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North End resident’s handmade beeswax candles ship all over US, world

May 9, 2014 03:45 PM

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Jean Merlain

Ann Moritz with some of the honeycomb beeswax candles she makes. “Rather than try to imitate a shape that already exists, I’m usually thinking about how different elements of wax will look if they’re put together,” said said.

By day Ann Moritz runs a consulting business. By evening she’s a honey beeswax chandler.

Ann Moritz’s first experience with candle making was at the age of nine, when she and her older brother almost burned down their mother’s kitchen. They didn’t know the first rule of candle making: never heat candle wax directly over heat because it’s likely to catch fire.

Thankfully, it was a small fire that caused no damage. Though the fire frightened the young Moritz, it didn’t stop her from wanting to learn more about candle making.

As Moritz got older, she found herself making candles — candlemakers are known as chandlers — less than when she was a teenager. But she didn’t lose interest in the hobby and always made the effort to make candles around the holidays for family and friends. When she became a mother, she involved her children in candle-making projects.

For decades, Moritz had been making candles with the traditional candle wax but it wasn’t until about six years ago, when she moved in to the North End, that she started using honey beeswax.

With her children are grown, Moritz found herself making candles on a regular basis. Before she knew it, dozens filled her home, more than knew what to do with. It was then that she discovered the website Etsy, an online marketplace that allows people around the world to sell and buy unique goods.

With a saturated candle market, Moritz said she quickly realized that she couldn’t possibly survive selling on Etsy unless she found a niche. That’s when she decided to switch to honeycomb beeswax.

“When I discovered Etsy, the predominant candles, which was ton at the time, no where near what it is now, were solid molded candles, same thing that I was making,” Moritz said.

What makes honeycomb beeswax different from traditional wax is the shapes and textures the chandler works with. Honeycomb beeswax is thin and comes in sheets similar to sheets of construction paper. It comes in a variety of colors, making it easier for the chandler to heat and roll into various candle designs.

Once the wax is heated, it takes Moritz no more than 30 seconds to roll a candle and no more than three to five minutes to make a package of six candles. From the time she pulls out a sheet of honeycomb beeswax, warms it up, rolls six candles, and then ties a knot around the box to complete a typical package, takes Moritz less than 10 minutes.

Moritz’s candles range from a simple one-color candle to more complex candle designs. One of the complex designs she is selling on Etsy is a candle called Lucky Bamboo that is shaped like bamboo tree and is green. Another candle for sale is a Twisted Tapers Beeswax candle made out of pure beeswax. It is shaped like braid.

In the six years that Moritz has been selling her candles on Etsy, she’s found people tend to buy the simpler candles.

“If I’m putting several layers together, or I’m really playing around with the wax, it could take me a little under an hour. Once I know what I’m doing, it takes me no more than 10 to 15 minutes,” said Moritz.

Design inspirations tend to come when she’s exercising. Sometimes she wakes up with an idea and goes straight to the kitchen counter, where she has her candle-making kit laid out. Sometimes she just combines different colors to see what the finished candle will look like.

“Rather than try to imitate a shape that already exists, I’m usually thinking about how different elements of wax will look if they’re put together, or I’m looking for something that might reflect some element of nature,” said Moritz.

She doesn’t like to be stuck having to fulfill an order last minute. Moritz typically has about two of each of the candles displayed on her Etsy site in stock so they can be immediately shipped at the time of order.

When she started selling on Etsy, her husband suggested that she put up a world map in her home office so that she track the locations around the world that she’s shipped her candles.

Maritz has sold candles to people in 47 states (no sales yet in Indiana, Delaware, or Montana) and she has also shipped candles to 12 countries: France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Brazil, New Zealand, Malaysia, Canada, Australia and England. The most popular countries from which she receives the most re-orders from are Canada, Australia, and England.

Aside from what she sells on Etsy, Moritz sometimes get requests from friends and families placing large orders for a sports teams, weddings, and other events.

One her favorite customer orders was for a wedding a few years ago. The groom was Canadian and the bride was an Argentinian. The groom’s mother who made the order asked for thick long pillar candles in the colors of the flags of those two countries.

