The Defense (Fund) Never Rests Its Case

Sq. Group Fights for Mom-And-Pops

Gifford described citizen involvement with the development process as a "backlash" against years of neglect by the city and as an effort to look out for Cantabrigians' concerns. "If the residents hadn't responded to the total abandonment by the city, it would have been much worse," she said.

A frequent catch phrase offered by proponents of the Defense Fund is, "Don't kill the goose that laid the golden egg."

"The goose is that unique thing that we all feel is Harvard Square," said Moot. "The golden egg is the revenue that it yields to the city."

'Killing the Goose'?

But property owners maintain that they have no interest in destroying the appeal of Harvard Square.


"Think about the logic here: the developers have an interest in killing the goose? The Defense Fund, which doesn't own property in the Square, is actually better qualified?" muses one Harvard Square landowner.

"They want it in their image and likeness. They have a particular omniscience in knowing how many coffee shops should be here," he says, referring to the Defense Fund's challenge to Starbucks.

Other detractors feel that customers, and not residents, should be the final judges of Harvard Square, and that change is the inevitable companion of time.

"Harvard Square is not their private Disneyland," says Janet Cahaly. "It's a commercial area."

Her husband agrees. "The goddamn fools [who opposed Starbucks] are afraid of competition, and in the retail business we used to say, 'If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, get the hell out," says Sandy Cahaly.

Breaking the Chains

Many have argued the "chain creep" crisis is overstated.

According to Kristen T. Sudholz, executive director of the HSBA, "the Square is still a good niche for Mom-and-Pops to open new businesses."

Figures from a recent HSBA study indicate that of the stores which have closed in the Square during recent years, only roughly half were "Mom-and-Pops," the other half chain stores.

And in an odd way, unique stores can find their way to national-chain stardom by starting in the Square, say some, pointing to Pier One Imports, Learningsmith, Au Bon Pain, Cybersmith and Newbury Comics as stores--now chains--that got their start in the Square.