Mayor Marty Walsh visited Uphams Corner on Monday as part of a tour of Main Streets districts highlighting the city program aimed at supporting business districts and the entrepreneurs who make them tick.
Walsh presented awards to business owners and suggested that supporting their enterprises is a key part of lifting up struggling communities without causing massive displacement.
In his remarks, Walsh pointed out the future location of a new public library branch before presenting a the “Business of the Year” award to the family-owned and operated Araujo Laundromat.
“It’s important that businesses give back to the community and they have been here,” said Walsh. The Araujos “were one of the first businesses to donate to the tree lighting and the arts festival and one of the best Christmas Tree lightings that we have is right here. It’s the most well attended in front of the Strand.”
The owners of the laundromat live in Uphams Corner and have been working hard to keep their business open since 2006.
“Having a laundromat is really hard work but we’re still here,” said Jessica Araujo, one of the owner’s daughters. “We have loyal customers who have been here since day one. We have people that wait out here for us to open at seven o’clock in the morning. If it wasn’t for them, we never would have received our award.”
Main Streets connects 20 commercial districts across the city. Their mission is to recognize entrepreneurship opportunities, establish new business endeavors, and empower commercial centers. Since 1995 this effort helped establish more than 1,000 businesses, created over 8,000 jobs, and organized more than 300,000 volunteer hours.
Introducing the mayor, Bob Hass— president of the Uphams Corner Main Street board— acknowledged volunteers from the neighborhood who planted flowers along the intersection of Columbia Road and Dudley Street.
“That’s the kind of extra investment that we like to see,” said Haas.
The mayor also recognized David McDaniel as “Volunteer of the Year” in Uphams Corner. In reacting to the citation, McDaniel said, “Many people do not want to be on the board because it takes time, but for me this is a good way to serve my community.”
Upham’s Corner was the first stop of a mayoral tour through Dorchester that also included Bowdoin/Geneva, Grove Hall and Four Corners.
“When you’re doing your shopping tonight, please think about your local business district,” Walsh said. “Many of the businesses that we talk about, they are family businesses. They’ve invested their whole life into them. Many are immigrant owned as well. You have people who come from other countries to make an investment in our neighborhood, so we need to support them.”
Empire Fashion, a women’s beauty store, was recognized as The Business of the Year for Bowdoin/Geneva Main Streets. “It’s amazing to see what’s been going on in the Bowdoin/Geneva area with the businesses,” Walsh said.
Shirley A. Jones, who has lived in Dorchester for 45 years, accepted the award on behalf of Empire Fashion. She also received a Volunteer of the Year Award for her neighborhood efforts.
“I want to see all positivity happening in Dorchester,” Jones said. She has been volunteering with Main Streets for five years and she is also the current president of the Meeting House Hill Civic Association.
“Any business that operates in our community is associated with the Main Streets and we make sure that they’ve got financing,” she said. “Anything they need, we are there for them so they can continue to be successful, which makes the neighborhood successful.”