Two Years In the Making: Starbucks’ Cushing Square Store Reopens Friday

Photo: Starbucks is open for business in Cushing Square.

Twenty-five months after its past location shut down, Starbucks has officially returned to Cushing Square as its spacious new store opens for business this morning, Friday, July 12.

The store will be open daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The international coffeehouse chain opening marks the first retail operation to take place in the Bradford, the three building housing/retail/parking development in the heart of Cushing Square, bordered by Trapelo and Williston roads and Common and Belmont streets.

The 42 seat store will have 25 to 35 employees working on the site. Currently, the new store does not have access to approximately 20 off-street parking spaces adjacent to the location as construction continues at the site.

Starbucks Returns To Cushing Square, Opening In Mid-June

Photo: Starbucks returns to Cushing Square.

Caffeine lovers, hipsters and teenagers, rejoice! Starbucks is returning to Cushing Square with an opening in the second week of June.

The multinational coffeehouse chain with 30,000 stores worldwide came before the Select Board on May 29 at Belmont High School to obtain a common victualler license which was granted unanimously.

“We’re still probably not going to be able to open for about another week or so trying to finish up the site, make sure it’s safe in the public,” said Daniel Brennan who works for dpb Design Consultants which partners with Starbucks on permitting and licensing.

“We don’t have a concrete [opening] date but after talking to the construction manager, it will probably be a week to two weeks after Friday [May 31], when we get our certificate of occupancy,” said Brennan.

Daniel Brennan, dpb
Design Consultants

Brennan said the store will likely have a “soft” opening. “[Starbucks] usually does a ‘friends and family’ where they invite the employees and their families so they can test out all the equipment and get it going,” he said.

The best approach for the public to know when the store is open “is go by and see people inside.”

Town Administrator Patrice Garvin noted the health department has signed off on the site.

The 42 seat store will have 25 to 35 employees working on the site. There will be approximately 20 off-street parking spaces adjacent to the location between two buildings.

While the store will be open daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Brennan asked the board to approve a closing time of 10 p.m. which was permitted in the special permit approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“We will likely want the later time after it is open so we don’t want to come back for the change,” said Brennan.

Tsae Seta! Old School Barista Bids Starbucks – And Work – Farewell

Photo: Seta Najarian is retiring from Starbucks after 14-plus years. 

The sign on the door at 48 Leonard St. in Belmont Center reads “Starbucks” but on most weekday mornings for the past decade and a half, it might as well have read “Seta’s.”

That’s because it would be hard to find any more commanding personality among the whole of the baristas working in the Seattle-based coffee conglomerate than Belmont’s Seta Najarian, a five-foot-tall Lebanese-born and bred grandmother who demanded respect from those waiting to be served but at the same time loved her customers unconditionally.

Seta hardly the archetypical young-ish millennial that make up the mass of baristas – she doesn’t display or have tattoos, never heard of Young Thug and wears the most sensible of clothes. What she might have lacked in hipness she brought that first generation familiarity for the customer to the job. She knows what you drink, what your kids are doing and she’ll give you a quick kiss for that special day, “like a sister, a good friend or a neighbor.” 

“[The cusomers] think I own this place,” said Najarian, a long-time Belmont fixture. “I’ve been here so long, I felt like it was my place, to tell you the truth,” she said as her friend Carol interrupts the interview to say how sorry she’ll be to see her leave. 

But last week, on Friday, Dec. 29, after 14 year and three months to the day, Seta is taking a well-deserved break from working full-time that began when she was a teenager. The store held a small party at the store with the district manager “hang around and then say goodbye to everybody.”

The cafe and the town are going to miss Seta’s mannerisms that border on charming but which others would say it’s more her “old school” view on almost everything.

How old school is she? Seta’s aunt arranged her marriage to a “neighborhood boy,” Avedis Najarian, who lived in America and was visiting Lebanon.

“And I’ve been married for 45 years,” she said. “That’s old fashion!”

Born in Beirut, Seta started working at 16 as a secretary for a Swedish company in Beirut – she got the job because she can speak French, English, Arabic, Turkish and Armenian – sending and receiving telex posts. After she married at 19, she came to Watertown and her daughters Christine and Tanya came straight away. But Seta was not one to sit at home.

“I’m a workaholic, I guess,” she said. “I love working. If a person wakes up in the morning, they should go to work.”

And she did, working at a bakery then opening businesses with her husband including a gas station and for 17 years running restaurant across from the Arsenal Mall.

