Support local businesses. Can I say this more plainly in the lingering Great Recession? I perambulated the immediate neighborhood late this afternoon, from the JAM district to the edge of Back Central and back to the South Common Historic District. I’d been meaning for a while to go to the Brazilian “bakery & eatery” on Appleton Street in the former New York Nails shop across from Store 24. The distinctive miniature brick building now houses Two Hearts Cafe, which offers cakes, coffee, catering, speciality Brazilian pastries, and breads. I’m going back tomorrow morning to pick up a few fresh items to take to a breakfast with friends. Everything looks good. The place is open long hours—weekdays as early as 5.30 am. On Saturday and Sunday the doors open at 7 am. The website (www.twoheartscafe.com) will be live in two weeks, the owner told me.
My next stop was Garnick’s Music emporium at 54 Middlesex Street, which is practically an institution for its longevity in the city. Owner Bob Garnick has watched the music industry rocket to the moon in the 60s, fall to Earth with the coming of the Internet, and now transform itself so that he is selling more albums on the ‘net these days than product out of the store. He says the young customers want the original vinyl recordings of The Beatles, Dylan, Rolling Stones, Hendrix, and other classic artists. The store today has bins and bins of compact discs (new and used) and albums of hundreds of artists. The place is like an archive of musical history. Thanks to Bob’s heavy ordering hand back in the day, he has a massive inventory of just what new consumers and collector-types want. Someone said if you stay in one place long enough the whole world comes to you.
I’ve been humming the 1970 hit “No Matter What” ever since Marc Cohn played his version of the song at Boarding House Park a few weeks ago. I asked Bob what he had in stock for Badfinger CDs. In a minute he had in his hand two from the “new” section: “No Dice” (1970), which includes “No Matter What,” and “Straight Up” (1972), with the now golden oldies “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day.” George Harrison discovered Badfinger for Apple Records and produced several tracks on “Straight Up,” including “Day After Day,” on which he plays slide guitar. I would’ve preferred a “best of” collection that included Badfinger’s other giant hit, “Come and Get It,” but Bob made me a nice offer for the two CDs, plus today is a sales-tax-free day. I walked out with both. Garnick’s is one of those authentic Lowell places that give the city its appeal.
Another authentic piece of time-machine Lowell is Danas Luncheonette at 62 Gorham Street at the busy corner where Central, Gorham, Appleton, and Church streets converge. Peter Danas recently completed repairs to the front of the store that had been damaged in a car crash. I hadn’t seen Peter for a while and don’t stop in often enough, so I was glad to find the door still open after 5 p.m. He was wrapping up for the day, but insisted that I have one of the famous raspberry lime rickey drinks whose mixture he has perfected over the years. It was predictably refreshing. Peter’s a writer, too. His poem about St. Peter Church, which stood up the street before being closed and then demolished by the bishop, is printed on a large poster on the back wall. Anyone new to the city who is reading this should go to Danas’s—the official name is Danas Fruit and Confectionery—to sample the sandwiches, homemade candies, and old-fashioned ice cream counter specials. The store is known far and wide for the extraordinary fruit baskets that the staff (Peter and family) assemble and ship around the country. This is the place for fruit baskets. You can see samples in the window. The building has a ton of character, which was not missed by location scouts for the film “School Ties” in 1992. Scenes were shot in the store and the alley on the side. “School Ties” boasted a cast of up and coming stars: Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris O’Donnell, and others. If you rent the film, look for familiar local people who had parts as extras. I’m pretty sure Nancye Tuttle appears in the movie. Check out this link from retroroadmap.com for a photo essay on Danas’s. There’s no website, but you can call Danas’s at 978-459-9541.