Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What Changed in 2008

Now that 2008 is just about over, I figured it would be interesting to look back at what's changed in retail during the past year. According to my count, Bedford added 12 new stores, 7 stores were renovated, 1 store moved within Bedford and 2 stores closed.
Please click on this image for a larger more detailed view

New Stores:
Asiana Bistro
ACE Hardware
Bedford Auto Clinic and Gas
Bedford Farmers Market (Seasonal)
Bedford Rug Company
Corner Antiques
Cuzz's Candy and Novelties (closed January 2009)
Design 1 Kitchen + Bath Showroom
Northside Convenience and Gas
The Paperback Exchange
Verizon Wireless
Youn's Taekwondo Studio

Stores That Underwent Renovation:
Bedford Gulf (FKA Bedford Exxon)
Bedford Freight House (still ongoing)
Papa Ginos
Stop and Shop
Téa's Art Studio and Tea Bar

UFood Grill (FKA KnowFat)

Stores That Moved Within Bedford:
Fit Associates (was Total Fitness) 
Salon Alfonse Salon & Spa

Stores That Closed:
Bedford Martial Arts Studio (thanks Christine)
Hair Extraordinaire
JC Cleaners
Payless Shoes
Citgo Gas Station

What Am I forgetting?

Planned for 2009:
Bedford Freight House Re-Opens
Blake Block (2010 maybe?)
Cambridge Savings Bank (at Old Mobil location)
Panera Bread (In Bedford Marketplace)
Renovation of Bedford Marketplace Shopping Center
Restaurant on Middlesex Turnpike (Name TBA)

Predictions for 2009:
I am predicting that the Dunkin' Donuts will be renovated.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Paperback Exchange Moves to Bedford

The Paperback Exchange located on the Blake Block at 68 Great Road opened on December 5th. I recently met with Diane Krol, the owner. According to Diane, the store has been around about 2 and 1/2 years, first opening in Burlington and then moving to Billerica. When the lease was recently up, she decided to look for a new location. She thought Bedford was a good choice as there were no similar book stores in the area including Lexington and Concord.

As the name implies, The Paperback Exchange mainly sells used paperback books. They sell used books at 50% off the listed price. They normally stock about 25-30,000 different books. Almost all the used books are fairly new (a few years or less) titles. According to Diane, the most popular category of books they sell are Mystery and Science Fiction.

Many different categories of used books are available including Romance, Fiction, Historic Novels as well as a large selection of Paranormal Books.

In addition to buying books at the store, you can also exchange your old paperback books for store credit of $1 per book. In order to get the credit, your books must be in good condition and have been published in the last 3 years.

Along with used books, The Paperback Exchange also offers a limited selection of new books including books on tape as well as book accessories like book covers and bags. For Children they also stock new books on summer reading lists and fun items for parties such as Singing Ballons. The store is also interested in making contact with the Bedford Schools and Libraries.

The store has a special room tailored to Children and Young Adults.

The store itself is a family business with Diane and her husband running most of the store with some extra help from time to time. The store is open 11am-4pm on Mondays, 10am-6pm Tuesday through Friday and 10am-5pm on Fridays.

What's interesting is that another used book store, Used Book Superstore just opened on Route 3A in Burlington. However this store is more focused on older hard covers and old computer books.

With the opening of the Bedford Historical Society gift shop a few doors down, The Blake Block had been completely filled up in just a few months which is impressive given the current economy. It seems likely the very reasonable rental rates have created a mini "enterprise zone" for retailers in downtown Bedford.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Demolition of Old Mobil Making Way for Cambridge Savings Bank

Demolition has begun for the construction of a new building, most likely the new location for the Cambridge Savings Bank. The current branch is across the street in the soon to be renovated shopping center. A Panera Bread is likely to move in to the space being vacated by the bank. As far as the specifics of the new building, that is still being worked on by the Bedford Planning Board.

The interior of the old Mobil Gas station has been gutted and the building is ready for demolition.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Téa's Art Studio Returns as Téa's Art Studio and Tea Bar

Téa's Art Studio and Tea Bar located at 52 Great Road had it's grand re-opening shortly before Thanksgiving. I recently met with the owner Theresia (aka Téa) O’Connor. Growing up, she always had an interest in Tea and was always intrigued by Tea bars. Five years ago, Téa opened her Art Studio where she drew and displayed her work as an artist. When the Studio roof leaked and the ceiling dropped earlier this year, she decided to not only rebuild and put in a totally new interior but to also add a Tea bar. Her vision was to build a place where people can relax and take a soothing break from the outside world.