Both the groom and the bride were American citizens. At the wedding ceremony, they used the candles as unity candles to light an American colored candle. The mother-in-law who placed the order sent Moritz photos of the ceremony.

“The custom part of it is so much fun. Anybody could make these. They’re not that difficult to do. The only edge I have is the way I treat people,” said Moritz.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

How North End businesses coped with Winter Olympics, lack of Bruins games

February 24, 2014 10:25 AM

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With the National Hockey League on an 18-day hiatus for the Olympics and the Celtics only playing two home games in that time, The Fours on Canal Street focused on the crowds that came to TD North Garden for Disney on Ice.

When the Boston Bruins are in town for a home game, it doesn’t just excite the fans — it excites all businesses surrounding the TD Garden.

But every four years since the 1998 winter Olympic games in Nagano, Japan, the National Hockey League has gone under a two-week hiatus to allow the league’s players to participate in the winter games. This year, the league’s hiatus was a little over two weeks: 18 days, to be exact.

While the Bruins not playing and Celtics playing only two home games while the Bruins were off for the Olympic break, many businesses in the area were forced to adjust their schedules and restaurants adjust their menu based on the audience attending the TD Garden. The good news: Disney on Ice was in town for nine days.

“We will probably close during the weekdays and only open on weekends,” said a manager of popular bar nearby TD Garden who wishes to remain anonymous because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the matter.

Peter Colton, owner and manager of The Four’s Restaurant and Bar on Canal Street said that the NHL break affected his business some but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. He said the restaurant has become accustomed to decreased business during school vacation breaks and the hockey and basketball off-seasons.

Colton said The Fours hoped to attract a different clientele when Disney on Ice was in town.

“We get a lot of big groups, a lot of real young kids where we’re doing a lot of kiddie meals, hot dogs, chicken fingers type of thing so it’s a lot of labor, a lot of cleanup involved,” Colton said. “ Obviously the profit margin is not quite as large as the bigger meal, it’s a different business. ”

On a typical night before a Bruins or Celtics game, the bars and restaurants in the area fill up before and after the game. Before the game, customers would make a stop by the restaurant for quick bite to eat while some come to the restaurant to watch the game.

While some restaurants felt the loss during the break, so did some area hotels. Vanessa Vitale, general manager of The Boxer Boston, a boutique Boston Hotel on Merrimac Street, said the two week hiatus cut into The Boxer’s usual hotel and food and beverage business.

“During Bruins nights, especially pre-game, we get busy just from guests wanting a quick cocktail or appetizer, especially from the VIP-seated guests or the corporate guests,” said Vitale.

The hotel came up with alternative ways to rent rooms during the time off. People that typically come in from out of town but not necessarily far away — from the Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut area — for a game weren’t booking roms while both the Bruins and the Celtics were away.

“We have found ways to be flexible and adapt to the market segments coming in whether they’re concerts. We have a very different guest when Justin Beiber is in town rather than Elton John on non-Bruins or Celtics nights because we know how
to cater to the Bruins and Celtics guest because we’re honed in on that person,” said Vitale.

Here’s the good news for North End bars and restaurants: the Bruins resume their home schedule against the Washington Capitols on Saturday, March 1, at 1 p.m. and play eight home games in March. The Celtics Play Wednesday night, Feb. 28, at home, and have nine homes games in March.

MBTA announces two-year closure of Government Center T station to start March 22

February 12, 2014 10:47 AM

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(MBTA)

The T plans to hang a sign like the one depicted above, along with other signs, to notify riders of the scheduled closure date.

The MBTA today announced the start date for its planned two-year closure of Government Center Station -- Saturday, March 22.

The 24-month closure is part of a $90 million project to renovate and rebuild the busy station at City Hall Plaza.

MBTA personnel began posting signs today at Government Center and other stations, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

The T has also created a webpage with additional details, including recommendations for how passengers should navigate the system during the closure.

A transfer point for the Green and Blue lines, the station is the 13th busiest in the MBTA system and the third oldest, according to the T. On average, 11,315 people enter Government Center Station on weekdays.

Work on the Government Center Station project began in the fall while the station remained opened.

The agency had originally planned to shutdown the station this past September, but decided to delay the closure until after the Callahan Tunnel, which is undergoing construction of its own, reopens.

