Open Newbury prompts mixed reactions from local business owners


Sundararaman Rengarajan

Businesses and retailers were able to set up street level accommodations, from promotion tables to merchandise tents, providing customers with a more personal shopping experience.

Sophia Schultz, news correspondent

For the past six Sundays, Boston’s iconic location for shopping, dining and everything in between has been car-free with the city’s sixth annual Open Newbury Street. Newbury Street is located in Back Bay, and the event’s perimeters span from Berkeley Street to Massachusetts Avenue. Sept. 25 marked the last day of the event for 2022. 

This unique opportunity allowed for pedestrians to walk along the street with no vehicle access, creating an incentive for exploring the many shops and restaurants Newbury has to offer. Regulations were enforced with the help of the Boston Police Department from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., to provide a safe and fun way for anyone from local residents to tourists to experience the street in a new way.

“It’s been pretty quiet [peaceful] for the most part. … It seems like people are enjoying it,” said Javier Pagan, the community service officer for the BPD. 

The program seems to have run smoothly, with local businesses and retailers being able to set up street level accommodations, from promotion tables to merchandise tents, providing customers with a more personal shopping experience. Although Newbury Street has become commercialized, there is still a strong presence of local small businesses who would seemingly benefit from the increased foot traffic that the program provides. 

This, however, did not seem to be the case to many of the owners along the street. 

Christina Jones, an employee at Lipstick, a small boutique chain of sister stores in the Boston area, said the store hasn’t seen any increase in sales on these days and most of the customers entering the shop are just doing so to browse. 

“As a customer I can see the appeal, but honestly, it can get overwhelming,” Jones said. 

Lipstick is a small store with usually only one employee, making it hard to monitor the increase in activity in the store during these past Sundays. With limited customers actually making purchases, the concern of theft has increased, Jones said. Although it has created exposure for Lipstick and other similar shops, it has also disproportionately affected the actual business’ operations and makes for a hectic day with limited benefits for some of the local retail community. 

Still, other businesses had different perspectives. Store Manager at LIT Boutique Savanna White had positive comments on the event. 

“It creates a really good atmosphere,” she said. “It’s definitely beneficial and really fun.” 

White also discussed how it has increased traffic into the store and how they are selling more clothes on these days. She said, however, that most of the sales made are from the street-level tent the store sets up, which promotes their sale stock, with items being anywhere from 40% to 80% off retail prices. 

“Many customers interact with the tent first, but many end up coming into the store to try on pieces and are able to view the inside as well, which is full price,” White said. 

White also said some stores who weren’t doing promotions directly on the street were not seeing as much of an increase in foot traffic, and that stores should take advantage of the ability to use the outdoor space of their property.

“If you don’t put yourself out of your comfort zone, you don’t grow,” said Rebecca Kalaitzidis, owner of Achelous Salon

Being able to present her shop in a new way was a big part of how Open Newbury gave business owners opportunities not usually available, she said. Kalaitzidis displayed a table with the products she sells in her apothecary section of the salon, which she said attracted new customers since it drew in foot traffic, something that can’t always be done when businesses are tucked back into brownstone buildings. 

“It is a way to find businesses that [people] are connected with,” Kalaitzidis said.