After closing the Watertown eatery in the early 2000s and with her husband settling into retirement, Seta began working at Starbucks in Belmont Center “because I didn’t want to stay home. I’m cursed in that way.” 

“I am always with the public. I love talking, connecting with the people,” she said 

And Seta soon was making the outlet of the multinational coffeehouse chain her own. 

“Because I’m an older generation and I ran my own businesses, I know what works,” she said. If a customer would take too long to order, Seta would give them a stern look over and “suggest” a purchase but would greet a regular with a resounding shout of their first name.

She also took up the role of vigilant overseer of the store. During her interview, she stopped to pick up and move a pallet that was left where it could be stepped on. “See what I mean? I’m always looking like its my [place]” she said. 

Seta admits that it takes a while for her to warm up to someone new coming into Starbucks. “If I don’t know them, I’m not good with them. I have to know them, they have to come close to me. But once I know that person, I will give them my heart,” she said. And while she wasn’t shy to express her opinion on how some of her colleagues’ methods – “Why do you leave the water running? It’s not your water.” – Seta had only the kindest comments for her follow baristas “although the young ones always go away so soon.”

She claims – it’s not known if this is true or not – that she’s responsible for the large number of fellow Armenians who would make a visit a part of their morning routine. “They knew me from my old place so they followed me. They were looking for the chicken.”

“I’m proud to be Armenian. It’s a beautiful, rich culture, language, music and food! The best food!” she added without prompting.

This summer Seta will downsize her current abode and move to one of her homes in Watertown that’s “walking distance from the church” and spend more time with her grandchildren, three boys and a girl, between 17 and 3 years old, 

“They are my life, those grandkids,” she said. 

Christmas Cappuccinos? Starbucks Looking At Late November Opening at Bradford

Photo: Design for the new Starbucks in the Bradford development. 

Belmont will soon have a third Starbucks Cafe in the Town of Homes as the Zoning Board of Appeals approved unanimously a special permit allowing the Seattle-based coffee mega-chain to run a “fast food” restaurant at The Bradford, the retail/housing/parking development under construction in the heart of Cushing Square.

Plans submitted to the town shows a narrow 2,500 square foot cafe/store located on the left side of the two-story Winslow Building which is being built approximately on the site of the former Starbucks’ location on Trapelo Road. The store will have two entrances, in the front and rear, with 42 interior and 12 seasonal outdoor seats located in the back. The cafe will seek to operate most days from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., employing four to six workers per shift. There will be 22 parking spaces – including two handicap spaces – dedicated to the store located between the Winslow and the main Pomona buildings.

The cafe is the first business to commit to The Bradford – previously known as Cushing Village – which has close to 38,000 square feet dedicated to retail. The project, which includes underground parking and 112 apartments, is being developed by Toll Brothers Apartment Living, which rescued the proposal after the original developer, Smith Legacy Partners, failed in its efforts to secure the necessary funding.

Danial Brennan, a consultant, assisting Starbucks in securing municipal permits in New England, said the current schedule is for construction of the cafe to begin Sept. 15 with an anticipated completion date “hopefully at the end of November.” 

“But [the dates] are always estimates,” said Brennan.

Unlike other fast-casual restaurants and quick stop retail operations that came before the Zoning Board of Appeals – a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts on Pleasant Street comes to mind – there was no resident opposition or comment concerning Starbucks, which operates approximately 28,000 stores around the globe.

Zoning Chair Nicholas Iannuzzi noted the last well-known “fast food” restaurant to come before the board, for a Subway franchise in Belmont Center, required four meetings before it received a “special” to operate.

“God bless America. God bless Starbucks,” he said.

Cushing Square Starbucks To Close Noon, Monday, June 5

Photo: Farewell, espresso friend.

In the coming fortnight, you’ll have to find any other place to spend a few hours of free wifi and strong coffee in Cushing Square.

The notice has been taped to the front door of the Trapelo Road Starbucks: the final day of operation will be Monday, June 5 at noon. 

Not that the shutdown comes as a surprise to anyone as Toll Brothers, the developer of the 167,000 square foot apartment/retail/parking project once known as Cushing Village before a name change to The Bradford, stated in February of last year the popular hangout for students, seniors, and general layabouts would be demolished soon after construction began.

With the already limited parking reduced to a handful of spaces due to work around the site, the store’s hours were cut in the past few week to where it will be open only seven hours during its final week of operations.

