Creating Community, One Beer and Ice Cream at a Time
By Dee Fuller
BU News Service
“Hey, large mint chocolate chip!”
Less than 2 minutes pass before the next greeting.
“What’s up, double bottle cabernet?”
“How ya doin’, Suzanne?”
This is how Suzanne Robichaud knows her neighbors. And she knows a lot of them. At first she just seems like a friendly face at the local corner liquor store. But she is more than that. These nicknames are personalized so that she can remember the flavor profiles of her customers.
“I’m just switchin’ it up. These are the things that you remember,” she said.
Sitting behind the counter of Joe’s Liquors, Suzanne takes a second to eat some food. She is not on her break though; Suzanne is always working. The Robichaud family owns three businesses in Sullivan Square: Joe’s Liquors, Louie’s Ice Cream, and a hardware store. She is 23 now and has been working for the “family biz” since she was 18.
“I’m a proud member of the East Somerville community,” Suzanne said.
After she punches out —probably after a 12-hour day—her work is not over. Suzanne is always on the clock. Her 24/7 job is bringing neighbors together. And her main outlet for doing this is through East Somerville Main Streets.
“The main idea is to form a cohesive group, so we can do a lot to make this area a lot cooler,” Suzanne said.
There are many interesting people around Sullivan Square, she said—writers, doctors, musicians. The problem, Suzanne said, is that they all work in such different spheres that they never meet each other. Her work with ESMS is meant to change this.
“Basically, we are working in conjunction to do something that has never happened before,” Suzanne said.
The area wasn’t bad before, she said, but it was closed-off and exclusive. People shouldn’t have to feel like they have to leave their neighborhood in order to go out and have fun, she said. Through events and programs, things are improving.
And ESMS is doing a lot to bring people together. In early September, they hosted the “Foodie Crawl:” a culinary exploration of Sullivan Square. It was complete with free food and more than 500 people attended.
But the real strength of a close community comes from the work of individuals. To that end, Suzanne also organizes many events on her own.
Wine and beer tastings at Joe’s Liquors spark conversation between diverse community members. One theme she said, is even helpful and affordable: “10 for under 10 dollars.” And a growler club that she just started promises hand-made T-shirts.
She even began a book-swap. “We decided to bring in old books for people to take on their commute,” Suzanne said.
On the roster: movie nights, date nights, paint nights.
What does this mean for Sullivan Square? It means events are being created that are worth showing up for. It means neighbors can bring their skills together and spark new connections. It means a city dweller doesn’t have to feel lost within a vast metropolis. It means a homey neighborhood can be cultivated. And it means that Sullivan Square is getting younger and more connected.
“Our generation is aware of the situation. They bring perspective and are enthusiastic toward changes. And they bring positive influences. Even consider litter. Our generation doesn’t do that,” she said.
But Sullivan Square isn’t the only neighborhood leading this effort. People flock to Davis Square for its sense of community. Various music venues and theaters offer limitless entertainment. And local shops draw friendly faces together. Recently, the Honk Festival drew circus-sized crowds. A weekend full of dancing, music, bubbles, and candy apples brought smiling faces across Davis Square.
Davis Square has a reputation of being hipster-central though, while Sullivan Square fosters a reputation much less glamorous. Mostly, people just know it as a stop on the T. But this is why Suzanne works so hard.
“We are on the ground floor, but we are going full-force,” Suzanne said.
Her next project? Bringing justice to mistreated pet birds. In addition to relentless community work, Suzanne is also a self-proclaimed bird-mom. She taught her two birds many tricks, she said, including fluffing on command. I guess no project is too small.
2 Comments so far:Posted by: BU News Service on January 6, 2014
Tags: Boston, Somerville