As Hope Nicholls lounged on a couch in her Plaza Midwood clothing boutique Boris & Natasha on a recent Wednesday night, it was clear the store’s upcoming move would be bittersweet for her — but a little more leaning to the sweet side.
She will miss the neighborhood, but then again, she’s missed the neighborhood for years now. It’s just not the same place it was when she and her husband Aaron Pitkin — who, for full disclosure, is a distant relative of mine — opened up shop in October 1999.
“It’s a whole different world,” she said of the rapidly changing Plaza Midwood. “Just very superficially, when we first opened, if we looked out the window and saw somebody that we didn’t know, that was an anomaly. Now it’s the opposite. If we look out and actually see Scott McCannell from Snug Harbor or if we were to see Penny [Craver, former owner of Dish], it would be like, ‘Oh! Awesome!’ But no, it’s just a constant parade of the people who live in the neighborhood that don’t even know how it’s changed from five years ago.”
In the coming years, it will change further, as the recent purchase of the 12-acre Central Square property by developers Crosland Southeast will soon lead to massive redevelopment in the heart of Plaza Midwood.
Nicholls calls it “the end of an era,” one that started for her when she began working at Superior Feet, where Kiki is now located on Central Avenue.
“Me and a few others built this neighborhood back up from being forgotten and it’s sad we are being priced out by the success our decades of work has created,” she said. “We have been gentrified and it happened to creative people as well as everyone else who can’t afford to buy into property in an area where we create, live and work.”
Nicholls and Pitkin are no stranger to adaptation, as they’ve proven during their long musical career together. The married couple has launched and/or performed in Fetchin’ Bones, Sugarsmack, Snagglepuss and, currently, It’s Snakes together. On Saturday, however, the two will make their first retail move when they close the original Boris & Natasha location for the last time and prepare for an upcoming relocation to The Plaza, where they have found a new home in a smaller space tucked between Hattie’s Tap & Tavern and Tip Top Daily Market.
The move has been in the works since last April, when Nicholls saw the empty storefront during a visit to Tip Top to pick up some beer. Tip Top’s owner Jason Michel had already expanded Tip Top once and adopted Premium Sound vinyl shop into its space, but he told Nicholls he had no further plans for expansion.
She recalls the conversation better than I could ever paraphrase it: “We walked in to get some beer and we were just making sure we were supporting them during the shutdown, and all the sudden I just looked at Jason, I was like, ‘Dude what are you doing with that spot?’ He’s like, ‘It’s not looking like we can expand over there,’ and that concerned me as a friend and as a business owner, and I’m like, ‘Well dude, we may want to move over there.’ He’s like, ‘Are you for real? Do you know how small it is?’ I said, ‘Yeah I do. I don’t care.’”
And that’s how it happened. Nicholls and Pitkin worked it with their landlord to stay through the end of the year and then pay daily rent in January until the new space was ready to open.
As for the downsizing, Nicholls has already begun donating some of her extra inventory to Roof Above, and is ready to donate more to make sure what she has is the right fit.
Since September, Nicholls has been holding down the shop while Aaron works on bringing the interior of the new space up to code, which has changed in the two decades, leading to some road blocks. For example, Pitkin spent weeks building storage rooms in the space, only to be told that updated codes now prohibited the use of wood for such additions, so he had to redo them.
Despite the difficulties, the two are excited to get started in their new home. Nicholls has been handing out flyers to every customer she can in recent months reminding them of the upcoming move, and she’s been shocked at how many of them say it will be more convenient.
She pointed out that it’s within walking distance of NoDa, Plaza Midwood, Belmont, Country Club Heights and Plaza Shamrock.
“I’m super excited about it,” she said. “It’s an interesting neighborhood because it’s literally like the nexus of five neighborhoods right there, so I feel like most people do live closer.”
The two hope to get the new space open and ready for shopping in late January or early February.
Boris & Natasha will be open today until 7 p.m. and tomorrow from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Stay updated on the new opening at the Boris & Natasha Instagram page. The new location will be at 2910 The Plaza.
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