The Tea bar has teas from all over the world including exotic teas such as Blossoming Tea that starts as a ball but opens up and grows in to a flower after adding boiling water. Téa eschews extolls all the health benefits of the different Teas and recommends the book Healthy Teas which according to the author, discusses the history and healing properties of green tea, the health benefits of black teas, and the life-enhancing attributes of herbal and fruit infusions and decoctions.

The Tea Bar features over 150 different flavors of Tea from around the world including China, Turkey and India. Humans have been drinking Tea for 5000 years.

Téa is very familiar with all the Teas she sells. When someone comes in to the Tea Bar, Téa will talk with them to figure out the best Tea to serve them. She encourages people to try unusual and exotic teas. As she serves the Tea, she invites them to sit down, relax and enjoy the paintings.

The Tea Counter is where you can sample Teas from around the World. The Tea is provided at no charge. Donations are accepted for serving the Tea. Packages of Tea and Tea accessories such as kettles and infusers are available for purchase.

Now that the Studio is open again, Tea has planned a bunch of "after-hours" alcohol free parties on Saturday evenings where she will feature Artists, Musicians, Tarot Readers and more. She see's her Studio as a community place where you can meet people and enjoy creativity. She is also looking in to having some self help teachers come in and teach classes during the evenings.

The Studio holds artistic parties every few weeks on Saturdays evening. The Studio is also available to rent out for special occasions.

In addition to being a Tea expert, Téa is an accomplished artist. She invites people to drop in and watch her work or just engage in some tea conversation.

The store is open Monday through Friday from 10am-5:30pm and variable hours during Saturday and Sundays.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some Recent Changes at the Great Road Shopping Center

A couple of recent changes at the Great Road Shopping Center.

First the exterior renovation of the Stop and Shop has been completed. As previously mentioned, The Bedford Stop and Shop underwent an interior renovation in the Spring. When the renovation was completed, it seemed odd that the exterior was not updated and in fact had peeling paint. It now seems likely that the exterior renovation was put on hold until the new Stop and Shop logo was rolled out at the end of August.

The new exterior features the updated Stop & Shop logo and gives it a more traditional New England type design. While the logo is multi-colored, it's very subdued when lit at night.

Along with the exterior renovation, some remaining interior renovations have been completed. The store uniforms are now yellow and purple. The customer service seems to have improved as well. While there used to be only one cashier in the late evening, there are now two, eliminating the long lines that used to occasionally occur.

In conjunction with the renovations, additional security cameras have been added both inside and out. A quick count revealed 58 cameras.

The second change was the quick closure of Payless ShoeSource. According to employees working in nearby stores, Payless was open one day and then gone the next. So far it looks like it was only the Payless in Bedford that closed.

The space previously occupied by Payless ShoeSource is available for lease.

With the bleak economic news, I would not be surprised to see some other store closings over the next few months. I am also wondering what the impact the economy will have on upcoming renovations. Two weeks ago it was announced that the renovation of the Blake Block is officially "delayed". As far as the Bedford Marketplace, phase one of the expansion still appears to be scheduled for the Spring. In fact it looks Panera Bread might be one of the new restaurants.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Corner Antiques Opens In Bedford

The Corner Antiques store opened earlier this month on the Blake Block at 88 Great Road. I spoke to Jan McGrath, the owner. Jan has always loved antiques. As a child she remembers her mother dragging her around antique stores. Jan grew up in Lexington, then moved to Texas and Florida and finally moved back to the area 10 years ago. She has been a Bedford resident for 5 years.

About 10 years ago, she started doing group shots with other antique dealers in the Sterling area (about 35 miles west of Bedford). With the price of gas going up and her inventory of antiques increasing, she begin to look at other options. In September she saw a space for rent sign on the Blake Block. She thought the rent was very reasonable so she decided to open a store.

This location was formerly Edward Jones. The repainting and the window etched signs give this storefront a more upscale appearance.