During the closure, trains will still run through, but will not stop at the station.

The T has said it will take steps to try to reduce impacts from the closure, including running: special bus route that will stop at Government Center, Haymarket, and State stations. And, Bowdoin Station, normally closed on weekends and after 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, will be kept open seven days a week and until the same time other stations close.

The overhaul, the first significant modernization to the Government Center Station in 50 years, will bring it into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and make myriad other improvements. The most dramatic change will be a tall, glass-lined station entrance, or headhouse, emerging from City Hall Plaza.

Other work will include: renovating Green Line and Blue Line platforms; overhauling the electrical system; installing new elevators, escalators, LED signs, improved lighting, and an expanded fare collection area, and reconstructing some of the surrounding parts of Cambridge Street and City Hall Plaza, officials said.

The station is scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2016. After it reopens, some work will continue before the project's scheduled completion at the end of 2016. The T has said it expects federal funding to cover about 80 percent of the project cost.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.
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Skating Toward Better Education: North End’s Eliot School Free Skate Provides Fundraising Opportunity

February 11, 2014 12:03 PM

Frank Sinatra blasted through the speakers of Steriti Memorial Rink as parents held the hands of their elementary school-aged children, skating around the ice.

The chatter and laughter from dozens of teenagers, parents, and helmet-wearing children filled the indoor rink on Commercial Street in Boston’s North End. The Eliot K-8 Innovation School’s first-ever free skate and 50-50 raffle, held last Saturday, was the reason for the family-friendly fun.

“This is not a fundraiser as much as it is an opportunity for students, families, and teachers to come together,” said Principal Traci Griffith of the Eliot School. “We’re doing a small raffle, but it’s really just to build and strengthen our Eliot community.”

Organized mainly as a get-together for the Eliot School community, the event also served as a fundraiser for the North End’s public school. Members of the Eliot School’s Family Council, similar to a Parent-Teacher Association, sold 50-50 raffle tickets and Fred White, owner of the North End Skate Shop and Snack Bar and also an alumni parent of the Eliot School, agreed to donate event proceeds to the school.

FULL ENTRY

In defense of the Green Line

February 6, 2014 04:43 PM

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John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The MBTA announced today that a number of its bus lines will receive a countdown clock system to alert riders to when the next bus on each route will arrive. Last week, the transit system completed its 18-month installation of 314 of these countdown clocks at 53 stations along the Red, Orange, and Blue lines. While by all means good news for the T, the announcement left me and the nearly 220,000 daily riders of the Green Line wondering: What about us?

The Green Line gets a pretty bad--and in my opinion, undeserved --rap.

What other line serves more than 60 stations, covering 12 Boston neighborhoods and parts of Brookline, Newton, Cambridge, and soon Somerville?

What other line touches Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University, the Colleges of the Fenway, the Downtown universities, and even (with a 15-minute walk) MIT?

What other line drops you off steps away from Boston's biggest landmarks--Fenway Park, Newbury Street, the Science Museum, to name a few?

Why will it be one of the last lines to get the countdown clocks? The MBTA said it will introduce the technology on the Green Line by the end of this year.

It's time to reclaim the Green Line, Boston's and America's first subway line. Sure, the rides may be bumpy and the trains may be delayed (though that problem's not exclusive to Green Line,) but it excels at taking you where you need to go. What else can we ask of it?

I am a proud Green Line commuter. It's the line that ferried me around the city as a college student. It's the line that still does that today. The Green Line and I may not always get along, but day after day, it keeps showing up, and I keep riding.

Today, we asked you what you love about the Green Line. Here are some of the responses:

Sarcasm aside, the Green Line touches a lot of this city's population. Let's embrace Boston's only streetcar, subway line.

Lastly, as promised on Twitter, a Green Line poem:

O fairest of T lines, you take me away
From Park Street to Lechmere, Riverside to Fenway
In rain, sleet and snow
You still manage to go
Though often you run on substantial delays.

Agree? Disagree? Hate my limerick? Share your comments below, email me at catherine.cloutier@globe.com, or tweet @cmcloutier.

