GTL1On July 18, Mayor Curtatone’s dream of making his hometown into “Innovation City” came one step closer to reality when Greentown Labs, a cleantech-focused startup incubator formerly based in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, announced its decision to relocate to Somerville.

Although home to innovation-oriented organizations such as Artisan’s Asylum andFringe Union, Somerville has not historically been a major hub of the Boston-area innovation ecosystem. But with the arrival of Greentown Labs, that may soon change. In an op-ed piece in the Somerville Times, the mayor wrote that “Greentown’s move isn’t the start of a movement. It’s a sign that an urban renaissance already underway is picking up speed, with Somerville at the vanguard.”

An incubator is an organization that provides work space, mentoring and other assistance to fledgling startups. Entrepreneurs will typically move their young business into an incubator after graduating from college or university and stay until they have raised enough capital to move into their own space.

There are many incubators in and around Boston, but Greentown Labs is unusual in two ways. First, it is focused on cleantech, or technology geared toward sustainability. And second, nearly all the businesses it houses are developing actual physical objects, many of which are quite large, rather than the software and apps that constitute the Boston-area tech scene’s more usual fare.

The latter factor explains why, after two years in Fort Point, Greentown needed a new home: prototyping heavy equipment takes a lot of space, and they didn’t have enough of it.


“In the beginning,” says Executive Director Emily Reichert, “we had plenty of space, but toward the end we started filling everything. It was so crowded on the shop floor, it was almost like you couldn’t build your prototype without smacking into someone else. And so, for us, that was really the driving factor – we had to have more prototyping space, because that’s what we uniquely offer, that no one else does.”

On top of that, the neighborhood had become unaffordable. When they settled there in early 2011, their 14,000-square-foot space cost them $8 per square foot. But just two years later, thanks in part to the City of Boston’s “Innovation District” initiative – an aggressive rebranding campaign aimed at revitalizing the underutilized Seaport District – rents in Fort Point climbed as high as $45 per square foot.

“Rent is our main source of revenue,” says Reichert, “and there was no way we’d pass on $45 per square foot to entrepreneurs. So it basically became impossible for us to stay in the neighborhood.”

As Reichert and her team began shopping for new spaces, they had two main criteria. First, their new home needed to be somewhere on the Red Line corridor. Given the intimate symbiosis of the Boston-area innovation ecosystem, with entrepreneurs shuttling constantly between MIT, Harvard, Kendall and Fort Point, a location outside the range of public transit would not be feasible for many potential residents. Second, it had to be large enough – and cheap enough – to provide ample prototyping space for 25 startups and counting.

In a city as small and dense as Boston, finding a place that met both qualifications was not easy. They found a handful of suitable spaces in other corners of the Innovation District, like the Leather District and the Drydock area, but they knew it would only be a matter of time before the inevitable rising rent would price them out once again. They also looked in Cambridge, but could find nothing under $35 per square foot.

In March, Reichert reached out to the mayor’s office to pitch the idea of moving Greentown Labs to Somerville. They met with City Development Directors Michael Glavin and Ed O’Donnell, who pounced on the idea and ran with it. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Curtatone visited Greentown Labs in Fort Point.

“I think he fell in love with the place,” says Reichert. “From that point, his team was pushing us to move here. They were recruiting us hardcore. It was awesome.”

And after seeing the cavernous expanse of the old Ames factory, the Greentown Labs team knew they’d found a match. The space, which had been vacant since 2010, offered five times the square footage of their original location, at a mere $7.50 per square foot. That, and just minutes from the flourishing yet still affordable urban hub of Union Square, it was only a fifteen minute walk from the Red Line. “Entrepreneurs can afford to live, work and play here,” says Reichert. “There’s not too many places where you can say that.”

The Greentown Labs Board made the decision to move to Somerville on June 10. After securing a $300,000 working capital loan from the Somerville Innovation Fund, they went public with their new location on July 18, signed the lease on July 30, started building out on August 5 and moved in on September 23 – a whirlwind undertaking that, according to Reichert, may well have been “the fastest buildout ever.”


