Why We Advocate
I was quoted in this article that ran in the Boston Globe today. I think it is a very fair and important article, but I flinched a bit when I came across my own words: “When it comes to a lot of Main Street retailers, we’ve been telling our clients they’re not going to get April rent anyways.” I fear this statement may come off to some that I am putting this perspective out there because we are advocating for tenants versus our landlord clients. In actuality, it’s the opposite. Our advice to our landlord clients has and will remain that it is in their best interest to do all they can to help restaurants, makers, wine shops, gyms, boutiques, and day care centers survive. Because this crisis is going to end, eventually, and the landlords that come out of this the least scathed a year from now are those that will have tenants paying rent, operating at full capacity, with active storefronts and vibrant shops.
Graffito is engaged on projects to bridge the divide that exists between large landowners and our city’s most dynamic and interesting small businesses. These two parties rely on each other, but they speak different languages and run vastly different businesses. Our role is therefore often best understood as a translator for landlords as they seek to engage with chefs, artists, fashion designers, barbers, yoga instructors, coffee roasters, brewers and grocers. And to do this we really, really need to understand all of these businesses… And because of this — and because we take this pursuit very, very seriously — we have been getting an unfiltered and intense glimpse into the monumental struggles that these enterprises are facing today. Our approach to the COVID-19 crisis has therefore been to do our very best to sound the alarm re: what these small businesses are going through and to inform our clients and partners in real-time re: the steep, steep climb these operators have ahead of them.
In sum, Graffito is hired to provide informed intel and sound advice to our clients and partners, which is based on the many years all of us here at GSP have spent working with (and for) small, local, owner-operated businesses. The intel we are gathering today is not pretty. And this is why our communications may come across as being overly pessimistic. But this is the other potential misinterpretation of our messaging, as we are offering all of this advice because soon enough we’ll be out of this mess and what we want for our clients and their tenants is a renewed sense of common values, common hustle, and a common desire to make better urban places and communities. To do this means that today we must acknowledge that small businesses and their employees are in a very, very bad place. And now is the time for us all (landlords, elected officials, consumers, community and neighborhood orgs) to do all we can do to help dig them out. Not to our detriment, but because we all have a lot to gain by rebuilding our small business community here in Greater Boston.