MBTA to bring countdown clock system to bus stations

February 6, 2014 11:19 AM

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(MBTA)

The MBTA plans to soon install countdown clocks at a number of bus stations throughout its system to notify riders when the next bus on each route will leave that station, the agency announced today.

The bus way at Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain will be the first bus location to get the electronic message boards, according to T spokeswoman Kelly Smith.

Signs are also planned in bus ways at Dudley Square and Ruggles stations, she said. Eight other stations have been "tentatively" chosen to receive the signs: Harvard Square; Haymarket, Ashmont; Kenmore; Maverick, Wonderland, Jackson Square, and Central Square.

The signs should be operational by summer, Smith said.

The signs, using real-time bus tracking data, will provide information about when each route serving that station is next expected to depart. The signs will feature both visual and audio messages.

The project is funded through federal stimulus money, and each sign costs about $50,000, a price tag that includes the display, hardware, software, installation, maintenance and a push-button activated sound system so that people with visual impairments can access the information on the sign, she said.

Most stations will have one sign each. Dudley, because of its size, will have two, she said.

"I've often said our buses are the work horses of our system, serving more than 375,000 people on a typical weekday," T general manager Beverly Scott said in a statement. "The countdown signs at our busiest bus stops will provide customers with information that will make their public transit experience easier and more convenient."

Last week, the T completed an 18-month-long project to activate a total of 314 countdown clocks at all 53 subway stations on the Red, Orange and Blue lines, which officials said made the T one of the first transit agencies in the country to equip all heavy rail stations with train-arrival information.

Officials said the signs have been popular and well-received by riders, and since they were introduced in the summer of 2012 the agency said it has made regular improvements based on rider feedback, including making the signs more accurate and easier to see.

The T said it expects to introduce the countdown clock system to the Green Line by the end of this year. The light rail line is undergoing work to upgrade its less-sophisticated train tracking system with GPS and sensor technology to allow for countdown clock capability.

The agency has also said technology upgrades on the Green Line will allow smartphone-carrying riders to be able to track in real-time the whereabouts and expected arrival of the line's trains by 2015.

Trains on the Red, Orange and Blue have been tracked by mobile applications since the fall of 2010, when the agency made real-time train location data on those lines available to private software developers, who have created numerous smartphone applications. The T made real-time data on bus locations available to software developers in fall of 2009.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.
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(MBTA)

20 medical marijuana dispensary licenses awarded in Mass.

January 31, 2014 12:24 PM

State health officials Friday released the names of companies that will receive the first 20 licenses to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts.

In Middlesex County, licenses will go to facilities slated for Lowell, Ayer, Newton, and Cambridge. In Norfolk County, the locations are in Brookline and Quincy. In Suffolk County, two are slated in Boston.

In Plymouth county, licenses will go to facilities slated for Plymouth and Brockton. And in Worcester County, the locations are in Milford and Worcester. In Essex County, they are slated in Salem and Haverhill.

Here are the others: Mashpee and Dennis in Barnstable County; Taunton and Fairhaven in Bristol County; Holyoke in Hampden County; and Northampton in Hampshire County.

Counties without a selected dispensary include Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes and Nantucket.


Dance extravaganza coming to Copley Square, dancers needed

January 29, 2014 12:21 PM

Celebrity Series of Boston, the same group that brought the city Street Pianos, is looking for over 150 dancers to participate in a unique dance extravaganza. The enthusiastic, contemporary line dance will descend on Copley Square this May. Information meetings will be held Feb. 2 to Feb. 4.

Volunteer dancers will participate in a series of 20 rehearsals to learn and perform Le Grand Continental, a co-production by Montreal choreographer Sylvain Émard Danse and the Festival TransAmeriques. Produced in partnership with the Celebrity Series of Boston, the performances promise to be an explosive, grand finale to cap off the organization’s 75th anniversary season.

Gary Dunning, the executive director of Celebrity Series of Boston, said the performance runs about 30 minutes, with multiple styles of music and dance. He said they are looking for as many dancers that Copley Square can hold, and that no prior dance experience is needed. This way, the performance becomes just as much about community as it does about performance art.

