Most buildings along Boston St in Gallows Hill have stood for a century or two, in exceptional cases closer to three centuries, and most have been mixed use commercial / residential for all those years. In that span several waves of creative destruction have ebbed and flowed: Industrialization – consolidation of backyard tanning shops into flourishing tanneries in the mid-19th century; Deindustrialization – closure and vacating of those tanneries in the mid-20th century; Suburbanization – replacement of many properties with strip malls and parking lots in the 2nd half of the 20th century.
Now perhaps a new revitalization is budding, what with energetic immigrant families moving into and sprucing up long vacant storefronts.
Just opened at the Peabody end of Boston St is the Yamilex Mini Market in the historic Ellen Hayes Apartment Building (c. 1885, presumably constructed or operated by an Ellen Hayes). Though labeled as a mini-market, the store truly is what a native New Yorker would recognize as a bodega.
Yamilex joins La Loma Market at the other end of Boston St near Essex St, operating for two years now in a non-historic mixed use garden apartment building of a style more in line with Los Angeles than with Salem.
The opening of two bodegas in a short period reflects the movement of Latino immigrants into Gallows Hill in large numbers in the last decade, mostly Dominican in the apartment buildings near La Loma, mostly Brazilian with a large overlay of Dominican in the apartment buildings near Yamilex at the other end of Gallows Hill. That movement caused the Stop and Shop supermarket around the corner from Yamilex to enlarge its Hispanic foods section from a couple of shelves to an entire aisle. Having a large corporate competitor nearby may give Yamilex pause, but customers should prefer the friendly bodega over the sterile supermarket.
The Hispanic arrivals, coupled with the ongoing construction of apartment buildings where tanneries once stood, may yet breathe life into torpid Boston St, stagnant even before the Sylvania plant was razed in the mid-90s. Let’s hope so.