While the building, built as a Friendly’s restaurant in the 1970s, will soon be coming down, like the legionary Phoenix Starbucks will return in just over a year’s time, to occupy a significant space in the residential/storefront building – dubbed the “Winslow” – under construction on the grounds of the former municipal parking lot.

Bradford [Ex-Cushing Village] Update: Purple Water? That’s OK; Starbucks Winding Down

Photo: A big purple hole in the ground.

As the digging on the future home of Cushing Vill … sorry, The Bradford is speeding along on schedule, more than one resident who spied into what will become the foundations of the three buildings making up the 164,000 sq.-ft. complex of apartments, stores, and parking in Cushing Square was taken aback by the rather strange purplish hue to the ground water and soil in the pit.

Did the contractor Nauset Construction find something no one was expecting to discover?

One person who did take notice was the Otto Weiss, the project manager for Toll Brothers Apartment Living, the Bradford’s owner/developer.

“[Y]ou may notice that the color of the treated soil and any surrounding water is clearly purple,” said Otto Weiss, the project manager for Toll Brothers Apartment Living, the Bradford’s owner/developer.

What nearby neighbors had noticed was just what the team was expecting to find.

“This is a normal reaction of the treatment process and is not a cause for alarm,” noted Weiss in an email project update.  

“I realize you may have questions and as always I will do my best to answer,” said Weiss, who can be contacted at

Weiss said the treatment process that was approved earlier this year by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will take about one more week to complete, at which time the site will undergo several weeks of testing and approvals before the removal of the soil.  

Ongoing air testing and monitoring continues uninterrupted, “and to date we have not seen any results that cause concern,” said Weiss.

The signs the popular Starbucks cafe, located on Trapelo Road in the middle of the active construction site, is winding down operations is literally on its doors. A pair of notices referred customers to big changes to the hours of operations – the store will close at 5 p.m. starting May 22 and at noon a week later on May 29 – and a “thank you” note to customers are located at both entrances and inside the not so busy store.

“Thank you for your patience and understanding as we prepare for this store to close,” said Store Manager Matthew Thompson.

No closing date has been provided. Toll Brothers said a new Starbucks will be opening in the early fall of 2018 in the “Winslow” building which is located on the former municipal parking lot.

It’s Official: Spokesperson Says Cushing Square Starbucks is Closing

Photo: Closed … for now.

It’s the least best-kept secret in Belmont: the popular Starbucks Cafe in the heart of Cushing Square is closing.

If the reduction of parking and pedestrian access which dramatically reduced business wasn’t enough of a clue that the store would struggle as the construction of the 164,000 square foot multi-use Cushing Village development is built around the store, staff members have told customers that the store would be closing “soon” as reported by the Belmontonian a fortnight ago.

And now word has come from Seattle that makes what is already known, official.

“We can confirm that our store at 112 Trapelo Rd. in Belmont will close in the coming months while the building undergoes a large-scale redevelopment,” said a spokesperson from the Starbucks Media Relations Team in an email sent to the Belmontonian.

But the shutting of the doors at 112 Trapelo Rd. will not be the end of the coffeeshop’s presence in the neighborhood.

“We look forward to re-opening when construction is complete,” said the statement “and in the meantime, we invite customers to visit our partners (employees) at one of our nearby locations.”

Toll Brothers, the developer of Cushing Village, stated that a new store could be up and running in the project’s Winslow Building located at the site of the former municipal parking lot by the summer of 2018.

Last Call for Lattes: Cushing Sq. Starbucks Reported to Close ‘Soon’

Photo: Starbucks in Cushing Square.

When you’re hunting for a cool iced caramel macchiato this summer, you’ll no longer have Starbucks in Belmont’s Cushing Square as a destination. 

According to associates who spoke to worried customers and the Belmontonian, the busy store located at 112 Trapelo Rd. will be shutting its doors “soon, in the next couple of months.” 

“Oh, no. What will happen to you,” said a customer when learning the news while purchasing a latte.  

While staff associates were happy to tell customers that the store would close, none would go on the record.

An email on the store’s closing to Nicole Smith, Starbuck’s district manager who oversees the Cushing Square store, has not been returned.

In statements to staff members, the decision to shut the popular site was due to the coming construction of Cushing Village, the 164,000 sq.-ft. multi-use project being built on three parcels in the heart of Cushing Square including the spot Starbucks is located.

Demolition of the site has begun with the tearing down of the former CVS/First National Building at the corner of Common Street and Belmont Avenue. 