In addition to the loan, the City has also begun to help Greentown Labs out in another crucial way: by acting as a guinea pig for some of the companies’ products. For instance, one company, Refresh, is developing a water vending kiosk that “filters, flavors, carbonates and bottles water at the point of use, instead of in a bottling plant.” When Mayor Curtatone heard about the project, he suggested that the City could install one in a school or municipal building. That way, when companies go to potential investors, they can say that they’ve already had a pilot program with the City of Somerville, who gave them feedback and helped them improve their product.

“That’s so key to having these companies be successful,” says Reichert. “It’s a very virtuous circle, of Somerville being able to be more innovative, and at the same time helping the companies here to grow and get investment money.”

Reichert is optimistic about the difference that Greentown Labs will be able to make in their new community. Since September, the resident companies, whose total employees number more than 100, have already created 10 new jobs, and will continue to hire local talent as they expand. When the larger companies outgrow the incubator and strike out on their own, Reichert expects that many of them will want to stay in Somerville, especially given the great wealth of underutilized space all around town.

She also looks forward to building partnerships with Somerville’s community of local artisans, crafters, urban homesteaders and other DIY innovators. With Greentown Labs’ emphasis on hands-on technology rather than pure IT, as well as its ethos of sustainability, it could hardly be a more perfect fit for the local culture.

“We’re a magnet for our entrepreneurs,” says Reichert, “but then they come here and they fit – they like it here.”

The Innovators: Brooklyn Boulders

Check out the video here!

Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, with its 38,000 square feet of space and a ground floor the size of a football field, is actually more than a rock climbing gym it’s a blank slate for innovation and collaboration, a unique hybrid community center.

Aeronaut Brewery opening in Union Square plans to double as startup accelerator


Craft beer brewing is the unofficial pastime of Greater Boston’s startup community, but Ben Holmes is making it his full-time job.

TBD Brewing, the tiny Union Square suds maker that has been operating out of a house, has rebranded as Aeronaut Brewery and just signed a lease on 12,000 square feet of warehouse space on Tyler Street in Somerville.

On a side note, that’s the same street where the Brooklyn Boulders rock climbing gym and coworking space opened over the summer, and where Artisan’s Asylum and Greentown Labs also make camp. The four sit side by side, setting up quite the innovation strip when Aeronaut gets up and running early next year. I can’t wait for the day when they join forces to build a zero-emission robot that runs on lager and can scale a rock wall.

Aeronaut’s brewhouse is not much to look at yet, but Holmes and co-founders Dan Rassi, Ronn Friedlander and Steve Reilly have a clear vision of the future: A mecca for the microbrew crowd that is capable of producing 60,000 bottles at a time and also features a tasting bar with about 20 beers on tap at any given time.

And that’s in just a third of the space. The rest will be sublet to four (for now) urban agriculture startups, including a farmer’s market scheduled to open in January.

In addition, the Aeronaut team is close to leasing another nearby space (Holmes said he couldn’t tell me exactly where) that will help it launch Coolship Labs, an accelerator program for science startups that, fittingly, rely on fermentation. Yes, fermentation is used to make booze, but it also can be used to make things like biodegradable plastics.

The master plan is for Aeronaut to make enough money on rent from its paying tenants to cover, or at least mitigate, the brewery’s costs. The four co-founders will invest profits from the brewery business into a venture capital fund that they will use to seed startups in Coolship Labs. Startups will get $25,000 and free workspace for six months to a year, in exchange for 5 to 12 percent of their companies.

At the end of their program cycle, the startups will either move out or move into Aeronaut’s incubator and start paying rent. And as the young companies grow, launching IPOs or being acquired, the Aeronaut founders will reap additional profits from their equity stakes.

