This Little Italy neighborhood in the North End of Boston is dotted with stores from earlier, simpler time that have a genuine, authentic feel.
Bobby Eustace, the owner of one such store, relishes the enjoyment he sees in the eyes of his customers as they take in what he calls the “orderly disarray” of his shop where you can find rare spices, deli meats, candy, pasta, and a wide selection of coffees, their specialty.
When you cross the threshold and take a deep breath of the unique mix of aromas, you know you have arrived at Polcari’s Coffee.
Founded in 1932 by Anthony Polcari, an Italian immigrant in his 20’s, the store established its roots during the Depression and began to thrive as times changed.
Anthony’s son, Ralph, inherited the store, and made a regular habit of hiring youngsters from the neighborhood and teaching them the business.
Bobby, an admitted “wayward youth” when he was hired at 17, loved Ralph, the way he ran the store and cared for his customers, and especially cherished the time and patience he took to look out for him as a person.
“I can’t think of anyone who has taught me more about life than Mr. Polcari,” Bobby recalled.
“I worked 26 years with him.
He was like a second Dad to me.
He was a great instructor and teacher and taught me how to act on this side of the counter and on the other side as well.
He was a wonderful influence on my life.“ Ralph had no heirs – the store was his home and his employees were like family.
As he approached retirement, his connection with Bobby was so strong that he asked if he would take over Polcari’s and keep their traditions alive.
Bobby agreed and has made it his mission to continue the family business in a way that would make Ralph and the entire family proud.
He even found a replacement for one of the store’s 100-year-old scales – somehow, a digital scale would not be right for Polcari’s.
Ralph is gone now, but Bobby often thinks of his mentor.
“Maybe he saw a kid that loved him to death and wanted to preserve his legacy and carry on his good name,” he reflected.
“I always say his spirit floats around in the shop and I drink it occasionally.” Watching this story will take you back to an earlier time, but it’s nice to know that Polcari’s and Bobby are still there with a smile and cup of their special blend to help you through the day.
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