Holiday Parking Cheer: Selectmen OK 2 Free Hours at Municipal Lots

Photo: Don’t put any coins in or swipe you credit card if your staying less than two hours.

The holiday season came early for residents and shoppers who will be shopping for that special gift in Belmont’s three main shopping districts as the Board of Selectmen Monday night, Nov. 9, voted to allow the first two hours free at municipal parking lots town-wide during the holiday season.,

The free parking will take place from Nov. 27 to Dec. 27, said Town Administrator David Kale “as a  ‘welcome back’ gesture” to customers who didn’t want to contend with the road construction occurring throughout Belmont.

Currently, parking in the three municipal lots – Belmont Center, Waverley, and Cushing squares – costs a dollar for each hour and five dollars for the day.

Concerned business owners told Kale the reconstruction of Belmont Center and the work on the $17 million Trapelo/Belmont Corridor project had impacted sales and activity in the past six months. The free parking will be an incentive to draw them back.

Kale said parking enforcement will target the late afternoon hours, after 6 p.m. to keep spaces turning over during the peak shopping times. 

Also, the town will increase the number of trash bins in the business centers, especially in Belmont Center during the annual Belmont Turn on the Town, Dec. 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Belmont Selectmen Chair Sami Baghdady said it was also a “tough environment” for store owners along Trapelo Road and especially those in Cushing Square which are dealing with the delay in the construction of the proposed Cushing Village development.

In construction news, Kale said the laying of sidewalks in Belmont Center is proceeding quickly, and the installation of new street lamps has begun on Leonard Street.

Ohlin’s Celebrates A Century of Baking for Belmont (And That Means Donuts)

Photo: The Klemm family – Paul Jr., Paul, Marybeth and Emily – who own and run Ohlin’s Bakery in Cushing Square.

There are three certainties in Belmont: the roads need repair, Ohlin’s Bakery at 456 Common St. will be open for the holidays (you name the celebration, the Cushing Square shop is ready for business) and, you will not find a better donut anywhere in Boston, or, as some have claimed, in the entire United States.

This year, the well-known Belmont institution – who hasn’t spent time enveloped in the wonderful warm aroma on an early morning visit? – marks its century of making and selling pastries, bread and, of course, donuts in the same general location since it first opened its doors in 1915.

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“We have people come from far away who say, ‘We’ve come for your donuts,’,” said Marybeth Klemm, who runs the store with her husband, Paul.

In a world where upscale patisserie target hipsters with high-end donuts made with Pineapple Habanero, dark chocolate pomegranate and Sesame Sriracha priced at $3 a pop, Ohlin’s continues to outclass the competition with its traditional, homespun approach to the business.

The old fashioned, lovingly-worn storefront (it could be a movie set for a film set in the 1960s) is alive each day with the hustle and bustle as a wide array of goods – cookies, pies, cakes, pastries, bagels, scones, bread and cupcakes – are made on premises out back by Paul and his brother, and on weekends the Klemm’s son, Paul, Jr. lends a hand.

In the store, the staff rush in and out to fill and take customer orders, from workers picking up a dozen maple glazed donuts for their colleagues to families coming in for a birthday cake or to purchase creatively-decorated cookies.

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CJ Jones, the manager of the Belmont Car Wash on Trapelo Road – another longtime Belmont family-run business – who returns like clock work daily to bring pastries to his operation.

“I come into Ohlin’s because they’re the best,” he said, coming away with two dozen assorted donuts, muffins, and cookies.

“I give them away to my customers for free because [the donuts are] so good. They come back to get their car washed because of the donuts!” he said.

The tightly-packed shop doesn’t have a place to sit and fire up your laptop for an hour of leisurely browsing. You serve your own coffee, get in line with the regulars and newcomers and pause to be called on.

And the wait is well worth it. The Boston Globe and Herald, The Harvard Crimson, CBS Boston, local publications and regional magazines such as Boston Magazine and the Improper Bostonian have all rave about of the family-run shop’s pastry selection.

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Yet it’s Ohlin’s donuts that have won the highest praise as coming close to fried dough perfection. Whether ring or filled, the multitude of varieties – dipped, glazed, jellied – are the pinnacle of the art form, the DiVinci of donuts.

Having named the shop’s donuts “Boston’s Best” numerous years, the Globe this year pointed out Ohlin’s maple glaze as “one of the most aesthetically pleasing treats we encounter, overflowing with topping and beautifully drizzled with chocolate.”

Customers have made their views known writing in online review sites, such as Yelp and Trip Advisor. As one experienced reviewer noted: “This is a bakery that makes great donuts. And I’m going to repeat that: Great Donuts. The best I’ve ever had in Boston. Very likely the best I’ve ever had anywhere.”

There’s no magic to Ohlin’s success and longevity; just the dedication of a pair of families over the past century creating a landmark destination for confectionary sweat treats.

