A silver mannequin stood in the window at Black Ink, drawing customers’ eyes to a display of trinkets and paper goods at her feet. But, then, something peculiar happened: she moved. A live sculpture might seem out of place in any other store’s front window, but shoppers at Black Ink have come to expect the unexpected. In 1994, owners Susan and Timothy Corcoran started their business as a paper and stamp shop, naming it after their favorite stamp medium and color of octopus kiss. As the years passed, their inventory grew to encompass an eclectic mix of products. They still carry stamps, though they’ve added Japanese knickknacks, paper clips, greeting cards, and Tin Tin books to their repertoire. They’ve also added a second location in Cambridge, where a larger space allows them to sell gifts and the paper to wrap them in.
Aldrich Robinson was a young woman in 1970's Bristol, England when she took up knitting. She did it almost entirely on her own, much in the way some people hack into DMV computers to change their recorded height. Aldrich sought only the help of her two aunts as she learned how to knit and purl. But it wasn't long before the novice evolved into an expert and when she relocated to the U.S. in the '80s, she even debuted a line of designer knitwear. Two decades of pouring her heart and soul into the line finally culminated in a boutique on Newbury Street in 2004—Newbury Yarns.
Much has changed since Aldrich picked up her first set of knitting needles, yet she remains a bastion of knowledge when it comes to trends in knitwear. She supplies customers with high-quality yarn and natural fibers so they have everything they need to make this season's hottest trends, from infinity scarves to colorful berets. But after all that time, she still hasn't forgotten how frustrating the first steps of learning to knit can be. That's why, as her aunts once did for her, she and her staff teach newbie crafters the basics at knitting and crocheting classes. For more experienced fiber artists, they hold biweekly knitting circles where participants can exchange tips and feel greater sense of community.
Audiences can exercise laugh muscles and fill tear ducts with William Shakespeare's tragicomic The Merchant of Venice. Starring Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham (Best Actor in a Leading Role, Amadeus), this production arrives in Boston after successful runs in New York, the Royal Shakespeare Company in England, and the Iowa City Marathon. Directed by Darko Tresnjak, the former artistic director of the Old Globe in San Diego, The Merchant of Venice follows the lustful Bassanio, the wealthy Antonio, the rich heroine Portia, and Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. When the anti-Semitic Antonio asks to borrow money from Shylock, he agrees under the condition that should Antonio default, he must render a pound of his own flesh.
Even though the shelves are stocked with more than 250,000 books, prints, and ephemeral items, it isn’t hard to find that rare, needle-in-a-haystack kind of book at Brattle Book Shop. That’s because the proprietor, Ken Gloss, is an expert in all things literary, his resume studded with stints spent appraising books for Harvard, the FBI, and Antiques Roadshow. What's more, Brattle Book Shop has been in his family since 1949, allowing him to guide customers through the three floors of books as though he was showing them around his own home. The rarest and most unusual finds are typically found on the top floor, and include first-editions, collectible tomes, and leather-bound books gathered across the shop's 188 year history. In addition to serving avid readers, the shop also caters to those who want to add an upscale touch to their own home library by offering eye-catching antique cloth- and leather-bound sets that confer an air of gentility atop any shelf, mantle, or broken-down TV set.
At WICHIT, patrons can draw up blueprints for their own sandwiches or choose from signature house specialties. Served on a choice of eight types of bread, custom sandwiches include meats such as seasoned pulled pork and new york sirloin strip and are covered in fresh veggies such as dill pickles, caramelized onions, and avocado. On the other hand, unique hot and cold house specialties brim with venerated offerings, from the sushi-inspired spicy tuna-maki sandwich to the oven-fresh Stonemill with sirloin strip steak and roasted garlic aioli.
Like Don Quixote, veteran bookseller John Petrovato has embarked on a tempestuous journey spawned from a love of books. In defiance of chain and online bookstores, John is returning the human face to the neighborhood book shop, parsing out used tomes with a personal smile and, often, a few words from the author. And he’s succeeding. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this first incarnation of the new Raven Used Books—he made an amicable split with the co-owner of the original location—is located in Cambridge, where Harvard’s distinguished student body and professorship dwells. But even John's second store, located on Newbury Street, drew an equal number of book lovers, as well as speakers such as Noam Chomsky and a Best of the New nod from the Boston Globe. The reasons for John’s success in this struggling field are twofold. Many of the customers come because they appreciate the personal attention and literary culture that surrounds a local bookstore. And the inventory is nothing to scoff at. The Cambridge location stocks roughly 16,000 books—many of them from university presses—ranging in subjects from philosophy to social theory and poetry. The stock at the Newbury Street location veers towards more general subjects such as fiction, American history, children’s books, and children's books about social theory. And with roughly 2,000 new books arriving weekly between the two locations, the shelves are always packed with reading material for general readers and scholars alike.