Keeping the lights on in #NBW3

By Steven Froias

I jokingly refer to my section of Ward 3, New Bedford – #NBW3 – as the “Dead Zone.”

Located just off Durfee Street by Mt. Pleasant Street, there’s little opportunity to find that “third place” – i.e. “the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home (first place) and the office (second place).”

Judged by the 10 minute walkability measure, this neighborhood is slim pickings. The only sit-down restaurants even remotely within the “Dead Zone” are Dillon’s on County Street (and in Ward 4!) and the West End Grille at the top of Parker Street. And anyone who has walked up Parker Street knows what I mean when I say “at the top of!” Yikes – it’s a hike!

Smack-dab in the middle of the “Dead Zone” are three businesses at the corner of Durfee and Shawmut that constitute the area’s only commercial establishments keeping the lights on at night. They are Rua’s West End Pizza; Shawmut Package Store; and the X-Tra Mart – now called, Convenience Mart.

Thank God for pizza and beer!

Cheers to the proprietors of Rua’s and Shawmut Package Store for flipping the switch. The former delivers sizzling pizza and more. The latter is a hard-working guy who mans the ramparts almost every night himself.

His name is Joao and he tells me that business isn’t what it used to be, because there aren’t as many working class folks in the neighborhood as there once were. A neighborhood store – like a corner store – he’s more dependent on foot traffic than cars for business. Taxes are killing him. He doubts that places like his will last another 10 years.

Yet, Shawmut Package Store stocks a decent inventory of beer and wine spirits – and keeps the lights on in this corner of #NBW3. John seeks out exceptional bargains in the liquor trade and offers them to patrons at steep discounts.

Like Rua’s, it’s become a neighborhood staple. Both joints share a belief that establishments like theirs matter and both seek to add that something extra to the places they own and operate. Though they may not enjoy the attention of the mainstream press or benefit of any official “public policy,” they provide structure and identity to their corner of Ward 3.

It’s the hope of The Ward 3 Project that we can bring attention to these hard-working small business owners in our neighborhoods. Along with corner stores – the subject of a future story – they help keep the shadows at bay on our streets.

It’s also our hope that other entrepreneurs will see the value of a mile or more in every direction  of 2- and 3-decker apartment buildings full of residents – customers – and look for other commercial opportunities within the “Dead Zone.”

We’ve heard the stories about neighborhood pubs of the past (like the Ambassador on Cedar Street) and even experienced a busy Nauset Avenue to know that’s it’s doable. (The former China Lantern and Continental Tavern spaces are available, hint, hint.)

In the meantime, if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to gas up at Convenience Mart. Definitely grab a pie at Rua’s. (Or, two – as in two large cheese pizzas for $20.) And, a six-pack or bottle of wine at Shawmut Package Store.

That’s why – and how – they keep the lights on.

Posted in The Big Picture.

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