By Leslie Hassanein, news staff
Boloco, a Mexican-American eatery frequented by Northeastern students on Huntington Avenue since 2000, closed its doors at Marino Center Wednesday.
The chain, famous for its unique smoothies and globally-inspired burritos, will be closing a total of five locations, including the one on Northeastern’s campus. Locations in Natick, Wellesley, Burlington, Vermont and Concord, New Hampshire will also be closing, according to a statement released by Boloco’s CEO and Co-Founder John Pepper.
The organic burger joint B.Good plans to move into the Boloco’s current location. Pepper said he helped start B.Good in 2004, along with two of his close friends. He said the decision to sell to B.Good will significantly reduce the amount of debt Boloco currently holds. Former employees of the Boloco on Northeastern’s campus will have the choice to interview for a job at B.Good.
“While some of you will be disappointed that Boloco is leaving, I honestly believe that your disappointment will quickly be replaced with genuine excitement for what B.Good brings to the table,” Pepper wrote in a farewell email he addressed to “Boloco friends at Northeastern.”
The plan to close the five locations sprouts from Boloco’s failed efforts to raise $15 million in new capital, Pepper said. Boloco’s board of directors shot down the expansion plan in 2013, causing Pepper to resign. Pepper said Boloco struggled financially after that, and in 2015 he was able to purchase it back from private equity investors.
The company has a mission to provide its employees with livable wages, which isn’t always the best for revenue. The average wage for a Boloco employee is $14 an hour, about 20 to 40 percent higher than that of competitors.
“Years ago I decided I would prefer to fail doing the right thing for people than succeed in part by having taken advantage of the fact that most workers in food service can’t demand adequate wages to cover their most basic expenses,” Pepper said. “How can a business be successful if its team members are struggling to survive?”
Boloco has taken pride in hiring Northeastern students, both in the restaurant and in corporate. Pepper says he will miss the interaction with students. He was invited to speak at the TEDxNortheasternU in 2014 on the fair treatment of employees.
Boloco faced several sources of competition on Huntington Avenue. Qdoba, a Mexican-themed chain with the same “build your own” style, is located across the street. Amelia’s Taqueria is on the same block.
“Sales overall haven’t increased, and at Northeastern specifically they’ve decreased—likely due to more and more competition and perhaps our own execution follies over the years,” Pepper said.
Nonetheless, students will miss the unique options offered at Boloco, especially vegetarians. Competitors such as Qdoba do not offer a non-meat protein option.
“I’m a vegetarian so this is one of the few places I can eat food I actually like,” Hitaarth Santhabi, a junior finance major who was not aware that the Marino Center location was closing down, said. “It’ll be hard finding a new place.”
Besides the vegetarian options, many expressed sorrow at the loss of their beloved shakes and smoothies.
“I’m really sad. I like their smoothies,” junior biology major Anjali Mantha said. “This was my go-to spot this summer during co-op. Now I have to walk all the way to Copley!”
Those who still have credit with Boloco can use it at any of the other nine Boston locations, including the Copley, Berklee and Children’s Hospital outposts.
Photo by Alex Melagrano