Why are so many businesses on Boston’s Mass. Ave. closing?

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BOSTON – While students at Berklee College of Music were out enjoying the weather on Tuesday, they were greeted by empty storefronts along Massachusetts Avenue.

Austin Chen has run Berklee Noodles Factory with his family for seven years. He’s deeply concerned about these empty storefronts, and he says the cost of running a small business is increasing.

“They are closing, like, one by one. So, I don’t know, are we going to get less foot traffic from this?” Chen asked. 

Why are small businesses closing in Boston?

“Unfortunately sales are flat to down, yet costs are way up for small businesses, and that’s creating a lot of dark storefronts,” said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. He says high rent costs, inflation, cost of insurance and working remotely are hurting these small mom-and-pop shops.

“The consumer is tapped out, and the cost of operation for small businesses is through the roof, so profitability is a huge issue,” Hurst said.

One of the more popular stores that closed down a few months ago was Guitar Center. Cyrus Hayes plays the guitar and is a senior at Berklee College of Music. “I went there a lot. Anytime before ensembles, they got, like strings. …. The closest one is like three miles away,” he said.

How can small businesses get help?

Director of Business Strategy for the City of Boston Alia Hamada Forrest said grants are available to help keep small businesses going. Businesses can get up to $200,000 to pay for rent, security deposits and improvements.

“We launched the Space Grant Program utilizing federal funding to help fill the vacant storefronts caused by the pandemic,” she said.

Chen knows the summer will be even slower with fewer students but hopes his customers will return and foot traffic increases along Mass Ave.

“We operate on much thinner margins than people think. Especially with inflation right now – it’s really cutting in. If you guys are around Boston and stuff and you guys want to come in for a bowl of Ramen or something, please do come by; that really does help us a lot.”  

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