The store not only features her items but also antiques and collectibles from other dealers in the area. The focus of the store is affordable antiques. Most of her items are in the $20-40 range. Jan is not interested in selling items that cost thousands of dollars.

The store is stocked by multiple antique dealers ensuring a steady supply of new items.

According to Jan, business has been very good so far. She had advertised in several papers and been pleased with the results so far. She also notes that while there have been consignment stores in Bedford, hers is currently the only antique store. She notes that most of her customers are buying items to give as gifts. In addition to antiques, she sells a lot of collectibles and gift items, especially to younger customers.

Corner Antiques features a mix of antiques, collectibles and gift items.

Since her store stocks merchandise from multiple dealers, her inventory is always changing so Jan implores her customers to check back frequently for new items. She also offers a wish list service where she will let you know when a specific item is available.

In addition to selling antiques and collectibles, she does accept some high quality items on a consignment basis and does estate liquidations. The store is currently open 11am-5pm from Thursday - Sunday and by appointment. She is planning to extend the hours for the holiday shopping season.

The store accepts high quality items on a consignment basis.

Besides her interest in antiques, Jan has spent 20 years in the direct marketing industry and currently owns a direct mail company.

It's interesting to note that with the very reasonable rates that Bruce Blake has been offering, almost all of the retail space has been filled in just a few months. What's also interesting is that many of the businesses are being run by Bedford residents and the rental rates have been a major factor in getting them to open up their first retail business. Currently the leases on the Blake Block are scheduled to run through next spring when demolition for the "new" Blake Block is scheduled to begin. With the tightening credit market it's unclear if that will occur. I do think it's a positive thing that most of the block has been rented out. The new tenants have all updated their storefronts to greatly improve the appearance of the block.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Youn's Taekwondo Studio Opens on North Road

Youn's Taekwondo Studio at 55 North Road opened on October 1st. The studio is run by Jung H. Youn, a 6th degree black belt in Taekwondo and a 7th degree black belt in Hapkido. Master Youn was originally trained in Seoul Korea and is now a Bedford resident. Prior to opening the studio Master Youn taught at a studio in Marblehead and is currently a mixed martial art instuctor at Winchester High School.

The Studio has open classes from 9:30am-Noon Monday through Saturday and 3:30pm-8:30pm Monday through Friday. Each open class can hold up to 45 students and is designed to meet the varying skill levels of individual student. In addition to teaching Taekwondo, Youn's classes are also designed to develop Respect, Leadership, Balance, Focus, Endurance, Confidence and Concentration in children. Master Youn's classes are designed to teach children as young as 3 years old.
The studio features a large training room that can handle up to 45 students. There is also a play area for kids.

In addition to Traditional Taekwondo, Master Youn also teaches Hapkido self defense classes. Private lessons are also available.
Self Defense Classes are available.

Currently Master Youn is the only instructor although he is looking to add instructors in the future.
Master Youn was trained in Seoul South Korea

As a resident, Master Youn really likes Bedford and so decided to open his studio in town. In addition to Youn's Taewondo, Bedford also has Callahan's Karate Studio a few blocks down at 20 North Road.

The Studio is located on the second floor and the space has just been renovated.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Verizon Wireless Store Opens Next to Post Office

A Verizon Wireless store opened on August 29th in the old JC Cleaners location. The store is owned by Zcomm Wireless which operates close to 100 stores across the USA including nearby stores in Arlington and Lexington. The store which is considered a Authorized Agent by Verizon, operates under the Verizon Wireless name.

The store sells all kinds of Cell Phones, Mobile Devices and accessories along with phone plans. While they only provide plans for the Verizon network, they can switch people from competing networks like Sprint and AT&T while enabling them to keep their existing phone number. In addition to phones, Verizon Wireless also sell services for Verizon DSL, FiOS High Speed Internet and FiOS TV.

The store sell a wide array of wireless accessories such as chargers, headsets, bluetooth products, headphone and more.

I spoke to Michael Varney who is the store manager. Before managing this store, Michael spent 8 years with T-Mobile where he had responsibities for 35 stores in the NYC metro area. While he has been in sales since he was 16 years old, Michaels stated that his focus with the new store is customer service. Besides all the phone and accessories he has in stock, he can order almost anything else and have it delivered via Fedex to a home or office the next day. The store will also attempt to fix broken phones and can assist with any insurance claims if the phone cannot be fixed.