“The idea is that it completes a closed loop,” Holmes explained: “The incubator funds the brewery, the brewery funds the startups, the startups graduate to the incubator. And all the while, there’s a recurring exit when startups go public or are bought.”

Union Square is Hipster Central


SOMERVILLE — Move over, Cambridge. These days, anyone seeking a countercultural adventure comes to Somerville. Some say it started with the end of rent control in 1995, a move that pushed Cambridge’s students and creative class to seek lower rents. Others point to the innovation-friendly city policies promoted by Mayor Joseph Curtatone. Whatever. The 2010 Census found Somerville had the second-highest proportion of residents between the ages of 25 and 34 in the United States, behind Hoboken — but ahead of Cambridge. And while the city as a whole has been pushing the style envelope, Union Square is its hipster epicenter, with the kind of local focus and accessibility that make it an easy, and fun, day trip.

What gives a place that trendy edge? Well, artisanal foods are one hallmark of hipster havens. Therefore, it only makes sense to start the day at Union Square Donuts. These house-made pastries have been popping up at farmers’ markets and food fests across the city, but the mothership is right in Union Square — tucked into a tiny space inside the former Café Tango. Whether you opt for the maple bacon or salted bourbon caramel (or one of the other approximately 10 varieties offered daily), get there early. Although the doughnut makers are promising more daily flavors when they move from their current space two doors down next month, they’re not likely to change their early hours. And these pastries are made fresh each morning: When they run out, that’s it for the day.

Skinny jeans feeling a little tight after those doughnuts? While Union Square has its share of exercise outlets (likeBe Yoga or CrossFit Somerville), why not try something a bit more new millennial? Rather than pushing your fixed-gear bike up each of Somerville’s seven hills, head to Brooklyn Boulders, where a variety of climbing walls let you scale the peaks in (safe) style. Beginners — and the skittish — can stick with top-roping, suspended from a harness, while a belayer — a cross between a spotter and a guide — takes up the slack from below. Graduate to lead climbing (Brooklyn Boulders offers certificate training), or stick with bouldering, which encourages you to clamber up either a 15- or a 22-foot cliff. Don’t worry, there’s 12 inches of padding on the floor below. (Oh, yeah, they have yoga and other fitness classes as well.)

Afraid of heights? How about acrobatics? Esh Circus Arts offers private and group instruction from real live circus professionals in everything from circus hooping to tightwire walking. When you’re ready to get off the ground, aerial fabric is one of the more popular classes, says co-owner Ellen Waylonis-May, incorporating aerial gymnastics and the kind of beautiful scarf-like silks that Cirque du Soleil made famous. Not so sure? The beginner classes are “true beginner,” promises Waylonis-May (who performs with Speakeasy Circus), starting on the ground and suited to any fitness level. Esh — the name is Hebrew for “fire,” from cofounder Rachel Stewart’s pyrotechnic specialty — also offers “taster” classes, which let you try before you commit. (And, yeah, aerial yoga and Cirque fit classes too.)

Maybe at this point you really just want more coffee — exquisitely roasted and ground varietal coffee, that is. Short of quitting your day job to apprentice as a barista, you can master the grind at Counter Culture Coffee. Going into its 19th year, the North Carolina-based purveyor opened its first New England coffee education center here a year and a half ago, with classes like the two-hour Brewing Basics and the full-day Beginner Espresso lab. Not up to a full course? Weekly coffee cuppings — or tastings — explore the beans of different regions or the brews of various preparations.

By now, you’ll have worked up an appetite again. But no matter what your dietary restriction, either theSherman Cafe and Market or Bloc 11 will have something locally sourced — and tasty. Vegan and vegetarian options range from soups to salads, with sandwiches made daily on always interesting — and, yes, artisanal — breads. The Sherman Café has the plus of incorporating the old Sherman Market, for easy shopping of pastas, cheeses, and other edibles; often the farms or purveyors are cited. (The former Sherman Market space will soon reopen as Gracie’s, serving ice cream and other treats — made on the premises, naturally.) Bloc 11, on the other hand, boasts that city luxury: a shaded outdoor space. Both tend to get crowded, but if you put away your digital device, you can share a table and make a friend.

