The family has been a staple of neighborhood life for 25 years as owners and operators of the popular One Family Diner on Bowdoin Street. Last week, its members re-affirmed their commitment to Dorchester as they celebrated a remarkable milestone: Marilyn Edmund and her family have bought the building after many years as tenants.
“It is a big relief. I don’t have to worry anymore,” said Edmund, surrounded by family, customers, and politicians, including Mayor Martin Walsh, who were on hand for what was billed as a “re-grand opening.”
Previously, Edmund, who immigrated to Boston from Trinidad in 1990 before joining her ex-husband at the restaurant, had leased the diner space along with her daughter and son-in-law, Rachel and Manuel Silveira. Now the family owns the building at 260-268 Bowdoin Street, which also houses Restaurante Cesaria and the Cape Verdean Association of Boston.
The three entities – the diner, the restaurant, and the association – make up a key part of the community, according to elected officials at the celebration who took turns sharing anecdotes about their experiences at the diner.
“This is about the fabric of our community,” said Walsh. “It’s a place where a lot of conversations happened about this neighborhood...a lot of political people who have run for office have had breakfast here.”
“This is a big deal,” emphasized City Council President Andrea Campbell. “To keep a small business open, owned by someone local who is a woman, and a woman of color, and family-owned. That is rare in many communities.”
Hailed as an “anchor” of the Bowdoin Street business district, the diner has over the years served as home base for countless politicians and city officials, including former state Rep. Marie St. Fleur, outgoing 5th Suffolk Rep. Evandro Carvalho, and the mayor.
The diner’s future was in question earlier this year. A prospective buyer from outside the neighborhood, whom Edmund declined to name, was prepared to purchase the property. But with the help of Jose Luis Rojas, a small business lending officer from Boston Private, and crucial support from former Dorchester Bay executive Jeanne DuBois and Davida Andelman of the Greater Bowdoin/Geneva Neighborhood Association, Edmund and her children were able to secure their business for the foreseeable future.
“They was by my side, they are the only two people who was there with me every step of the way,” Edmund said of DuBois and Andelman. “Especially Davida. She was here every morning. Sometimes I felt discouraged, but she was like, ‘Come on, let’s do it.’ And I knew I had her shoulder, you know, to lean on.”
Andelman, who admitted that she smiles only on rare occasions, said she had plenty to smile about on seeing the sizable turnout at the celebration.“I can’t tell you how excited I am today,” she said. “What we’re celebrating today is what we should be having in all the neighborhood business districts: owners who are residents of this community and who reflect the people who live in that community.”
DuBois, who nicknamed One Family Diner “The ‘Cheers’ of Bowdoin Street,” pointed to the success story as a model for the rest of the city. “This is what we’re all dreaming about as the city’s getting swept over by this economic tidal wave, right? And how do you protect your neighborhood? By getting local businesses to buy their buildings.”
Edmund said she is considering expanding the business to include an upstairs, but that wouldn’t happen for at least a few years. For now, she’s happy to continue hosting a diverse clientele of Bowdoin/Geneva residents and Dorchester’s political representatives.
“I am so honored to have them,” she said.