“We look for passion, energy, and the desire to do this, while we take on the responsibility for training. We’ll take all the applicants and work with them,” Dunning said. “In a sense, it’s as much about creating community as it is about celebrating community.”

Dunning said that he is excited to offer this energetic, professional dance experience to the city. He was amazed by the success of Street Pianos Boston and felt the city craved more opportunities to participate in and develop community around performance art. He said that kicking off the season with Street Pianos reflected Celebrity Series of Boston’s mission, and that it is only fitting to end the season with another event that reflects performance art’s “spirit of adventure.”

“There’s a pent up demand for good, fun, public performance art projects, and the city hasn’t had very many of them. The response to Street Pianos and the early response that I’m getting to this is that Boston will embrace it, both as an audience and as performers,” Dunning said. “Our goal is to have a project every year of some kind or another that celebrates how much Boston loves performing arts.”

Le Grand Continental requires no previous dance experience. Dunning said that the piece relies on energy, passion, and a desire to participate within a large community. He said all ages are welcome, and that the current ages already range from young teenagers to those in their 70s. He hopes potential participants will recognize what an amazing, unique opportunity this event presents.

“You can take on a new adventure, try something, and learn something new in a supportive and professional environment,” Dunning said. “You make new friends and experience something you never thought you could, which is performing in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It’ll be great to be part of such a cool community project and to connect with people across the city.”

Le Grand Continental will be performed in Copley Square three times throughout May 16-18. Dancers will attend 20 rehearsals before then, learning choreography in small groups leading up to show day. Information sessions will be held on the following days at the following times:

Info sessions:
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

For more information or to sign up for an information session, visit the event’s website.

Boston named third best US city for public transit

January 28, 2014 05:08 PM

This one's a surprise: Boston--and by extension, its pride and joy of a transit system--was ranked the third best US city for public transportation by Walk Score.

To assemble the ranking, Walk Score calculated the Transit Score of 316 cities and nearly 7,000 neighborhoods. Boston scored a 75, falling behind New York (81) and San Francisco (80.)

Transit Scores were based on the average resident's access to public transit in the city, using a population-weighted methodology. Only cities with more than 500,000 people were included in the top list.

Walk Score said the ranking favored Northeast cities "with established subway systems."

In other MBTA news, the Green Line is delayed.

Mike's Pastry aims to bring its cannoli to Harvard Square this spring

January 28, 2014 10:55 AM

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Iconic North End shop Mike's Pastry is hoping to open at the site of the old Topaz jewelry store in Harvard Square by late spring or early summer. Photo by Brock Parker.

After more than 67 years with a single location in Boston’s North End, Mike’s Pastry is looking to open a second shop in Harvard Square as soon as late spring.

The family-run pastry shop known for its cannoli and blue-and-white pastry boxes is hoping to expand on its success on Hanover Street with a new takeout shop in heart of Harvard Square.

The pastry shop has signed a lease at 11 Dunster Street behind the Cambridge Savings Bank near "The Pit" in the Square, and could open as soon as late May or early June.

Mike's Pastry general manager Angelo Papa, who is the stepson of the shop’s late founder Michael Mercogliano, said the North End shop has been doing business with Harvard University and MIT for years, and that has contributed to the decision to open a second location in Cambridge.

“We’ve heard for years, come here, come here,” Papa said.

Papa said everything in the Harvard Square location would be made by Mike’s Pastry in Boston and delivered fresh each day.

The pastry shop will be about 1,100 square feet and with only six seats it will focus on takeout orders. Along with its signature handmade cannoli, the shop will serve up other favorites from Italian cookies, to muffins, scones, croissants, turnovers and coffee.

The shop still needs a special permit and a license from the city and will go before Cambridge’s Board of Zoning Appeal Thursday night for a fast order food special permit. Monday night the business garnered the support from the city’s Harvard Square Advisory Committee.

While the Dunster Street shop would be only the second location for Mike’s, Papa said the business has been shipping directly to customers across the country for years.

Customers crowd into the Hanover Street location, which has been open since 1946, and Papa said he’s hoping he can bring a bit of that North End experience to Cambridge.

“You can go buy a cannoli wherever you want, but you can’t buy my cannoli,” Papa said.

--brock.parker@globe.com

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