Boutiques, art and open space appear to be the latest trends in the upper blocks of South Street.
The vibe of the neighborhood where I used to hang out, where Carolina Avenue meets South Street, has changed greatly over the past two years.
A couple years ago, the tennis courts were not a place where I saw many people hanging out at night, let alone the hipster crowd. The park benches were blocky and uncomfortable, and the lighting was poor.
On a summer night in 2008 I would usually walk by the park and expect it to be empty. Fast forward to present day 2010, when Ron's TV Repair has closed up shop and I now see all kinds of people using the park at all times of day.
Since the Hallway and Dame have opened, myself and business owners in the area are starting to see a fresh young crowd bustling around South Street around the renovated courts.
"This space at The Hallway has completely transformed the dynamic of this stretch of road," said Hallway owner Brent Refsland when I met him last week. "It's a completely different crowd that comes here at night than what you are used to seeing around the old TV shop," he told me.
After looking at some of the pictures he showed me of concerts and events at The Hallway that featured 20-somethings pouring out onto South Street at night, I was incredulous that this was even the same block I saw two years ago, which had been the long-time home of a TV repair shop and an older generation of JP residents. The pictures showed me a snapshot of South Street life I had never seen before.
A native of Austin, Texas, Refsland said he discovered an old storage room that was once part of the repair shop when he moved to JP, and developed a vision for the space as an art gallery.
In May of 2009, Refsland opened The Hallway at 66 South Street, and said since then he has welcomed a diverse crowd to the space for spoken word open mic nights, art viewings, and concerts.
On a good night, Refsland told me that local bands playing at the Hallway can bring hundreds of evening-goers to South Street, which until recently had never been known as a regular spot for art or night life.
"Things have really picked up in the past year," said Joy Silverstein, owner of Fresh Hair at, which opened in 1982 at 62 South Street. "Up until recently, younger people didn't have many reasons to come down to this end. It's been great for us and we welcome new customers."
I noticed a new crowd frequenting South Street by day as well.
Inside Dame, staff worker Taylor McVay told me she agreed, and said she sees a broad range of people browsing the store's selection of clothing, including 20 and 30-somethings.
"It's more of a connected row now," said McVay, while talking with me about the the Hallway, Dame, and Fresh Hair, which are all kitty-corner from the Harvest Co-op. "What used to be a combination of stores is now a place where people might find more than one thing that interests them."
I read in Dame ower Dany Pearson's blog that over the summer she even extended the store's hours, "In the spirit of livening up South Street at night."
When I popped into Ferris Wheels Bike Shop, which is right in-between Fresh Hair and The Hallway, bike tech Mark Lembo found a spare minute while tuning a bike to tell me that he thought the new courts at Carolina Avenue have helped reshape the area's image.
"For a while (the courts) were kind of like a 'no man's land,' and we're glad they're finally finished," added Silverstein.
Most residents seemed to agree with the business owners, and when I flagged down a few people passing by the courts, they described the demolished park as having an "old-school city feel," while describing the new courts as having a more "inviting" atmosphere with a focus on open space.
One of the reasons PolkaDogBakery owner Deborah Gregg told me she chose to open in JP last year was because she described it as a "low-key" area. In addition, Gregg said the stores captures the 20-somethings and 30-something crowd.
"We're not the new kids on the block anymore," Silverstein told me, and I couldn't have agreed more.
Gabriel Leiner lived in Jamaica Plain for most of 2008 and part of 2009. After living in New York for a year, he recently revisited the Carolina Avenue basketball courts where he used to play ball, to observe the types of people who are now out and about on South Street.