The shops history goes back to 1915 when the Ohlin family settled into Belmont and rented a spot in the then bustling Cushing Square which was in the midst of a housing explosion as estates were divided up into subdivisions.

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Ohlin’s joined dozens of other small bakeries that populated nearly every square and main street in communities in and around New England before the day of large-scale bakeries and supermarkets.

In 1967, the Ohlin’s sold the store to Robert Klemm, the son of a dynasty within the Boston-area baking circles. The Klemm family started or bought dozens of small bakeries in Boston and its nearby suburbs including its first, Lyndell’s Bakery, which opened in Somerville in 1887 and still in operation.

Through perseverance, a solid produce line and a multigenerational cliental, the Klemm’s have staked their claim in a town where franchises – a third Dunkin’ Donut in Belmont is expected to open next year on Pleasant Street along with a Starbucks located across Trapelo Road – and other independent stores (Linda’s Donuts is just a few blocks down Belmont Street) compete for the loyalty of residents and those who work in Belmont.

Today, the tradition continues every predawn morning as Paul arrives between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. to begin another day. By the early daylight hours, racks of donuts and other products are flying out of the ovens in a bakery where the heat is constant and relief is provided by a half-open door.

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Marybeth became involved in the business “the day I said ‘I do’,” marrying into the bakery in 1984.

“Next thing I knew, I was getting up at 3 a.m,” she said, who started working at Ohlin’s as a 16-year old in an after-school job, meeting Paul who was working for his father.

It truly is a family business. Daughter Emily remembers her first “job” was folding boxes as a five-year-old in the corner of the store during the holidays, having graduated today to decorating birthday cakes and manning the store’s social media operation.

Despite its reputation for producing outstanding pastries, Ohlin’s is a small local business that depends not just on the big ticket items such as birthday cakes but also the single donut purchase to stay financially viable.

“We really rely on our local customers; we depend on them. But because we have a great reputation with our donuts, every day we get people who say it’s their first time here. Word of mouth is really important for our business to succeed,” said Marybeth.

“We are so thankful that they come to small businesses because we do work hard. My husband’s here seven days a week, getting up at midnight or 1 a.m. on weekends and 2 a.m. on weekdays. He doesn’t miss a day,” she said.

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The Klemm children – which includes oldest daughter, Joanne Klemm Mann, who gave birth to their first grandchild, Christopher Joseph (CJ for short) on April 1 – also take time away from their own work; son Paul Jr. is an accountant and youngest daughter Emily is a recent graduate from UMass- Lowell working in public health with a view towards becoming a nurse.

“Right now, we do have them to help out,” said Marybeth.

If there is a dark cloud over the store, it’s what impacts many family-run business; who all continue the legacy. Paul said his children are leading their lives and will likely move on, leaving him and his brother running the bakery.

In fact, Paul has found it difficult to find someone who is willing to come aboard as a full-time baker, help that is sorely needed.

“It would be sad if we couldn’t find someone to continue what the Ohlin and Klemm families have created,” said Marybeth.

“But, hey, we just had a grandson. You never know,” she said, with a laugh.

Sometime in the early fall, the store will hold its 100th birthday – the actual day the business opened has been lost to history – “and I think we should have a ‘100’ cake to give out to everyone in town because so many are our customers,” said Marybeth.

Until then, customers can come by the store on the 4th of July, this Saturday, to pick from a selection of red, white and blue pastries for the evening’s barbecue or to help begin the Independent Day celebrations.

“Yes, we will be open and have lots of patriotic goodies!” said Marybeth.

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.

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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.”

With the Giant a Block Away, New Pharmacy Sets Focus on Service, Free Delivery

Photo: Pharmacist Richard Simon at Belmont Pharmacy. 

When Jack wished to see the Giant, he had to climb a magic bean stalk that reached far into the sky.

All Robert Pavlan needs to do to find his “giant” is stick his head out the door of the newly-opened Belmont Pharmacy, look to the left and there is a 95,800 sq.-ft. CVS/pharmacy staring right back at him. 

But the life-long independent pharmacist, who came back to Belmont from living and working in California, there is no reason to believe that the town can’t accommodate another drug store. 

The storefront opened on Wednesday, May 20. The store is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

“It will take this a couple of months to get this going,” said Richard Simon, a pharmacist who will run the business side of the new store located at 246 Trapelo Rd.

“We’re getting a feel for the neighborhood and getting good feedback,” said Simon, who has been a pharmacist for more than 20 years, opening up the pharmacy services at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and working at an independent pharmacy in Brookline in the late 1990s. 

With a third pharmacist in the fold, there is more than 70 years of experience in the store. 

A past resident, Pavlan wanted an opportunity to come back to “the neighborhood,” and took up that opportunity when he saw the storefront location open up on busy Trapelo Road.

“The space was available and, yes, he saw how close he’d be to another pharmacy,” said Simon.

