Almost two years into the pandemic, many Massachusetts small businesses are still struggling. They’re reporting lower sales, higher costs, and more competition than ever from online retailers. The arrival of the Omicron variant is only adding to the anxiety.
But that hasn’t stopped some local entrepreneurs from opening storefronts. With holiday shopping season in full swing, a trio of new businesses — in Cambridge, Chestnut Hill, and Beacon Hill — are selling wares that range in price from $10 to $10,000.
Here’s an inside look.
On the hunt for a Victorian cake pedestal? Or perhaps, an 1870s end table and vintage blown glass ornaments? Rebecca Connolly Hackler may be your best bet.
The antiques veteran owned Upstairs Downstairs Home on Beacon Hill’s Charles Street years ago, before moving across the state line in 2004 to run the New Hampshire Antique Co-op with her husband’s family. Now she’s back in the neighborhood with Fabled Antiques, a 1,200-square-foot shop specializing in decor from the turn of the 20th century.
“It’s like I’ve come full circle,” Hackler said. “Right back to Charles Street.”
She considered launching in Portsmouth. But as a Bostonian with two local degrees (Boston University and Massachusetts College of Art and Design), the city called to her.
The boutique shop sells a rotation of fine art and home goods that Hackler sources from a cadre of contacts. Sometimes, they supply paintings from New England artists such as Arthur Clifton Goodwin, Emile Albert Gruppe, and Aldro Thompson Hibbard. Other times, it’s 1800s music stands and federal-style end tables.
Her personal favorite? Classic books, often leather-bound.
“They stand on their own as aesthetic pieces, but also they’re interesting and classic titles,” Hackler said. “People are buying them to read.”
93 Charles St., Boston, 617.936.3008
Curio Spice Company
When COVID-19 struck, Claire Cheney couldn’t keep up with demand for her sustainably sourced spices.
The Cambridge shop closed for 10 months, but e-commerce grew by 800 percent within the year. People were hankering for comfort flavors and anything health and wellness-related — think chai, chipotle, and turmeric.
“It led us to literally burst from the seams and forced us to turn our darling jewel box of a store into a shipping area,” said Cheney, who founded Curio Spice Co. in 2015.
The support spurred Cheney to double the size of her retail space to 400 square feet in October. Cheney describes the shop as “very apothecary” meets aromatic wonderland. It now boasts additional space for Aegean salt, za’atar, and rose harissa — three of Cheney’s bestsellers. Customers can peruse a corner of giftable spice tins, or ask a manager to help them smell a spice. Eventually, there will be a kitchen area where Cheney can lead the classes she began teaching online during the pandemic.
She also put down roots in Winchester, where Curio now has a warehouse space to store, package, and ship spices. It’ll be used for in-house spice grinding and hand-blending, and previously served as a car mechanic shop and an upholstery studio.
“This is its third life,” Cheney said.
2265 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, 617.945.1888
Katherine Jetter has opened a curated jewelry store with designs from 18 brands, in Chestnut Hill’s The Street. The shop carries everything from engagement rings and gold bands to patina and gemstone pieces, some crafted by Jetter. It’s an offshoot of her Nantucket location, which has operated seasonally for five years.
Designed by Nantucket designer Mara Mullen, the Chestnut Hill store has a neighborly feel, Jetter said. “The Street brings that same sense of community we had in Nantucket. People feel welcome to come visit [and] chat for a half hour.”
At The Vault, Jetter can custom-design jewelry for customers or repurpose pieces — “maybe, from your great-grandma” — into nearly new items. The store also features a chain wall with paperclip necklaces and a “Stud Club” stop-in-shop, where people can pick out studs, drops, and hoop earrings from London-based brand Robinson Pelham.
Jetter nearly signed a lease on Newbury Street in 2020, just two weeks before the pandemic began. But “the new shop feels like a dream,” she said, decorated with colorful wallpaper and Murano glass chandeliers.
3 Boylston St., Suite 3035, Chestnut Hill, 508.825.6122