Recently read some happy news, that the Trident Bookstore and Cafe has reopened on Newbury Street in Boston. The Indie bookstore/cafe was damaged by fire and is located in what I would call the greater-Copley Square area. Newbury Street is a high end street for fashion and shopping, similar but much smaller than Fifth Avenue in New York City, or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Also with the addition of many national retail outlets — there has been a been some main streaming and downsizing of the luxury stores on Newbury Street, some heading over to Heritage Garden’s complex, or Copley Place or the Prudential Mall a few blocks over. Many of the smaller boutiques have decamped to other areas of the city including Charles Street and the North End and many of the galleries have moved over to SOWA (South of Washington Street) in the South End, still a mix of gritty and descending gentrification.
Became a regular customer of the Trident sometime in the early 1990’s. I had landed a job as a Marketing/Sales/Editorial/Executive/Assistant/Receptionist at a small computer consulting company. The pay was low but there was health insurance and I left what I felt was the drudge/of a terrible contract job in the probate Court. The office was located in a building at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Newbury Street — which I affectionately call one of the “centers of the universe” (along with Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA, US) because you never know who you will see, or bump into, witness or hear — it is just a crossroads of many kinds. These blocks of Newbury Street leading up to Mass. Ave. or known as “Upper Newbury” and have always been a little more artsy and cutting edge the other end of the street with the Ritz Carlton (now the Taj) Hotel.
The office was located in the Tower Records building, which back then was very cool, a big deal. Upstairs was a large advertising agency with a basketball court and sometimes my boss would call upstairs or the management company annoyed by the noise. On my lunch break I would walk down past a local/trendy ice cream store, one of the first Starbuck’s, and a health food store/market of a now shuttered chain/names escapes me — another block or so to the Trident just to browse.
The store back then had a very 60’s to 70’s vibe, a very patchouli aurora but with a good layer of 90’s snark. Since back then, it was the last decade of the century — there was a very interesting new age section with a cross section of books. The cafe was smaller back then, I thought it was charming, my ex not so much. On one of his visits, I was showing him around the area and we stopped by for a browse and some lunch I remember he ordered a turkey sandwich and asked them to hold the cranberry chutney or the condiment he objected to, etc. Despite that visit with him, the cafe remained a favorite of mine, and it grew bigger (in physical size) with a good reputation for breakfast all day and brunch. I went to my first bookcrossing meet up at the Trident. The waitress/manager though read the group of us the riot act about all ordering something — so I figured they must have had issues — Meet-up groups being a new phenomena back then. Also, the bookstore staff always seemed to have that kind of: “Je Ne Sais Pas” are you talking to me kind of attitude?
That being said, over the years since, I’ve taken different friends to visit for brunch or dessert on off hours with them all charmed by the Trident and staying to browse and buy. The waitstaff was usually friendly often to my surprise. It may be my aging into the “ma’am” era but on my last few visits, bookstore staffers were politer than I can ever remember, once escorting me back to find something or another making friendly chit chat at the register. This was so not their gig back in the 1990’s when I was post-college-pre-grad school treading in the city — so customer friendly service I’d say is/was definitely on the upswing. Before the fire, they had expanded to a second floor for readings and special events like trivia nights, and cooking demonstrations. They also had a lovely patio for some limited outdoor dining, hopefully the city has given them the necessary permits to reinstate all of it. I’m hoping to visit soon — I will be making it a priority because the city needs its indie bookstores!