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Nubian Square restaurant recovers with new patio space, delivery

Haley House Bakery Cafe adjusts to Boston’s reopening

Morgan C. Mullings
Nubian Square restaurant recovers with new patio space, delivery
Haley House manager Misha Thomas and staff member Dinquinesh Nau. PHOTO: MORGAN C. MULLINGS

Roxbury businesses face an uphill climb when it comes to returning to normal, so Haley House Bakery Cafe has pulled from all their resources to bring hospitality back to an unpredictable situation. With the help of the city’s office of Small Business Development and a creative staff, the cafe and soup kitchen are continuously adapting to reopening.

Misha Thomas, Haley House’s new manager, has led the way in turning the café’s parking lot into outdoor seating, which opened July 1, adding new takeout and drink options and using social media to restore a sense of community.

“We’re using the time as best we can find the projects and little things that we’ve needed to address since before COVID, and try to stay as busy as we can, supporting ourselves while supporting the community as well,” Thomas told the Banner.

Haley House is more than a cafe — they run a farm that provides locally grown food to seniors, and a soup kitchen with free breakfast in the mornings for food-insecure individuals. Their live-in volunteers worked to deliver free meals while the cafe was closed, making use of food that would’ve been wasted due to COVID-19 closures.

“We’ve networked with as many people in the community as possible to make this more of an environment that completely reflected the people,” Thomas said. Haley House teamed up with Site Presents to showcase local artists on its Instagram page, @haleyhouseboston, and advertised nearby black-owned businesses biweekly.

Closed for renovations in 2019, the cafe was ready to open up its new space to visitors in spring of this year but closed shortly after.

“It was really tricky because we have this brand new space that no one can see,” Thomas said, “All the hard work that we just put into this over the past six-plus months, is now at a standstill.”

She took it upon herself to craft a patio area instead, using artificial turf to make a grassy outdoor space, picnic tables and a deck.

“The city of Boston did have some resources available to help build out curbside and patio service, so we took advantage of those things,” she said. Haley House recently launched a delivery service, extending their reach to the North End.

Bringing revenue back to Nubian Square is a cooperative effort between businesses and community organizers.

According to Roxbury Main Streets Executive Director Robert George, “It’s going to take significant time before we start seeing the foot traffic in any business district, not just Nubian Square, as it was prior to COVID-19.”

George assumed the role just two months ago and has been working to provide businesses with the proper funds and personal protective equipment (PPE) to continue serving the square.

“We’re working with the Boston Main Streets Foundation and most of the businesses in the district to try and get them … points of sale equipment [and] websites so they can be more customer interactive,” he said.

George has also worked with the Office of Small Business Development to facilitate the funds and resources currently offered by the city.

“We were successful in getting two of the restaurants, Haley House and  Soleil, to get outdoor seating, to help stem the tide of losses and lost indoor seating space,” he said.

George said it’s clear that there’s a lot of civic pride in Roxbury, and he is currently strategizing with the Boston Main Streets Foundation on his long term goal: “To be able to have these businesses, [and a] more self-sufficient district by providing excellent services, goods and products … They can in turn employ individuals from the community.”

Thomas believes her work at Haley House is important to fostering consistent growth in the Nubian Square area, where she was raised.

“I remember this place for the past couple decades of just being a kid growing up here. And the amount of pride that I’ve seen displayed in the square isn’t something I’ve seen in a long time,” she said.

“A lot of what’s missing [now] is the hospitality,” she added. “So we’re doing what we can to make people feel as welcome as possible in person.”

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