Shelving that iPad will also allow you to indulge in a bit of hipster retro. While the rest of the world may have given up on vinyl and paper, Union Square is holding the line. Records — the old-fashioned vinyl kind — rule the roost at Somerville Grooves. Browse used 45s and uncover the occasional live “fan club only” recording of your favorite punk band. While the stock in this hot pink shop leans heavily toward rock, international sounds, as well as jazz and classical, are represented.

For those who prefer “tree books” to e-books,Hub Comics offers a well-curated collection, with comics and hard-bound collections, all displayed on beautiful wooden bookshelves salvaged from the old Globe Bookstore. Those in the know will want the latest issue of Saga, the breakout indie adult SF-fantasy, or go a bit more mainstream, with Marvel’s bad-boy Hawkeye. Not so hip? Shelves dedicated to nostalgia feature everything from Mad magazine to Archie, while artists such as R. Crumb have their own section as well.

By now, you’ll be ready to kick back. For fans of cutting-edge cocktails, that means a trip to BackBar. This tiny, windowless spot — reservations suggested — plays up its speakeasy vibe, with hip retro flair. Drinks ride the current trend for house-made bitters, but other of-the-moment options — like a crystal clear milk punch of the day — are always on offer as well. Unsure what to order? Ask the bartenders; they’re pros.

If you can’t get in — or prefer a simpler quaff — check out the brand new Aeronaut Brewery. While the cavernous former industrial space, next door to Brooklyn Boulder, serves as Somerville’s first brew pub, its owners consider it more of an “immersive experience” for all things comestible, says Aeronaut president and cofounder Ben Holmes. Relax at one of the indoor picnic tables and watch brewers and others in action. While house-brewed quaffs will take center stage — look for the roasted butternut squash-infused Lager Feuer or the hoppy Armadillo — snacks are available from a variety of small vendors and pop-up kitchens, with plans for more to come.

Save room for dinner, though. Union Square has long boasted a wide variety of ethnic specialities, from Buk Kyung (Somerville’s first Korean restaurant, opened in 1998) to El Potro (with its live mariachi music on weekends). These days, those options have been upscaled to include Bronwyn, named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Esquire magazine. Enjoy the retro-German pleasure of a giant soft bretzel (pretzel) in the biergarten or share a plate of wurst in the cozy interior.

Can’t get a table? Head to A4 Pizza, where Area Four chefs Michael Leviton, Michael Krupp, and Jeff Pond hand stretch their tangy, tasty dough from a 12-year-old starter and top it with the likes of Wellfleet littlenecks and bacon or shitake mushroom and Balfoni eggs. (They offer a fine fennel sausage and more conventional toppings as well.) This tiny restaurant gets crowded — the custom-built fire-burning oven can only crank out so many pies — but the bartender is friendly. And the soundtrack, which often features classic ’90s hip-hop, just seals the deal. By now, you’re only a few blocks from Cambridge, roughly a 20-minute walk to the Porter Square T stop. But you’ve been to the cutting edge — to Union Square — and you’ll be back.

Aeronaut Brewery Ready for Liftoff


Aeronaut Brewing Co. is crafting adventurous suds and a culture of local food and drink on the back streets of Somerville.

It’s even the subject of a Mark Wahlberg-produced A&E pilot called “The Big Brew Theory.”

The brewery opened in June, the handiwork of three MIT postgraduate beer buds, Ronn Friedlander, Ben Holmes and Dan Rassi. They celebrated by attaching hundreds of balloons to lawn chairs and floating them above the city, videotaping the event with flying drones.

Artisan’s Asylum: Building dreams, one business at a time

Watch the video here.

