Everyone knows the city’s shopping districts have been quieter since the pandemic started, with much less foot traffic and more vacancies as retailers struggle to push through. But amid the COVID-19-caused recession and uncertainty about the future, some retailers are forging ahead, opening stores at a time when others are closing their doors for good.
The majority of the openings come from well-funded brands, although some small businesses have set up shop, too, in some cases taking advantage of available real estate. They all face the same challenges, including in-store occupancy limits and the allure of online shopping. But even as they adapt, they’re betting on the longer-term, and maybe an eventual return to something resembling retail normalcy.
Here’s a roundup of stores that have opened recently around Boston, or will be opening in the coming weeks.
On Newbury Street, businesses have been moving into empty spots along the higher-end shopping corridor, although it is still dotted with vacancies.
Allison Daroie, founder and chief executive of the versatile-clothing brand Paridaez, opened a pop-up shop at 321 Newbury St. after going months without a physical location. She abruptly ended her coveted lease on Charles Street on Beacon Hill in March because of the pandemic.
“I was scared for everybody, especially being in Beacon Hill; there are a lot of older, at-risk individuals,” she said. “There was so much unknown at that time . . . Yes, it was a hard financial hit, but it was the right thing to do."
With the Newbury Street pop-up, Daroie said, she’s trying her best to find a silver lining: A wave of corporate closures on the street could attract more independent businesses.
“Being a business owner, you have to remain resilient and be positive,” she said.
The luxury apparel brand Frame opened its first store in Massachusetts last week at 156 Newbury, as did the alpine sportswear boutique Alp’s and Meters. a few doors down. In the coming weeks, Veronica Beard will open at 145 Newbury, with a collection of high-end clothing and accessories for women.
On Beacon Hill, the clothing store December Thieves is launching an outpost an 53 Charles St., next to its current location. Owner Lana Barakat said the new store, logically called Thieves Next Door, was slated to open in the spring, but now the doors are expected to open later this month. She said the store will feature apparel with a light and colorful aesthetic, along with a selection of home decor products.
“This represents our resilience and desire to move forward during this challenging time,” Barakat said. “We are happy to breathe life into the street.”
Also new to Charles Street is Gus & Ruby, a store stocked with artisan stationery and gifts for the home and office.
In the Seaport District, the apparel brand Helly Hansen made its Boston debut in late September, setting up shop with a line of products for “adventurous Bostonians.” Ahead of the cold weather, customers can stock up on ski apparel, hiking jackets and shells, backpacks, and toasty footwear.
Helly Hanson joins Mejuri, a jewelry store that opened in the neighborhood over the summer, equipped with a ring bar and piercing studio. Direct-to-consumer brand Everlane has also opened a store in the Seaport, offering environmentally-friendly denim, shoes, and other essentials.
And on a more temporary basis, new Seaport storefronts are popping up at the collection of hut-like shops known as The Current, including snacks from Cupcake Mojo, weekender bags from Harvey Traveler, Injeanius denim, underwear from Uwila Warrior, Velocio cycling garb, and body care products from Organic Bath Co.
In Dorchester, Ashmont Cycles has moved to a more spacious location at 1977 Dorchester Ave. Jennifer Mejia, a former independent contractor at a salon, is using months of unemployment benefits and her stimulus check to launch Locticious House of Locs on 1752 Dorchester Ave. The salon is set to open later this year, specializing in locs and braiding.
Topdrawer found a third home in Massachusetts at 5 Brattle St. in Cambridge a few weeks ago, where it sells “tools for nomads,” including backpacks, notebooks, handkerchiefs, and reusable containers for frequent travelers. Or for those who imagine one day traveling again.
Also new to Harvard Square is Commonwealth Wine School, which opened in late August. Director Jessica Sculley said she signed a lease right before the pandemic. Still, she’s adapting by pivoting the school’s in-person classes to a hybrid model, allowing some customers to join in online with their own tasting kits.
“We are really committed to the community and life of the city,” Sculley said.
In Somerville’s Assembly Row, the beauty chain Sephora just became one of the development’s lead retail tenants in its third phase of building. It joins a list of new businesses including CVS, Shake Shack, and Pure Barre, which are set to open in 2021. Meanwhile, All She Wrote Books, a bookstore featuring female, queer, and nonbinary authors, along with with a French footwear brand, Arche shoes, are currently popping up temporarily at the site.
During a time of frequent Zoom meetings, you might want to pick up a pair of blue-light-filtering glasses at the new Warby Parker at the Street at Chestnut Hill. It’s the online brand’s fifth store in the area, but the first outside of downtown.
And for those who are switching up their home decor during the pandemic, look for Monroe Home, coming this fall to Charlestown at 207 Main St.