For sale on Dot Ave.: Custom-made poetry

Dorchester Avenue business owner John Dunlap, Jr., at his desk in the vintage store he operates a block from St. Mark’s church where he is offering personalized poems for any occasion. Seth Daniel photo

Watching John Dunlap, Jr. conduct business at his Dorchester Used Bicycle and Thrift Shop these days is seeing poetry in motion.

While anything can happen on any given day at his Dot Ave storefront – conversations about his endless ideas for inventions and patents, sales of his vintage items, from movie posters to dolls to saltshakers, a showing of his classic 1989 Oldsmobile with his own chrome touches – at the moment, he’s pushing poetry – personalized poems written on site out of his store for any occasion.

The invitation is posted with a neon pink sign on the front door of the that offers: “Poems for any Occasion; personalized for – you.”

Said Dunlap in a recent interview: “I started writing poems here about two years ago. I’ve written about 200 in all over the years, so I thought I’d start writing them for others at the store to make some extra cash to survive, while taking advantage of a talent.”

Dunlap estimates he’s had about 25 customers for his service in the last year. “You can come by the store and get a personalized poem and I don’t think you’ll find that anywhere else on Dorchester Avenue,” he said. “For the hell of it, I searched online. You can’t find anything like that around here. There are people that do it online, but my average price is $25 for an original poem. Are you going to find that online? No. It looked to me like the average was $50 and up. Maybe they dress it up with a certificate or fancy lettering. But then again, maybe they don’t.”

Dunlap, 57, presents all his verse on special paper with a unique font, and most people return to the store to have him read it. “It can be about whatever you want; it could be about your shoes, your shirt, the weather outside, but even though I say ‘anything,’ most people stick to the birthdays or Christenings and special occasions,” he added.

Dunlap has lived on nearby Semont Road for 46 years. The love of prose, he stressed, did not come from schooling, as he only went to school to the 9th grade, later gaining a high school equivalency degree. His love of poetry came from his late mother, Carol (Wilson) Dunlap, who crafted her own verse quietly at their home for many years.

“Let me put it this way: My mother passed away in 2020 and I found more than a thousand of her poems afterward,” he stated. “One of them was titled, ‘Where Will I Go the Day I die?’ It was really deep. It wasn’t long, but it was amazing.”

Dunlap has others passions, too, including inventing gadgets and tools, like a paint brush grip with 14 functions, and a toothbrush guard. “My true desire is to be an inventor with patents,” he said.

But that’s a verse for another day.

To inquire about Poems for Any Occasion, email John Dunlap at, or call/text at 857-417-2422.

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