A stranger offers me a ride, late one night by the railroad tracks, a few blocks from the Asylum. But he knows who I am. He calls me by name.

He introduces himself. Puppy.

I want to ask Puppy who he is, how the Asylum has changed him, helped him. I’ve spent two days asking that question, and the question is changing me.

It turns out I know things Puppy wants to know, things he didn’t know I knew. We spend an hour talking. That’s what Puppy loves about the Asylum. People know so much and are so open. He tells me he can’t count how many times he has had a question and 20 people have each known a different part of the answer and been happy to tell him.

Again and again in my interviews, I hear similar stories.

Members walk down the hall and discover an expert in the very thing they have a question about. A problem that might have held up a project for weeks or months or even forever is solved in minutes.

Casual conversations lead to technical breakthroughs and to an expanding network of professional relationships and friendships.

Work moves forward even when outside businesses are closed. When a member has an immediate need for a sheet of 10ga steel, a very particular electronic component or a large piece of machinery, someone in the building has one to spare. When a job requires an extra set of hands to hold a piece in place or to lift a load, other members step in to help.

Something exciting is happening at the Artisan’s Asylum, a four year old fabrication, coworking and educational facility operating in the old Ames Envelope factory building in Somerville, MA.

Engineers and designers are creating new products. Partnerships are forming. Businesses are being created and existing businesses are growing. Members are getting jobs using the new skills and confidence they’ve acquired. Outside companies are using the Asylum as a training and fabrication resource. Hobbies are becoming professions.

Bob Field, a former advertising prop maker, found the tool training, tool access and industry information he needed to create a new business,Atomic Earrings, designing and fabricating 3D printed jewelry. After a year in business, his earrings are in 18 museum stores across the country, including the MIT Museum and the DeCordova.

James Arthur and Colin Galbraith met at the Asylum and foundedCreosphere, a web design and small business solutions consulting company. James couldn’t think of a client that didn’t come to them through their Asylum connections.

Josh Beckman left an office job in public health to start his own CNC fabrication business, Somerville Made. He said being at the Asylum let him see how to make that transition. He regularly works with other members – alternately hiring them or being hired by them.

Seth Avecilla, a former sign fabricator, used the skills and confidence he got as a member and teacher at the Asylum to get “a really cool job” running a student fabrication lab for MIT’s Program in Art, Culture and Technology.

Dave Goncalves and his engineering coworkers took a class at the Asylum when they needed to learn about hydraulics for a work project. At the same time, with his connection to the Asylum providing new clients, skills, technical ideas and motivation, Dave’s hobby of restoring vintage radios and televisions became a serious second job.

Looking at the Artisan’s Asylum as an entrepreneurial tech business incubator, the Massachusetts governor and other state and local officials, representatives of foreign governments, business schools and the press, including The Economist, have come to visit. This week, it was students from MIT Sloan and Turkey’s Sabanci University. Last month, it was Kosovo’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

But what’s happening at the Asylum isn’t only about business.

The Asylum is a very interesting mix of engineers and artists, professionals and hobbyists, of anyone who might like the idea of 40,000 square feet and a few hundred friends learning to build whatever they can dream up in the shared shop facilities: welding, metal, wood, machine, electronics, robotics, glass and jewelry, plus 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC fabrication.

It is a place of dreams and inspiration, a place of discovery and passion.

Seven, a pilot in the bike club SKUL, had no idea she would like teaching, but there was a need and she was asked. Now she says, when everything else is bad, teaching bicycle maintenance and building is the one spot of joy she can count on. Her day job is a paycheck she said, but teaching is her real purpose and contribution in the world.

