Kenneth Osherow (pictured above) continues to buck the odds in this recession-dampened economy.
In March 1999, he moved to Savin Hill and opened his first business there.
“I didn’t want to work for anyone anymore,” said Osherow, 46. “I noticed there were a lot of young people in the area so we decided to open up At Home Real Estate.”
Today, Osherow owns four businesses in the neighborhood, employing about 80 people.
“He’s an asset to Savin Hill,” said Peter McNamara a long-time Savin Hill resident and recipient of the 2012 Boston’s Best Neighbor Award. “His investment in the neighborhood has added so much to The Hill.”
Osherow, who has an MBA from Northeastern University, began his career in the South End and Back Bay, where he worked in real estate for a decade.
In January 2000, he took his first step as an independent businessman, starting his largest business, At Home Real Estate, which he runs on Savin Hill Avenue with business partner James Silva. It employs 14 people and manages more than 300 properties in Dorchester, other Boston neighborhoods and nearby communities such as Milton and Quincy.
Over time, Osherow added three neighborhood-gathering spots – McKenna’s Café, a popular lunch and breakfast place which he acquired in March 2006; Savin Scoop, which he opened in November 2010; and Savin Bar and Kitchen, which he opened in March 2011. All are within a stone’s throw of his real estate business. And all bring jobs.
At Savin Scoop, for example, many of the 20 summer-time employees are students from nearby Cristo Rey High School, Osherow said proudly.
“It just goes to show you the power of small businesses,” he said.
The store, which operates year round, opened with a sign that read: “Local Ice Cream, Local Gossip.”
Osherow bought McKenna’s from its original owners, the Kelley family, which had opened it in 1999.
“This just fell into my lap; there was no turn around here,” Osherow said. “The people who work here have worked here for over nine years including two Kelley family members.”
George Kelley continues to run errands, which he did when his family owned the café. “My daughter made a big mistake selling this place,” he said. “This place is jam packed, everyday. It keeps the community together.”
Patron Noah Jones said he has been coming to McKenna’s everyday for the past two years. “Allison, a waitress, wrote her name in whipped cream on my toast and I was sold,” Jones said. “The only downside is the wait.”
The line at McKenna’s is always long, a frequent complaint among patrons.
“I enjoy the early bird breakfast special at McKenna's as well as the Western omelet, and I find the service at McKenna's to be great,” said Jeffrey Seglin, a long time Savin Hill resident who teaches at Harvard University. “It has gotten crazy busy on the weekends, so I tend to limit my going to weekdays.”
Osherow said he added a few seats when he bought McKenna’s but is just happy his business is so busy. “I can’t complain.”
Across the street, Savin Bar and Kitchen draws a more upscale dinner crowd and comes complete with a private room for functions. But it’s a neighborhood place, too.
Julie Burligh, a patron who lives up the block, said on a recent Saturday that she stops by for dinner when there’s a game on the TV behind the bar that she wants to watch. “I live down the street but I don’t have a TV,” she said.
Opening Savin Bar and Kitchen in March 2011 came with its challenges. The location had been vacant for a year after Donovan’s, the restaurant it housed, went out of business.
Longtime resident McNamara said crime had been plaguing the neighborhood and partly attributes turnaround to Osherow’s investment in his new restaurant.
“It is a very positive thing, said McNamara.
Osherow says he still struggles with Savin Bar and Kitchen because it is not as profitable as he would like it to be.
“It was not easy to find a formula that pleased everybody,” he said. “But the neighborhood has warmed up to it.
“As a business owner, trying to make ends meet is hard,” Osherow added.
Nonetheless, he said, the plusses of juggling four businesses in Savin Hill outweigh the minuses.
“The restaurant is doing well,” he said. “McKenna’s is profitable and I don’t pay rent there because I bought part of the building, which also houses At Home Real Estate and Savin Scoop.”
So what comes next?
Although he says he has no plans for the only vacant property directly across from At Home Real Estate, “local gossip” says that he just might be eyeing it.
View more pictures of Osherow and his businesses here. This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.