The LG Dare is currently the most popular phone in the store.

While the store doesn't sell the iPhone (which is only currently available for the AT&T network), they sell similar products such as the LG Dare and BlackBerry.

The store also caters to businesses with products like the BlackBerry 8830.

The store has 3 employees. The store is currently open from 10am-8pm Mon-Sat and most of the day on Sunday. Michael said the store tends to be busiest during lunchtime.

The store is working to replace this temporary sign with a permanent one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cuzz's Candy and Novelties Opens

Cuzz's Candy and Novelties located at 72 Great Road (next to Ken's NY Deli) opened on August 23rd. I recently spoke to the owner, Kevin Stewart. Kevin a Bedford resident who works in the Lexington School Department, has had a dream for 30 years to open a penny candy store. As a kid he grew up with fond memories of Penny Candy stores. Recently he decided to try to sell Novelty items at flea markets. However with the price of gas going up, he figured it was cheaper to just rent a place and sell candy as well. He thought Bedford needed a candy store so he went ahead and opened the store.

Most of the Candy is "penny candy" in that you take a basket and fill it with candy from different containers. The price of the candy varies by individual item. Most of the Candy are ones you remember as a kid such as Bull Eyes (aka Caramel Creams). According to Kevin, the kids tend to gravitate towards "gross items", the grosser the better.

Along with penny candy items, Cuzz's also puts together custom gift baskets for occasions such as Birthday Parties, Weddings and raffles.

In addition to Candy, Cuzz's also offers a wide selection of Novelty Items.

I asked Kevin how he choose the name Cuzz's for his store. He mention that growing up, one of his cousins starting calling him Cuzz and the name stuck.

Proceeds from selected Novelty items are donated to Charity.

For Bedford Day, Cuzz's is planning to gave out flyers with coupons. For Halloween, they will be creating a special window display, lots of pumpkins and holiday decorations as well as special candy bags.

Kevin has been making Jewelry for years. His friends convinced him to display some of his items in the store. Most of the items sell for between $3-10 dollars.

The store currently has a 7 month lease (I'm guessing Bruce Blake is hoping to start demolition of the Blake Block in the spring). According to Kevin, if the store is doing well at that time, they will look for another nearby location. In the meanwhile he is looking to add Ice Cream and a soda machine. Cuzz's is open from 10AM-8PM Mon-Sat and Noon-6PM on Sundays.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bedford Papa Gino's Undergoes Renovation

The Papa Gino's at 310 Great Road underwent a quick renovation earlier this week and is now open again. The renovation modernized the look with new signs, menu boards, tables and seating areas.

The new signs feature updated fonts and colors. The Pizza at it's best wording has been replaced by Pizzeria.

I spoke to General Manager Mike Thacker about the new design. Mike mentioned the new design has been in the works for quite a while and the goal is to bring the look of the restaurant up to date. The new seating arrangement has lead to a slight reduction in the total number of seats. The menu has not been changed.

The plastic booths have been replaced with wooden tables and chairs. Similar to McDonald's and other Quick Serve Restaurants, high stool "bar" seats have been added for people who are eating by themselves.

The new design for Papa Gino's began rolling out almost 2 years ago and most locations have been updated.

Another picture of the new decor. Many restaurants use mirrors to make the dining room appear bigger.

In the past few months, we have seen renovations of several restaurants in town. While I think the Papa Gino's renovation will probably be beneficial, I am less certain of their sister restaurant D'Angelo Grilled Sandwiches (also owned by Papa Gino's). While most D'Angelo locations have been updated, Domino's has just announced they have added sub sandwiches. I predict this will cut in to D'Angelo's business. UPDATE: Seems like D'Angelos is concerned about this. For the second time in several weeks, they have plastered car windshields in nearby office parking lots and residential mailboxes with coupon flyers. Rather than annoy people by cluttering windshields, it would be better and faster to drop off the coupons at the front desks. In fact why not drop off a few free subs with the coupons at some of the larger businesses like some of the restaurants do in Burlington?

While the Papa Gino's menu itself has not changed, the recently updated menu boards no longer sport that 70's look.