Dmitri Litin, the former controller of the Asylum, characterized his role in building the organization as a period of “really intense personal and professional growth.” He said that looking back at what he and the other early members were able to accomplish at the Asylum changed the way he looks at himself and what he’s capable of. He discovered a passion and a mission he didn’t expect – “to enable and empower people to bring change into their lives.” Dmitri’s next move is to the West Coast, to build organizations in other communities that can be catalysts for personal change as the Asylum has been for many. His work at the Asylum gave him the business skills and the national visibility and reputation he needs. In the span of a week on a recent trip to Oakland, CA, he laid the groundwork for what he envisions as the first of many more organizations he will help found – developing a business plan, securing donors and developing partnerships.

Several members spoke of the Asylum community in almost utopian terms. As I talked to them, I started to understand why.

It’s a place that makes the impossible seem achievable.

It isn’t perfect. Nothing is. But it’s a vision worth fighting for.

Artisan’s Asylum: A Warehouse of Creativity in the Old Ames Envelope Building

The last time I was at the Ames Envelope factory building in Somerville, Mass. it produced envelopes and such. But the times have changed and it is now occupied by the Artisan’s Asylum. In the lobby of the Asylum I was met by Molly Rubenstein. She is an intelligent, hard -working, 20-something Yale graduate with a gift for expression, and a lot of energy. Rubenstein has been at the Artisan’s Asylum for three years and for much of that time lived in Somerville, but recently defected to the Republic of Cambridge. The Artisan’s Asylum houses 150 studios, of 50 to 250 square feet. They are demarcated by low barriers, so people can readily see each other. This according to Rubenstein fosters community and communication. The Artisan’s Asylum was in the forefront of the “Makerspace” movement of the past decade, where craftsmen, engineers, artists, writers and others share a large space, share resources, and create within a supportive and creative milieu. Rubenstein told me: “25% of the people here have active businesses, and another third are developing businesses.”


Within this building are state of the art computers, tools, and a whole array of material and resources members of the community can draw from. The Asylum is for the most part staffed by volunteers. The exceptions are Rubenstein, Robert Masek—the operations manager and Jessica Muise—the member services director. Gui Cavalcanti, the founder, is not part of the administration anymore but he maintains a studio where he works on robotic projects.

Rubenstein is a very adept guide, and showed me around this high- tech and low-tech maze of studios, work spaces, tangles of arcane equipment, the gangly arms of robots, the twisted beauty of metalwork pieces by Gretchen Greene, a common space inspired by the TV show “Dr. Who”—a veritable carnival of ingenuity and creativity.

Being an “old school” kind of guy I was glad to have Rubenstein act as a translator for this new world. One place she showed me was a bike shop which consisted of reconstructed bicycles, with things like Barbie Dolls and Voodoo heads attached to the handle bars. Bikes are often constructed from parts found in scrap or junk yards and old, discarded bikes. The shop is run by long-time Somerville group named the “SCUL”.When driving home at night you may see this group in a fleet of  eccentric tall bikes and their owners traversing the streets of Somerville.

Rubenstein also showed me the studio for the “3 Doodler” project invented by Maxwell Bogue and Peter Dilworth.   This project, that was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign developed a 3D printing pen that creates intricate paper and plastic images. Rubenstein showed me a lovely 3D representation of the Eiffel Tower and something decidedly more abstract that this gem of a pen created.

Later I was introduced to a gangly fellow, with skinny arms and legs—no—not me–but a robot named “Stompy.” This denizen of the Asylum looks a bit like an elevated metallic crab that has been developed as part of “ Project Hexapod.” It can be used for entertainment purposes, but it also has possible applications as a walking terrain vehicle to transport material-and according to Rubenstein can prove to be helpful with the many natural disasters we face today.

Rubenstein also showed me their impressive woodworking shop, their welding spaces, their advanced computer center, where I saw a couple of youngish engineers working on various projects. The center is sponsored by a number of concerns including: AUTODESK, MATHWORKS, SOLIDWORKS and others. Rubenstein also told me about the impressive number of courses that are offered in the Asylum and that are open to the public.

