The Story

In the wake of the Great Recession, the narrative of media coverage on small, locally owned businesses has been largely negative. We’ve all read stories of layoffs, declarations of bankruptcy, and even store closures caused by the economic downturn. In reading these stories, we grew curious about the nature of small businesses in general. We wondered what it was like to run them and face these and other challenges, like the competition waged by large and increasingly popular chain retailers, on a regular basis.


Independent Cambridge was born out of that curiosity. In interviewing the owners and customers of four independent businesses in Cambridge, Mass.—Harvard Book Store, Central Bottle Wine & Provisions, Formaggio Kitchen, and Out of the Blue Art Gallery— we learned that although these struggles are an important part of the narrative, they don’t tell the whole story.


Despite their challenges—or perhaps because of them—these businesses have found new and exciting ways to engage their customers. They pride themselves on their relationships with their patrons, many of whom have remained loyal despite economic hardships. When we started this investigation, we expected to find adversity; instead, we found passion.