By Seth Daniel
Brynmore Williams and his girlfriend, Jessie, were happy renters in Somerville just over two years ago.
They never thought of owning a place, and were happy to pursue their creative lives in their arts community co-op apartment at the Brick Bottom building.
Then a funny thing popped up on Craig’s List – a unique old soda fountain pharmacy, once a branch library, that had been converted into a snazzy open-format loft.
And it was in Everett, a place they knew very little about.
“We were happy renting in Somerville,” said Williams. “We never thought of owning or that we could be looking for a mortgage. Then we saw this place on Craig’s List. I said, ‘That has to be a farce.’ Then we talked to a realtor from Rhode Island and she said we could look at it. We started taking a first-time homebuyer class and two weeks in we came to look at the place. We drove up over the Mystic River, and it didn’t seem that far so it wasn’t going to be a massive change that was going on. For us, it was ideal because we have a great loft space in the middle of a residential community with a park and a great community…We always tell everyone Everett is a City with a small town vibe. That’s what we’ve come to really enjoy about it.”
Now, two years later they are the proud owners of what they call the Coca Cola Loft on the corner of Bucknam and Locust Streets.
Last week, they celebrated two years in the space – a space that is notable due to the large and old Coca-Cola painted mural on the outside bricks of the building (hence the Coca Cola Loft).
“We are very happy to have been here two years,” he said. “We aren’t the type to own a house. But here, you have all the benefits of a house and a great loft space. You’re not stuck off in some far-away industrial area.”
And while the space as it currently exists is a shocking thing to walk into (Williams said most people come from the street and into the main entrance saying “Whoa, what is this?”), the couple has become far more interested in the history of the building and the community.
That has drawn Williams to Everett City Hall and the Library on many occasions, where he said he always leaves having made great friends. He added that dealing with Everett City Hall, whether for tickets or old records, has been one of the most pain-free City government experiences he’s ever had.
What he has learned is the building once housed Burnap Pharmacy and Soda Fountain back in the 1920s and perhaps before. It was owned by Philip Burnap.
Beyond that, it was also the West Everett Social Club, Dottie’s Donuts, and the first location of McLaughlin Upholstery (which is now on the Parkway).
Williams has scanned old resources in the Library and online, asked newfound friends at City Hall and even surveyed the long-time residents in the neighborhood.
What has ended up happening is that as exciting as the loft space is now, it’s history and past is just as exciting.
“There ended up being a lot of cool stories about what this was and the history behind it and the history of the neighborhood,” said Williams. “For us, it started as a great loft space, but now it is also something with character and history and a place still embedded in the memory of some folks in the neighborhood,” he said. “I went to the hardware store on Main Street and people could recall the old soda fountain and the library.”
And as a practical matter, Williams really enjoys the space, as it is helpful to him for his profession as a cinematographer. While he’s worked in the industry for two years full-time, he has had his foot in the business for over a decade – though he originally came to Boston from Barbados to pursue a pre-dental degree from Boston University.
He’s directed a number of memorable advertising works and commercial campaigns, and is currently working on a series for PBS called ‘Breaking Big’ that could appear next year.
His wife works at the Schrafft’s Center down the road in Charlestown for a small company that specializes in researching new HIV drugs.
When they’re not working, Williams said they are enjoying what Everett has to offer, which includes the newfound access to the Malden River and the Mystic River. In fact, one of the key selling points was the idea that they could load up their inflatable kayaks and walk down to the Malden River, and one day find a boat launch for easy access.
He also cited the Northern Strand Bike Trail, as well as the unique under the radar finds that only happen in Everett – such as the ‘Love Dog’ food truck that sets up late at night on the Parkway and draws a huge late-night crowd.
And as for the name, Williams said he and his girlfriend had to think of a way to help their friends and visitors find the place – since it doesn’t look like anywhere someone would live.
So, having a background in film and marketing, Williams hung his hat on the Coca-Cola mural and branded it the ‘Coca-Cola Loft.’
“One thing we quickly discovered was that it was difficult to find because if people looked up the address on their phones, it took them to the house across the street,” he said. “People were walking up and down the driveway of the neighboring houses looking for where we might be. So, we decided to use the Coca-Cola mural as a place market. We say just to look for the Coca-Cola Loft. That seems to have solved the problem. It’s a great marker and a fun name for this really unique space.”