street (the old furniture row), ans especially the many large storefronts in Central Square.

Comment, HSBA?

Hollywood Express Central Square RIP

After I wrote my initial post on HE, I cancelled our Netflix and rejoined Hollywood Express. My timing was impeccable. They will be very, very missed.

Update: This location has merged with its sister at 1740 Massachusetts Ave.

[Thanks @hannanimal for the photo)

What’s up, Cambridgeport Saloon?

I had a thing for dive bars right after college, but there was something about the Cambridgeport Saloon that didn’t really grab me. Maybe the bright lights and the fact that it frequented by many of the same skinhead girls from the Pit in Harvard Square who wanted to beat me up in high school (good times).

The place wasn’t one of those ironic dive bars (Think Model Cafe in Brighton circa 1994). No, this was the real deal. Stabbings, shootings, and brawls were pretty common, according to this lovingly maintained Myspace page. But a glance of Yelp reviews shows that the place had somewhat of a revival in its twilight years, and was a regular hang out for local skinheads, MIT students, and neighborhood folks.

As the creator of the Cambridgeport Saloon’s Facebook Fan page writes:

“A truly dirty den of evil and villainy populated by some of the most “interesting” people you’re likely to ever meet outside of the county lockup. Was the pool table truly level? How many degrees does the MIT grad student behind the bar have? Is that crazy old man in the corner fingering a knife handle and talking to himself?

Nothing will ever beat the Gay.com sign on the roof. There are too many martini bars catering to those with no credit limits on their platinum cards and not enough for those who feel that over $3 for a beer is highway robbery.”

No matter why, the Cambridgeport Saloon closed down years ago and shows no signs of rebirth or renewal.

So what’s happening there? Some reports say the property is owned by MIT, which is the process of evalualting all of its empty properties. A neighbor disagrees, saying the property’s situation is complicated.

Dive bar or not, the saloon’s absence leaves a hole in the Avenue. From descriptions of the scene there, it seemed to bring a wide variety of very different classes and types of people together into one room to share their love of beer and music, and where else are you going to find that on this stretch of Mass Ave (or anywhere in Cambridge)?