When Beth Goodchild’s grandfather opened Kendall Shoe Repair at 242 Main Street in 1942 among the factories and buildings of MIT in Kendall Square, it is doubtful he ever imagined his granddaughter would still be running the business at the same address, 75 years later.
Offering shoe shines, hat repair and cleaning, as well as dry cleaning, the shop counted President John F. Kennedy as a regular customer in his youth, along with Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid Land Camera.
In 1972 Beth’s parents took over the business amid dramatic changes in the square. Her mother started offering fresh flowers in front of the shop and it just took off, eventually replacing the cobbler business and they changed the shop’s name to the Kendall Flower Shop.
“I was raised at the shop. I used to work there after school, sometimes missing full days to strip thorns from roses for Valentine’s Day,” Goodchild said.
The business successfully weathered the tough times of the 1970s and is now thriving, surrounded by the technology businesses that have flocked to Kendall Square in recent years.
Officially taking over from her parents in 1992, Goodchild put great effort into building the business. Flowers and plants from Kendall Flower Shop decorate the lobbies, conference rooms, and events of MIT, Microsoft, and many of the surrounding corporations.
While business is booming, Goodchild has faced her challenges. As the single mother of two children, one with a chronic illness, she’s often had to close the shop for hours or sometimes the entire day to pick up a sick child at school or stay with her daughter at Children’s Hospital. And the construction boom that brought many of the the new businesses to the area posed its own challenges, with street closures and loss of parking.
“I couldn’t do it without a great support system from my employees, boyfriend, ex-husband, and family who always help out during the holidays and busy times,” she said. “And my customers have been so loyal. It’s the personal relationships, like when a customer stops by to tell me how much someone liked our flowers or an arrangement we made for them, or sends a thank you email with photos. Many people remember my dad and ask how he’s doing, and they’ve seen my kids grow up at the shop. And even during the worst construction times, the workers have been supportive – they would see me pull up with a van full of product, and head over on their own to help me unload.” Customer service is key, she said.
“We take pride in how well we take care of our corporate accounts – and all of our customers. We never say ‘no’ to a customer – if we don’t have what they want, we’ll get it. And if a customer isn’t happy, we work with them until they are,” Goodchild said.
One of a handful of small, woman-owned business in Kendall Square, the next challenge looming on the horizon for Beth is navigating the Kendall Square Initiative, a massive redevelopment plan adding new office and research space, residential units, and retail options to the area. Working closely with MIT and with the support of the Cambridge Community Development Department, Kendall Flower Shop Goodchild has learned she will be relocated for a period of up to two years to another spot in Kendall Square with every effort made to return the shop to a space at 242 Main Street – its address for 75 years.
In thinking about the relocation, Goodchild is confident Kendall Flower Shop will maintain its high standards of customer service for their corporate clients. In addition, she plans to use social media and emails to stay in touch with current clients, and hope their temporary spot will have good visibility to maintain walk-in business.
“And we’ll just work really hard – that’s really the secret to everything,” she added.
When asked if she hopes to pass the business on to her children, after a pause, she shares, “Some days I think yes because of how much I love my shop and other times I think no because I know how hard this business can be and I want so much more for them. Either way, I hope the one thing I can pass on is the work ethic that comes from being a small business owner, always hustling and working hard.”