A large Mural has replaced the self service beverage dispensers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Northside Convenience and Gas Opens

The old Gammy's General Store at 44 North Road has re-opened as Northside Convenience and Gas. The store appears to carry the typical convenience store items and currently offers a 5 cents a gallon discount if you are paying with cash. The store is open 5:30am-10pm during the week and from 7am-10pm on weekends. With the opening of Northside Convenience, Bedford is back up to 5 gas stations.

The new store opened with a $2.99 Milk promotion.

While the new store opened last week, the old Gammy's sign is still up.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Candy and Novelties Store Opening Soon

Cuzz's Candy, Novelties and more is set to open soon at 72 Great Road, right next to Ken's NY Deli. This space was very briefly occupied by a bike store last year. As you are probably aware, this space is part of the Blake Block development project which got the final go ahead from the town on March 5th. The fact that this store is just now under construction and the space at 84 Great Road has a For Rent sign leads me to believe that the Blake Block project will not be moving forward for a while.

The old Artistic Framer space (next to Ginger) is available for rent again.

It appears that the Ginger Japanese Restaurant is on a seven week vacation and will not reopen until after Labor Day.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bedford Exxon become Bedford Gulf

The Bedford Exxon at 349 Great Road has become a Gulf. As you can see here, workers quickly replaced the old Exxon Signs with Gulf. The gas station recently become part of the Cumberland Farms Dealer Network.

Cumberland Farms bought close to 500 Gulf Stations in 1985. In 2003, Cumberland Farms purchased 200 Exxon Stations from ConocoPhilips. According to a Bedford store manager, Cumberland Farms is now in the process of converting most of the Exxon stations to the Gulf brand.

Although the name is changing, the convenience store will not undergo any major changes.

While the pumps have been changed over to Gulf Gas and some very minor revisions are planned, the Dunkin' Donuts will remain. The Gas Station is expected to be open the same hours (Mon-Sat 5AM-11PM and Sun 5AM-10PM) as bedfore.

Now that the Exxon name is available again, it will be interesting to see if the recently re-opened old "Citgo" station switches over to the Exxon or Mobil brand.

The last vestiges of the Exxon Station.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Verizon Wireless Store Opening in Bedford

A new Verizon Wireless Store is opening at 170 Great Road next to the Post Office in the Bedford Shopping Center (soon to be known as Bedford Marketplace) at the old JC Cleaners storefront. As previously mentioned, JC Cleaners closed on May 31st.

Verizon Wireless recently opened a store in Lexington Center and has several stores in Burlington. According to the Verizon Website, the new store is an authorized agent and goes under the name Zcomm Wireless. From looking at other Verizon stores, it appears likely that the store will be branded Verizon Wireless (interesting that the phone number is listed as 999-999-9999 - kind of ironic they are still waiting for a number). Most Verizon Wireless store locations are open from around 9 am until 9 pm Mon-Sat and 10 am - 6 pm on Sundays.

Bedford already has a Sprint/Nextel Repair Center at 9 Crosby Drive (although it's only open from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday) and a Sprint store just opened nearby at 40 Hartwell Avenue in Lexington.

I plan to have an update along with some photos of the interior shortly before it opens.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Update on the "Citgo" Gas Station

The full service "Citgo" gas station is under new ownership and is no longer a Citgo. The new owner, who also runs a gas station in Watertown and a few other locations, is currently negotiating with several gas station brands and hopes to convert over to a national brand shortly.

Along with the new ownership, improvements have already been made. While you used to have to wait for the attendant to run back inside to process your credit card, a new booth is located between the pumps so they can process it right away.

The prices at the new station are currently running about 15 cents a gallon less than the other stations in Bedford. I'm not sure if this is a result of the recent drop in oil prices, special "grand opening" pricing or a more overall aggressive pricing strategy. In any case it looks like more competition for Sunoco, Exxon and Shell.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Citgo Opens on Great Road - Again

The Citgo gas station at 105 Great Road is open again after being closed for most of 2008. The Citgo first opened in September 2007 after being closed for several years. This gas station has gone through many periods of closing which seem to occur whenever gas prices rise sharply. I'm not sure if the recently falling gas prices have anything to do with the station re-opening. Besides this gas station, the Northland Convenience Store at the old Gammy's General Store location is only a few days away from opening and is expected to sell gas as well.