Sad News from Wapo Taco, a quirky, tasty, and affordable two-person taco shop that has been with us for nearly two decades. They are closing at the end of the month due to a substantial rent hike:
TO ALL OF OUR CUSTOMERS
It is with great sadness and heavy hearts, that we make this announcement.
After 18 yrs. We have decided to close THE WAPO TACO. The building we are in, was recently sold. The new Landlords have doubled our rent. In order for us to stay, we would have to pass that on our customers, with a substantial price increase. We don’t think that would be fair to all of you. We would like to thank all of our customers for all of your love and support over the past 18 yrs. We value the many friendships and memories we’ve made throughout the years…..
Our last day of business will be Saturday, June 27th….
Thank you all again it has been a wonderful ride.
Dianne and Lorenzo
This announcement comes on the heels of the closure of several other long-standing Roslindale businesses: most recently Vouros bakery, before that the Select Cafe (f/k/a Emac and Bolio’s), and the more short-lived Sugar Restaurant.
These losses to our community are always followed by hand-wringing and no small amount of antipathy directed to greedy landlords, accompanied by a legitimate fear of large-chain invasion. And there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of this, but to re-appropriate the words of Joe Hill (often mis-attributed as his last): Don’t Mourn, Organize!
Rising commercial rents and the related shifting demographics in the neighborhood will inevitably result in some unfortunate (and perhaps avoidable) casualties. But there are other factors at work here too, that we can do something about. Every single entrepreneur we’ve heard from who has considered opening a storefront in Roslindale in recent years has expressed concern about the lack of daytime foot traffic. Although Wapo Taco was open most days from 12pm to 8pm, anecdotal observation suggests the shop was slow for most of that time, and often empty.
We don’t know any details of the restaurant’s balance sheet, but it’s easy to imagine that they could have survived a substantial rent increase with a 2x increase in sales. They certainly had the production capacity for it. Lack of foot-traffic (especially daytime) was also a concern of the previous owners of the Boston Cheese Cellar, which closed in the spring but recently reopened with a new owner and extra gusto. Moreover, the 2010 Tufts University Study, Destination: Roslindale Village, A Roadmap for a Vibrant Village, also highlighted the need for increased foot traffic to improve and invigorate the neighborhood economy.
So what do we do to increase foot traffic so we can retain businesses like Wapo Taco and attract others that are badly needed (a fancy espresso shop!)? There is no single strategy for success, but all of WalkUP Roslindale‘s priorities will help get us there: increased density close to the square (perhaps the #1 need); an improved pedestrian environment (via infrastructure, design, enforcement, and cultural changes); better bike infrastructure (think Hubway and an off-road bike highway to the orange line); improved (and more affordable) transit connectivity; as well as neighborhood marketing.
It’s worth noting that there is no way we can achieve these goals through more auto-centric build-out: there is no practical place to add more free parking, and even if we could, at most it would bring a handful more people into the village while further exacerbating the already existing street gridlock at peak hours. Abolishing unlimited free parking could actually help quite a bit, but that’s a topic for a future blog entry. It will be much more effective to find ways to let people who want to live here do so affordably, and enable those who want to get to the village other than by car do so safely, thereby freeing up parking spots and easing traffic congestion for others who cannot or will not travel other than by car.
See also this discussion about Wapo Taco’s closing on Universal Hub.
3 thoughts to “RIP Wapo Taco – Don’t Mourn, Organize!”
This is sad to hear. They have been a fixture in the square for the 15 years I’ve lived here. I wonder if there isn’t another location in the neighborhood they could find to make a go of it. That said, the message here is exactly right — we can actually allow ourselves to mourn, but only briefly, and the next step needs be to organize to support the kind of improvements to the square that will give more businesses like Wapo Taco a better chance to make it over the long haul.
As an outsider who has worked in Roslindale for almost 20 years, and one who must drive a car to get here, the idea of abolishing the unlimited parking zones makes me cringe. During the 19+ years I have worked here, I have been diligent about spending within this community – and a lot of it at the small eating establishments -e.g. Fornax and The Wapo Taco. Lack of all day parking would probably be the nail in the coffin for many of us who may not live here but love this neighborhood just the same. First step – residents with huge back yards should park there instead of taking up the all day spots.
There will be a separate entry (perhaps many) in the future on the free parking problem, but in brief there is good research showing free parking is toxic to a community. For the long version, check out Donald Shoup‘s The High Cost of Free Parking, which lays out in 800 detailed and evidence-supported pages how “[p]lanners mandate free parking to alleviate congestion but end up distorting transportation choices, debasing urban design, damaging the economy, and degrading the environment.”