Circling the Square Window Shop
This year, Cambridge's own form of United Nations--the Window Shop--will celebrate its tenth anniversary. At the site of Longfellow's Village Blacksmithe Shop displaced persons now make and sell everything from hand molded crockery to Viennese pastry. Customer's purchases help the employees and the Shop's assistance fund, which supplies money for scholarships to college students.
Almost 150 people, including students, ordinary citizens and new Americans work in the project, either full or part-time. When a group of professors' wives started the Window Shop in 1939, the first displaced persons were already entering the country. The non-profit enterprise opened in a room above the Oxford Grille on Church Street; there the early victims of the war could work and draw a small salary.
Although the ladies originally planned only a clothing store, a number of people with other trades and crafts applied for assistance, and a gift shop was soon added. The first few months were discouraging; sometimes the $12 a week salary couldn't be paid.
"Some months found us without enough money for the $30 rent, but we didn't lose any money--we didn't have any to lose," says Mrs. Mary Mohere, manager of the gift store. "We had to depend on generous friends to wash the windows and scrub the floors."
Mrs. Howard Mumford Jones, who became interested in the propect in August, 1939, reorganized the Shop, and had it incorporated as a charitable trust. Then, as business began to increase, the Shop Committee found a larger establishment and moved the enterprise to Mt. Auburn Street, where it remained until 1947.
Because of the lack of space at the new building, however, a corps of volunteers had to transport food from a kitchen half a mile away Only after the Committee could raise money for extra room could the food shop begin to match the gift store in popularity.
The Window Shop became successful and financially stable under the guidance of Mrs. Elsa War Mrs. Brandstorm-Ulich had come to this dent until her death last year. Once known as the "angel of Siberia" for her work among prisoners-of-war in Siberia during the first World War Mrs. Brandstorm-Ulich had come to this country when Hitler came to power. Business growth forced the Shop to move once again, this time to the present Brattle Street site.
"Oh, there is some confusion here; there is bound to be, with people trying to give orders in four different languages in a kitchen," Mrs. Alice Broch restaurant manager explained. "But everyone here believes in smiling all the time--that helps."
Window Shop customers don't worry about the confusion; the food is good, and the clothes, though a mite expensive, are catching to the eye. In summer, guests may eat in the garden and, according to Mrs. Broch, the students prefer this. "It gives the boys a better chance to catch up on their flirting."
Cambridge permits the Shop to operate only because it is a charitable institution; a zoning line runs through the center of the building. One zone is residential and, technically, no business can go on there.
The employees are satisfied with the Shop, and none have thoughts of quitting. One described it: "This is really like another United Nations--one that works."