According to a Cushing Square business owner, what clinched the decision was the drastic reduction of parking at the store. The municipal parking space adjacent to the store was closed to the public two weeks ago while the store’s own parking lot has been squeezed to less than a dozen spots.

With on-the-street parking to be limited due to construction in early April of the foundation of the first building – dubbed the Winslow – it was inevitable the store needed to be shut down.

The closing of the popular coffee stop will be felt in the square, said Chris Benoit, owner of the Spirited Gourmet on Common Street. 

“It is a big draw so its closing would be another hit to businesses that are struggling,” said Benoit three weeks ago at a public meeting on the future of the project. 

But there is an upside for coffee lovers.  Bill Lovett, the senior development manager at Toll’s Apartment Living who is managing the project told the previously mentioned public meeting that if Starbucks closed in the spring, the construction of the Winslow, which will house a new, expanded store, could be completed earlier than the anticipated summer 2018 date. 

In addition, the associates were telling customers that the store would be holding a “going away party” for its loyal customers. 

BREAKING: Another Delay for Cushing Village; Now It’s Starbucks Missing Lease

Photo: Starbucks lack of a lease causes another delay. 

After a contentious meeting Friday morning, it appears Belmont town officials would rather the corporate suits at Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters switch from drinking the decaf Caffè Lattes to the high power Clover Brewed Coffee with espresso shots when they are closing real estate deals.

On what should have been a historic day for Belmont and the future of the troubled 167,000 sq.-ft. Cushing Village project turned into a frustrating case of deja vu as the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved Friday, Sept. 30 to push back by three weeks the closing date of the sale of the municipal parking lot adjacent Trapelo Road.

Initially, the town expected developer Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers to execute the purchase and sale of the lot with a check ($1 million less any credits to the company) heading into town coffers. But it became apparent after returning from an executive session on Sept. 20, the selectmen had little choice but move the expiration date for the final closing to Friday, Oct. 21. 

Bu unlike past issues, it was not actions by the developer, Toll Brothers, nor the town necessitating the delay. In fact, they have been ready to “seal the deal” days earlier. Rather it is officials at one of the leading retail corporations worldwide who are dragging their feet much like many of their Monday morning customers. 

According to Belmont’s Town Counsel George Hall, the delay is due to a lack of a new lease from Starbucks corporate headquarters that spells out a multiyear agreement between Toll and the coffee giant on yearly payments and the location of the cafe. It will also spell out what financial compensation Toll would provide Starbucks if at any point the store would be forced to shut down during construction.

Hall said the lease “is also integral to the transaction between Toll and the former developer Smith Legacy Partners” which still owns four parcels – including the old S.S. Pierce and A&P/CVS locations – that will make up most of the project’s footprint. 

Since Toll can not move forward with knowledge of the primary tenant, the closing has been held hostage to Starbucks’ inaction. 

“Starbucks is a very large company with many sites … and they move on their own schedule,” said Hall, suspecting the new lease will arrive “hopefully in a few business days but we have no controls over the parties.” 

With all the paperwork complete, deeds ready to be passed and funds transferred a compromise called an “escrow closing” has been agreed to between the town and Toll Brothers. 

Much like a standard real estate closing, all the relative signed documents – including the town’s land development agreement and the deeds to the four parcels currently held by Smith Legacy – and the several payments dated for Friday will be delivered by 5 p.m. to a Westborough attorney who is the escrow agent.

“The agent is ready to go to the Registry of Deeds to record the documents and disburse the funds as soon as he’s given the go-ahead to do so once Toll when it takes the property of the new lease,” said Hall.

“All parties will have to agree for this escrow to move forward,” he said. 

Not that everyone was enthralled with the last-minute arrangement.

“Of course this is frustrating because we’d like to know that by the end of today the funds would have been into our account,” said Selectmen Vice Chair Sami Baghdady. 

While he would be more comfortable if Toll committed “hard money” into Belmont’s bank account, said Baghdady, “but I feel we have made a leap and it would be a shame if we did not support this deal and risk Cushing Square being in its current condition for eight or ten years [until it is] redeveloped.”

Photo of the Day: Making the Daily Commute a Bit Better

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 9.54.01 AM

The daily work week crawl through Belmont Center was made a tad more tolerable this morning, Thursday, Nov. 6 by some early holiday cheer in the form of a delightful latte from the staff – Dan Ciper, Mark Fantasia and Rhyan Sullivan braved the traffic – at the Leonard Street Starbucks.

Maybe, just maybe, they’ll decide to do this again before the reconstruction of Belmont Center corrects all the traffic and parking issues.