Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sweet and Junky

From Dave Brigham:

Somerville, Mass., was once the car-theft capital of America, according to Wikipedia, and, more importantly, my friend Jim who grew up there in the 1960s and '70s. The city was much grittier back then, with the Winter Hill Gang in cahoots with the infamous Whitey Bulger, and factories and small industry dominating much of the business landscape. In more recent years, the city, a tightly packed mixture of blue collar workers, hipsters, college students and professionals tucked between Cambridge, Medford, Boston and Arlington, has become a mecca for bars, restaurants, clubs and funky shops and start-up companies.

It was while checking out one of these newer companies -- Taza Chocolate -- a while back that I stumbled across a part of the old Somerville that I suspect not many of the newer residents know about.

Located in a large factory building that once housed companies including Consolidated Bag & Foil Corp. and Sugarman Brothers, according to the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission, Taza offers regular tours of its operations -- and free samples! As my kids and I drove down Windsor Street toward the factory, we passed by a junkyard, with stacks of cars and trucks on both sides of the roadway looming behind corrugated metal fences.

We enjoyed learning how the confections are made, as well as eating the free samples of dark chocolate mixed with all sorts of fruits, peppers, nuts and other ingredients. Well, I liked them anyway.

I made a mental note to visit the area again to take photos of the junkyard, and finally got around to it a few months ago.

The place -- Nissenbaum's Quality Used Auto Parts -- made an even bigger impression on me the second time. Around since 1910, the company is operated by fourth and fifth generations of the founding family, in the same location, I believe.

This gives you a sense for the history of the place, which is the favorite junkyard of the "Car Talk" guys.

And this gives you a sense of how tight things are in this neighborhood, which is very close to a set of train tracks, and which formerly hosted slaughterhouses and meat packing companies.

But this being Somerville, a community increasingly filled with eco-conscious folks, the junkyard backs up to a community garden.

Below are views of the front and back of the junkyard.

In addition to at least one other junkyard in this area, there are auto parts stores and repair shops. Here are two shots of Columbia Auto Parts.

I highly recommend checking out both the chocolate factory and the junkyard. And there are countless great bars, restaurants and shops a short distance away, as well as the Slumbrew tap room.

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