Cafe Society a la Belmont: ZBA OKs Eatery at Center’s New Bookstore

Photo: Chris Abouzeit (standing) and Kathy Crowley, owners of the Belmont Bookstore, before the ZBA

The famed “lost generation” of American artists and writers living in Paris in the 1920s – Hemingway, Stein, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Pound and Gershwin – would leave their dark and cold apartments and head to the lively bistro/bars on the Left Bank such as Le Dôme Café and Café de la Rotonde, drop a few centime for a coffee or brandy and spend hours reading, writing and creating a cafe society that would transform American literature.

While Belmont residents Chris Abouzeit and his wife, Kathy Crowley, the owners of the Belmont Bookstore – set to open in the next few weeks in the former Macy’s department store on Leonard Street in Belmont Center – aren’t anticipating to have the same impact on the literary landscape as what occurred 90 years ago in France, they will provide customers with a bit of the ambiance of the La Rive Gauche after the Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously granted the pair a “fast food” licence to include a cafe in the store.

“We see this as a vibrant spot in the store,” said Abouzeit. 

The vote which took place early in April grants Abouzeit and Crowley the right to build a 1,000 sq.-ft. cafe in the 5,000 sq.-ft. store. The 17-seat eatery will serve “coffee shop” fare, none of which will be prepared at the location, said Abouzeit, who is an author and manager at the Porter Square Bookstore in Cambridge. 

The cafe will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. with one to two weekly deliveries taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Trash will be put in a dumpster located on the Alexander Avenue side of the location provided by the landlord, Locatelli Properties.

After the vote, Abouzeit t0ld the Belmontonian the store should be “quietly” opening in the middle-or-end of May a few weeks after its neighbor, Foodies Urban Market. 

“We are looking at Town Day (this year on Saturday, May 20) but I’d like to open tomorrow. Everyone is excited that we will open the doors soon,” he said.

Crowley said the store would have special events for kids in June – a “Find Waldo” type event in partnership with the store’s other retail neighbor, The Toy Shop of Belmont.

The store will also host a series of author events, including talks by Crystal King, the author of the new novel (a late April release), “Feast of Sorrow” and “The Salt House” author Lisa Duffy (out in June) while the owners hope to have Sebastian Junger and Tom Perrotta in the store during the summer. 

“We are planning more events as we speak,” said Crowley.

Belmont Farmers Market Gets Town OK; Day Change To Be Discussed

Photo: Farmer Market Manager Suzanne Johannet (left) and Belmont Food Collabrative’s Anne Lougée before the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Monday, April 3. 

The Belmont Farmers Market will open for the 2017 season in Belmont Center after the Belmont Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a permit to its parent non-profit the Belmont Food Collaborative at the board’s public meeting on Monday, April 3.

The vote occurred a week after an attempt by the manager of the Center’s largest landlord to relocate the popular weekly market out of the Claflin Street municipal parking lot which has served as the home for Market Day in Belmont since its inception 12 years ago.

Approximately 50 market supporters who attended the meeting gave out an enthusiastic cheer after the selectmen cast its vote.

“I am so thrilled with the support from all the people who come out to shop at the Farmers Market,”said Dr. Suzanne Johannet, the Food Collaborative’s president and Farmers Market manager. She noted the level of support is not simply due to the produce and other products but that the market “provides a social experience that helps build communities and enhances life in Belmont.”

Unlike the previous meeting – which resulted in the vote being delayed a week – the encounter was far less combatative as all sides of the issue checked their emotions.

“I would have liked to have had a better tone, it was a late meeting,” said Kevin Foley, the manager of Locatelli Properties LLC which owns the former Macy’s buildling and most of the eastern side of the commercial block of Leonard Street,

Foley informed the board he and his team “wants to work with the Farmers Market … we are for the Farmers Market” and so would like to develop a plan in which the market was not be held on one of the most active shopping days of the week.

“Thursday is a very busy time,” Foley said, anticipating that many of the 200 parking spaces in the municipal lot will be occupied.

With six new business in the renovated Macy’s site preparing to open beginning in mid-May, the demand on the limited supply of parking spaces will hinder the new businesses ability to establish themselves and attract new customers.

Johannet said she finds it hard to imagine altering the long-standing traditional day for the market “on something that might turn out to be a problem which hasn’t been a problem for 12 years,” 

Johannet countered the market only requires 19 spaces for most of each Thursday and has never experienced any trouble finding parking on Market Day, supported by a 2011-12 town wide parking study showing between 60 – 100 free spaces in the lot on any given Thursday. 

All sides agreed that the market and landlord will return before the board after the end of the 2017 season in late October to review the parking issues.