Although Sawyer opened shop three years ago, at the height of the current recession, amid the downfall of most of the retail music industry, she's still going strong.

"It's good being small," says Sawyer. Half her sales are from a strong Internet business; the other half are foot traffic and those making a special trip. "I get a lot of customers from Germany," she says. "I have no idea why."

Weirdo Records and Buckaroo's Mercantile are just two of a dozen independently owned businesses that make up the character of the neighborhood: there are two bookstores, another record store, a hardware store, a fetish-gear store, two art-supply stores, and a shoe store that caters to dancers and women with large feet. Or, as the Red Ribbon Committee puts it, "Harvard Square has a 'shopping mall' feel, while Central Square has a 'mom-and-pop store' feel."

What will happen to these shops when famous architects design mixed-use buildings for tech companies? Will the influx of high earners and high-end retail leave any room for experimental records and large-sized shoes?


"One thing that came up [in the Red Ribbon Commission] is how Central Square is unique in the greater Boston area as a place where all races and types of people feel like they belong here and they own it," says Ken Reeves. "This is quite unusual here in greater Boston."

Of all the small-business owners I spoke with, all shared Reeves's view. And all, it seems, are right — at least for the time being. So what is Central Square? For now, it remains a mix of people and places from every economic strata — one whose balance is about to change. In our next installment, we'll look at the factors that will change it.

Eugenia Williamson can be reached at

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  | 
Related: Fun with Matt & Ben at Central Square, Review: Floating Rock, Review: Tamarind House, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Boston, Cambridge, Central Square,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   IS BOSTON RIGHT FOR WRITERS?  |  March 05, 2013
    Boston, the birthplace of American literature, boasts three MFA programs, an independent creative-writing center, and more than a dozen colleges offering creative-writing classes.
    George Saunders: satirist, humanist, and — after 20 years, four magisterial short story collections, a novella, and a book of essays — now a bestselling author.
  •   INTERVIEW: THE PASSION OF MIKE DAISEY  |  February 14, 2013
    Last January, storyteller Mike Daisey achieved a level of celebrity rarely attained among the off-Broadway set when the public radio program This American Life aired portions of his monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs .
  •   GETTING BOOKED: WINTER READS  |  December 21, 2012
    Who cares about the fiscal cliff when we'll have authors talking about Scientology, the space-time continuum, and Joy Division?
  •   BRILLIANT FRIENDS: GREAT READS OF 2012  |  December 17, 2012
    You already know Chis Ware's Building Stories is the achievement of the decade (thanks, New York Times!), but some other people wrote some pretty great books this year too.

 See all articles by: EUGENIA WILLIAMSON