After 54 Years in Business, Crimson Corner Set to Close by End of Month

Crimson Corner & Tory Row
Crimson Corner and the adjacent restaurant Tory Row, which closed in October, may be replaced by pizza chain &pizza, which has applied to combine and renovate their spaces.
After 54 years selling newspapers and souvenirs out of a small shop in Harvard Square, the family-run Crimson Corner is set to close its doors by the end of the month, likely to be replaced by Washington, D.C.-based chain &pizza.;

The Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeal was scheduled to hear &pizza;’s petition to obtain an operating permit at the body’s Jan. 12 meeting. However, &pizza; requested to delay the hearing to the board’s March 9 meeting, according to Inspectional Services Department representatives Sean P. O’Grady and Maria Pacheco.

In the meantime, Crimson Corner must vacate its location at the intersection of Brattle St., JFK St., and Massachusetts Ave by the end of the month, as the business was unable to renew its monthly lease. According to Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, the property owner and Crimson Corner had a standing "tenancy at will" agreement—an agreement where either party can terminate the property's lease at any time.

The property owner had given Crimson Corner owner Chris Kotelly thirty days’ notice to vacate the property by Jan. 31. Tory Row, a restaurant located next to Crimson Corner, shuttered in October and is set to also become part of &pizza;’s storefront.

Kotelly, though, said that there may still be hope for Crimson Corner.

“The pizza place hasn’t gotten approval yet,” Kotelly said. “I know it was the date of March 9 for the Zoning Board of Appeals, and I think that’s probably the biggest hurdle for them. The question is, if [&pizza; gets] shot down, can we go back to the owners or the building owner management company and say ‘hey, can we work on a deal and stay?’”

Jillson said she hopes Crimson Corner may be able to remain open until &pizza;’s plans are approved and finalized.

“Now the interesting thing is that the incoming business has postponed or asked for a reschedule of their hearing until the middle of March,” Jillson said. "It would be certainly ideal if Chris could stay until the permitting is done and everything has been worked out, but these things are not always possible.”

Kotelly says that it will be physically difficult to leave the building by the end of January, and he will try to strike a deal with the building owners. Kotelly’s lawyer have been in contact with the property owner to discuss extending the lease while Kotelly looks for another location.

“It’s going to be hard for us to liquidate everything by January 31 anyway,” Kotelly said. “So legally, we’re not supposed to stay past that, but I don’t see how we can get everything out of here in time. And I think the owners kind of know that.”

Jillson has continued to work with Kotelly to find a new space to move to in the Square, but their efforts have so far been unsuccessful.

The two remain hopeful that perhaps they can find a new space, but emphasized that an adequate location in the Square is particularly hard to come across.

“He needs to be in a space that’s very convenient and very visible and that’s a bit of a trick because there are only so many corners that are in the heart of the Square, and those are certainly the best places for his type of business,” Jillson said.

“We’re sorry to see him go, he’s an important and valuable member of our community.”

–Staff writer Alison W. Steinbach can be reached at alison.steinbach@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.

—Staff writer Katherine E. Wang can be reached at katie.wang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiewang29.

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