Of course the subject of the gentrification of Somerville reared its ugly head. The city is increasingly expensive and in spite of what the powers-that-be say—if you been around the block a little you know the drill: a lot of folks are going to be displaced. Rubenstein said: “We have a 5 year lease. We are a non-profit, but we have outside funding. We are looking to get long term support as our rent will likely double. “ In that case, and many others, unique and creative enclaves that have given the city an enviable cache will be forced to move out to places like Lynn and Malden—further away from the center of the city.

The Asylum is open to all of the community with just a very few exceptions, like people who work with toxic substances, etc… Rubenstein said to get a space here may not seem cheap, but it is if a person thinks of the resources: tools, computers, material, machines it offers it is a bargain.

Hopefully with its hunger for reinvention the city will not eat its own, and leave Union Square just another place with trendy restaurants, and luxury condos. And that my friend—is the way it is-in the “Paris of New England.”

Inside the Artisan’s Asylum


Spanning more than 40,000 square feet, the Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, Massachusetts, is one of the biggest makerspaces in America.

At any given time, the place is swarming with all manner of artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and hobbyists. And it’s home to some nifty projects, from theenormously successful, like the 3Doodler 3D printer, to the utterly bizzare, like a 10-foot, six-legged vehicular hexapod.

Regardless of what these cutting-edge innovators are inventing, the question that drives all their projects is the same: Why not?

We had the opportunity to swing by the facility last week while researching ourweekly column for USA Today, and we wound up with tons of outtakes and extra shots we were dying to share. So, without further ado, here’s a deeper look inside the Asylum.

skunkadelia work-space welding-gear hexapod-illustration hexapod robot saw skunkadelia-2 multi-cam R2D2 microscopes plasma-cutter clutter loner hall dude-man electron-microscope bikes bird-man aztec big-bird wood-shelves 3D-printers big-machine-thing

‘MBTAGifts’ holds huge warehouse sale in Somerville

Authentic transit memorabilia was marked down by as much as 75 percent Saturday during the first and possibly last MBTAGifts warehouse sale.


Authentic transit memorabilia was marked down by as much as 75 percent Saturday during the first and possibly last MBTAGifts warehouse sale.

The clearance event was meant to make room for more of the large MBTA collectables, which are stored in a Somerville warehouse.

Hundreds of customers made off with low-priced signs, doors and other authentic T equipment during the 6-hour sale. Items ranged from $5 to over $100 after the discount.

Social media brought a huge wave of interested people in,” said Steven Beaucher, co-owner of MBTAGifts, a retail gift shop which opened in 2011 to the T generate additional revenue.

“We had our usual hardcore collectors, but some people were just new to Boston or like the T and wanted something for their apartment,” said Beaucher.

The Cambridge shop sells retail items, like toys and clothing, however collectors can also order the authentic items online.

The gift shop gives half of the profits from the sales of the authentic items to the MBTA, Beaucher said. The items would otherwise be sold for scrap.

The most popular of the authentic memorabilia – MBTA station signs.

“The smaller signs, like the sheet medal signs , those are the rarest,” said Beaucher. “Everyone wants a sign from their neighborhood station. We all have a sense of collective ownership in the urban environment. If you take a bus everyday, you start to think of that as ‘your’ bus. People identify with their T stations because they interact with it everyday. Also, to have a physical piece of infrastructure, it’s rare. There is a novelty to that.”

The warehouse is not typically open to the public, and at this point, Beacher does not plan to hold another warehouse sale.

“I don’t know. We need to crunch all of our numbers,” he said. “I assume in the future there might be one, but we are not going to do it regularly.”

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Still looking for that unique gift for Christmas? How about a teddy bear emblazoned with an MBTA map? Maybe a cutting board with a picture of a Red Line trolley? Or silver cuff links made from antique T tokens?

About 18 months ago, the MBTA started licensing its logo to a local company, WardMaps. Since 2004, brothers Steven and Brian Beaucher have sold vintage maps and transit memorabilia. Now they also make and sell T merchandise. We stopped by their store in Cambridge.


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