But what a competitor; CVS is second only to Walgreens as the largest pharmacy chain in the US with more than 7,600 stores. It sells in a few minutes what Belmont Pharmacy could hope to provide in a year.

What they may lack in bulk, the new store will make up in service, said Simon.

“We’re going to be offering a lot to the community,” Simon said, such as blood pressure that customers can show their physician, blister packing for older customers, and patient profiles in which patient drug information is printed out in a wallet-sized card “because a lot of people are unaware just what their medications are and can be used if they are hospitalized.”

“And we will have free delivery in Belmont and Watertown, and that will expand when we expand,” said Simon.

What Belmont Pharmacy will not do is follow the national pharmacy model of becoming “a convenience store.” Inside the store is a few rows of over-the-counter medicines, cold relief and remedies for minor injuries.

“We’re not selling frozen pizza, bottled water, summer beach chairs; that’s not who we are,” said Simon. 

“We’re your pharmacist and we will look after you and your family.”

Simon said the store will be very competitive in pricing prescriptions with CVS.

“They get their drugs by the ton and we don’t. But their prices are set and we have the flexibility to set ours on need and demand,” he said.

The business has begun to canvas local doctors, the area hospitals including McLean and the town’s Board of Health and Council of Aging.

“There’s going to be outreach, but there has been a nice amount of groundswell of people coming in and saying, ‘We’re glad you’re here’,” said Simon.

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. 

Your Business: A New Yoga, Wellness Studio With a Family Vibe

Photo: GROUNDWORK yoga + wellness in Belmont.

One day before she was to open her new business in Belmont, Megan Dattoli was running a bit behind schedule.

No, it was not because she overslept or was waiting for supplies to arrive; early Thursday morning Dattoli was at Boston Medical Center helping a client deliver her baby. For the past four years, Dattoli has been a birth and postpartum doula, a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during and after childbirth.

“You have to excuse my appearance but it’s been a long morning,” the Belmont High graduate (’97) who grew up on Homer Road said in the newly-renovated studio space that is now home to GROUNDWORK yoga + wellness, located just around the corner of Trapelo Road on Maple Street (first building off the intersection on the left).

It’s that background in assisting families through the birthing experience that led Dattoli – who lives in Watertown with her two young children and husband (Belmont High class of 1996) – to consider opening a business with the emphasis on bringing a holistic view to promoting family-friendly wellness to the studio.”

“There is such a need for the entire family to focus their wellness, not just before and during a birth, but also afterward,” said Dattoli, who is a yoga instructor.

The new studio will offer yoga and pilates classes and parenting education and childhood enrichment workshops that “encourage self-care of body and mind, healthy families and a mindful community,” according to Dattoli.

During GROUNDWORK’s grand opening weekend, the studio is offering free yoga and Pilates classes, along with discounted class passes and memberships starting today, Friday, Jan. 30 and running through Sunday, Feb 1.

Belmontonian: Tell me about your new studio?

Dattoli: “The yoga and pilates classes will be cornerstone of the business but it would also be nice to having a place to offer new moms support groups and to teach my private childbirth ed classes in a place where I can have group sessions. I’ve rented spaces in the past, but it ended up being difficult conducting recurring meeting when I was moving around all the time.”

Belmontonian: What is your studio’s focus?

Dattoli: “There is definitely a family focus here. Along with yoga and pilates that are open to everyone, we will offer the family and kids classes along with prenatal yoga. And the space will be used for newborn care and other birth-related classes. I’m really excited about the parenting education because we are not as mindful in a lot that we are doing. I’m talking to [someone] who gives workshops on how kids can ‘push your buttons’ which I love.”

Belmontonian: So a typical day at GROUNDWORK will be …

Dattoli: “There will be yoga and pilates in the morning and evenings. Mid-day I plan to offer the moms and kids programs with enrichment programs in the afternoon and on the weekends between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. We will also have an experienced yoga instructor who specializes in senior yoga.”

Belmontonian: There are some great yoga and pilates studios in and around Belmont. Why should people come to you?

Dattoli: “Every studio has their area of expertise and we definitely emphasise the family and parenting side of things. For yoga and pilates, there are so many studios everywhere, that people try out classes and get attached to a teacher or the studio’s vibe. So don’t expect hot yoga here, I want a warm studio with wonderful teachers. I hope it ends up being a little community, a place where people can hang out and not just come to a class. One of my friends said she got five or six hugs every time she goes to yoga because everyone there are friends, and I hope to have a place like that.”

Belmontonian: Where would you like GROUNDWORK to be a year from now?

Dattoli: “I’d hope to have a place with a lot of offerings that people can choose from and enjoy. I haven’t packed the studios schedule because I will actively be seeking feedback and suggestions. I’m really hoping to have families follow us from the prenatal to the mom who needs a break and wants a yoga class Wednesday morning.”

For more information, please visit www.groundworkwellness.com