Cheese, Olive Oil, and Now Beer and Wine at Art’s Specialities

Photo: Art’s Specialities on Trapelo Road.

In the past year-and-a-half, those seeking a beer and wine license could expect coming before the Board of Selectmen multiple times, spending a great deal of time discussing business plans and legal matters.

So it was something of a nice surprise when the owners of Art’s Specialities, the food market on Trapelo Road whose focus is cheese and olive oil, spent just under 10 minutes before the Selectmen before walking out with the coveted license.

In fact, the entire process was fairly painless. 

“We are elated,” said co-owner Jen Bonislawski, who is married to her business partner, Artur Nergaryan. “It could not have gone better than it did.” 

The Watertown couple’s store, at 369 Trapelo Rd. near the corner of Beech Street, appeared to be the prototype of what the selectmen were looking for in an applicant for the limited number of beer and wine licenses the town has to dole out.

With its open and bright retail space, the store sells a variety of specialty foods reflecting an upscale market, which its shelves filled with a wide array of cheeses, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, herbs, meats as well as loose seeds, tea and nuts. The operation also won over the board by informing them they do not, nor will sell, lottery tickets or tobacco products.  

Once the couple presented their plan to use the license to complement its food operation using less than a fifth of its space to sell selected wines and craft beer as well as overwhelming neighborhood support, the selectmen saw little reason not to issue the license.

“I’m so happy,” said Nergaryan after their presentation. “We got so much support from our customers. They took time from their work and they said such good things about our store.” 

Trapelo Road Cheese Shop Seeking Beer/Wine License

Photo: Co-owners Jen Bonislawski and Artur Nergaryan of Art’s Specialities on Trapelo Road.

Artur Nergaryan said his customers – from first-timers to his regulars – keep asking him the same question.

“People will go around and pick up a salami, some cheese and bread and then ask, ‘Where’s your wine?'” said Nergaryan, the co-owner with his wife, Jen Bonislawski, of Art’s Specialities at 369 Trapelo Rd.

That consumer demand has prompted the couple come before the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Monday, June 22, seeking a license to sell beer and wine from their new speciality food store, located across the street from the Studio Cinema near the corner of Beech Street.

But the application does not mean the couple is seeking to change the tenor of the store’s character or focus.

“[Beer and wine] is not our main business; it will be complementary to what we are already selling,” said Bonislawski. The couple hopes to carve out a small section of the store near the checkout counter to sell a select number of moderately-priced wines and popular craft beers.

“It will provide that extra something that [customers] said they want,” said Nergaryan.

The Watertown couple opened the speciality store three months ago in the former location of Diver’s Jim. The 1,700 sq.-ft. store front sells an large array of regional cheeses, olive oils and balsamic vinegars, herbs, charcuteries (prepare meats including bacon, ham, sausage, pâtés and confit) as well as loose seeds, tea and nuts. It has begun stocking some prepared foods and is the only store in Belmont where you can buy your pickles – five varieties – straight from the barrel.


But the couple will be coming before a board that has not awarded a retail beer and wine license in years. In the past 18 months, the board has rejected applications by three Trapelo Road stores – each within a few blocks of Art’s – and from Jimmy’s Food Mart at the corner of Belmont and School streets which was denied a license in March. The business has since closed after a fire destroyed the location

The former board that rejected the earlier bids criticized the nature of the businesses – quick-visit variety or convenient stores – which sold lottery tickets and tobacco products, fearing they would quickly evolve into package stores.

But unlike the previous applicants, Bonislawski contends Art’s Specialties – which does not hold a lottery license or sells cigarettes – will remain true to its current business plan.

“Sometimes when a store receives a liquor license, they begin pushing the alcohol. That’s not the case here,” said Bonislawski.

For the working couple – Nergaryan is a bank manager in Belmont and Bonislawski a librarian in Cambridge – Art’s is an opportunity to break into retail trade with what Nergaryan is familiar with (he grew up making cheese after coming to the US from Armenia).

“We love being here, and we’ve received a good reception from other businesses and residents,” she said. “They said how much we’re helping change the neighborhood.”

Say ‘Cheese!’: Belmont’s Newest Store Set to be Your Fromage Stop

Photo: Art’s Specialities, Belmont’s new cheese and produce shop, on Trapelo Road. 

When Artur Nergaryan came to the US from Armenia, he began to long for food he loved from his childhood. While the surrounding communities are well stocked with Armenian fare, he still could not find one product he yearned for: cheese.

So Nergaryan decided the best way to find what he wanted was to do it himself.

“So I made my own [cheese] and then wine, that’s how it started,” he said, soon developing an appreciation for all cheeses.

Next week (or hopefully as soon as this weekend), Nergaryan takes his hobby to the next level with the opening of Art’s Specialities in the former home of Diver Jim’s at 369 Trapelo Rd., across the street from the Studio Cinema. 

The 1,700 sq.-ft. retail space will sell an entire array of products from cheese, olive oil, herbs, charcuteries (prepare meats including bacon, ham, sausage, pâtés and confit) as well as loose seeds, tea and nuts. 

But the highlight will be more than 100 cheeses, most produced in the US and especially from New England. 

“I’ve looked for cheese from local farms as they will have the freshness that people will desire,” said Nergaryan. And, no, he will not be selling his own cheese in his shop. 

The store – open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekends – will have two employees and hold cooking and health classes, said Nergaryan.