By Seth Daniel
When Gerry Berberian started buying forgotten industrial land in Everett’s Village area on Air Force Road, not in the furthest reaches of his mind did he ever consider the area could become as popular as it has so fast – hosting things as trendy as breweries and as exotic as axe throwing.
In an interview with the Independent this week, Berberian talked about his investment in Everett and how it’s recently attracted some eye-opening possibilities.
“It’s really transformed and changed,” he said. “We have Metro Rock and SkyZone and now it looks like we’re going to have axe throwing. I thought they were crazy when they first contacted me. I looked it up and it’s a real thing that people do. They set up batting cages and like Norsemen, they throw axes. It’s the same thing. We believe that’s coming. That will probably be next to SkyZone.”
Beyond the odd, one very serious thing he said is how much promise the area has for so many years coming.
“I see nothing but growth,” he said. “Once we head for the Malden River, it’s nothing but growth. We have a lot of land back by the River and we don’t know what we’ll do with it yet. We’ll probably do residential back there, but we’re not there yet. One day we’ll do something. I see five or 10 years or more of growth here. With all the things that are going on, it’s going to attract a lot of people here.”
It’s a far stride from the prospects of the same plot of land when he first came to Everett more than a decade ago.
“I live on the South Shore and when I bought my first properties here in 2005, I would tell people there I was heading to Everett,” said Berberian. “Everett? Where is that? That’s what they would say. It was like a foreign land. Now when you say Everett, it’s different. They know that’s the place with the SkyZone and the breweries. People are now starting to see it’s a whole new world here. You’re going to get a lot of young professionals here. Instead of $5,000 a month in Boston, they’ll come here for $2,000 or $3,000. I think the whole world is going to change.”
Berberian grew up in Allston and worked in the family business, which was located in Charlestown. For years, they traveled the country and did special events producing specialized popcorn and popcorn machines. Eventually, the family phased out of that business and he and his brother began investing in commercial property in Charlestown. Soon, they wanted to expand, but felt Boston was too complicated.
So, they moved north to Everett.
They bought property in the Village, and they previously owned 3 Charlton St. on Lower Broadway, which was purchased by Wynn Boston Harbor. Like many of his other properties, Berberian and his son, who is a partner in the company, have scrapped together many innovative small businesses such as Bone Up Brewery, Night Shift Brewery, Short Path Distillery, the new Village Bar and Grill, Bit Fest arcade game restoration and even the Cumar boutique granite shop.
It’ a philosophy, he said, that often includes allowing them big discounts, sometimes deep rent cuts, and other such things in order to foster something fun and unique.
“I like small business,” he said. “I’m not into the big companies. We like to give these small business a start. We like to give them a small start to help them get up and going. It’s very hard for them. They maybe can’t afford a first, last and security deposit for a space, but they can work hard every day. I’ve never had to put anyone out.”
Berberian also stressed that his is a family business and hand’s on.
Nowadays, he contemplates where he is going to move certain uses – swapping people friendly businesses for industrial businesses and pushing to be able to get rid of the big trucks that frequent the street.
“We want to change some properties we have so we can move them to a more people friendly thing – like the rest of it,” he said. “We’d like to get some more arts and maybe another brewery so it spreads to people all around this area. Then, when everyone comes, they have a good three or four blocks to walk around.”
He credited Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the City’s Building Department. He said that he and the mayor and administration have the same vision – though they may be working at different paces.
“Hopefully, as the Parkway develops, and the casino opens, all the owners will continue to develop their properties and we’ll join in,” he said. “That’s what we like to do.”