Boston’s dining and retail scene is heating up in a big way this year. Our burgeoning dining scene has gained national attention for the many innovative chefs and restaurants already present in the Hub, and Boston’s retail scene is no less impressive with its long list of creative entrepreneurs, innovative ideas and growing companies.
We think it’s only right to celebrate all that this scene has to offer at this year’s 50 on Fire.
Which is why BostInno has culled down over 2,000 nominations to a list of around 200 much-deserving finalists – including 19 finalists in the Dining and Retail category. Trust us, this decision wasn’t easy. These finalists will go on to be reviewed by a panel of expert judges, who will then select the 50 winners for this year’s 50 on Fire event, taking place on December 4. All in all, there will be five winners chosen from the Dining and Retail category.
Here are the 50 on Fire Dining and Retail finalists:
Aeronaut Brewing Company: The Union Square microbrewery, founded by four local graduate students, opened in Somerville this summer to a sold-out grand opening celebration – and the brewery haven’t slowed down since. Besides being the first brewery to open in Somerville since the 19th century, Aeronaut Brewing Co. will also be the star of Mark Wahlberg’s new A&E reality series, “The Big Brew Theory.”
Boston Nightlife Ventures: The restaurant management and hospitality group oversees some of Boston’s best restaurants and their portfolio is only growing. This year, the group revamped The Tap, transforming the well-known Faneuil Hall Bar into The Tap Trailhouse. The group also opened the wildly popular and innovative South End speakeasy, Wink & Nod, which serves craft cocktails and hosts a culinary incubator program.
Colliers International: Colliers is well-known for being a leader in global real estate, and since its founding in 1897, has been a consistent leader in the leasing, sale and development of commercial real estate in New England. Just a few years ago, Colliers formed an Urban Leasing team with a specialty focus on dining and hospitality in the Boston area. So far, its Restaurant Practice Group has grown rapidly, brokering locations for Peet’s Coffee, Barcelona Wine Bar, Capital Grille, and more.
Converse: The well-known sneaker company, currently located in North Andover, will be moving its headquarters next April to Boston’s Lovejoy Wharf. The new headquarters will house over 400 employees. In addition to producing the signature Chuck Taylors, the company also launched Converse Rubber Tracks, a community-based professional recording studio, this past May in Boston. During summer 2014, the company partnered with artist Tristan Eaton to create a custom pedicab, which offered impromptu rides around the city to Bostonians.
CropCircle Kitchen: Since opening in 2009, the nonprofit culinary business incubator has helped to launch over 100 business in the Boston area, including some of Boston’s best restaurants and food trucks. It currently supports around 40 culinary entrepreneurs in its shared kitchen. This year, CropCircle Kitchen expanded into CCK Pearl, a 36,000 square foot production facility in Dorchester.
Drizly: This Boston-based company is making alcohol delivery to consumers, faster and easier with their free mobile app and e-commerce website. Founded in 2013 by three Boston College graduates, the company has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year, raising $4.8 million to expand into cities such as New York City, Denver, Chicago, LA, and Washington, D.C.
Emmi Sorokin: The men’s fashion stylist who’s been boosting Boston’s swagger for nearly a decade, is having quite the year. In the last 12 months, the successful business casual expert has released her successful book The Business Casual Survival Guide: 30 Looks for Men. The men’s stylist, brand ambassador and fashion consultant advises clients both in Boston and across the country on how to dress their best.
Jeremy Sewall: Without a doubt, Sewall is one of the most well-known chefs in New England. In addition to running the kitchens at both Lineage and Eastern Standard, Sewall is also Executive Chef and partner at both Island Creek Oyster Bar and Row 34. This year, Sewall’s Row 34 oyster bar was described by GQ as “The Bar Every Man Longs For” and made the magazine’s 2014 list of 25 Best Restaurants in America – not to mention a second Row 34 location is in the works. Sewall also released his first cookbook with Erin Byers Murray called, The New England Kitchen: Fresh Takes on Seasonal Recipes.
Harpoon Brewery: Founded in 1986, this South Boston brewery is now the twelfth largest craft brewery in the U.S., boasting 187 employees, collectively, between their Boston and Vermont locations. And after 28 years, the brewery still manages to push the envelope in the craft beer community. This fall, Harpoon Brewery announced their transition on August 1 to an employee-owned company (48 percent of the company’s shares were transferred from the shareholder group to the company’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan). The company stated in a release that the move would help “ensure the brewery’s independence and preserve Harpoon’s culture.”
Michael Scelfo: After working in various Boston kitchens, chef-owner Michael Scelfo opened his first restaurant, Alden & Harlow, in Harvard Square. Upon its debut, the restaurant quickly became a huge hit with Boston diners and critics, alike. The Boston Globe dubbed it a “standout” and Bon Appetit nominated Alden & Harlow as a Best New Restaurant of 2014.
New Balance: New Balance, the American footwear manufacturer, has been particularly focused on giving back to the community in 2014. This past September, the company launched New Balance Girls Night Out in Boston, New York, Santa Monica, Chicago and Falmouth, Mass. to help celebrate active and social women in the community. The company was also an official apparel partner for Head of the Charles Regatta and released a specialty New Balance shoe, the “Regatta,” in honor of the event’s 50th anniversary.
Richer Pour Wine Company: This Boston-based wine on tap company, founded by Brandy Rand and David Gordon, is changing the way Americans drink wine – one restaurant at a time. The company’s wine-on-tap technology now can now be found in over 100 bars throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Chicago. This year, Richer Pour also launched a boxed wine line dubbed the Tap Wine Box, available at Gordon’s, Kappy’s, Wine Emporium and Yankee Spirits.
Roger Berkowitz: Berkowitz may not be new to the Boston restaurant scene, but his take on the Legal Sea Foods brand is anything but old-fashioned. The CEO of Legal Sea Foods has managed to innovate and grow his already existing restaurant portfolio to encompass seven different Legal Sea Food brands – three of which opened this year. So far, the portfolio includes: Legal Sea Foods, Legal Test Kitchen (LTK), Legal C Bar, Legal Harborside, Legal Crossing (LX), Legal Oysteria in Charlestown, and Assembly Row’s new Legal on the Mystic.
Stacy Cogswell: Regal Beagle’s Executive Chef Stacy Cogswell (formerly of Upstairs on the Square) is quickly becoming a celebrity chef in Boston due to her likeability and culinary prowess on Bravo’s Top Chef. The local cheftestant joined the Season 12 cast of Top Chef Boston this year and has, so far, done exceptionally well. Along with plenty of national media attention, Cogswell has been featured in nearly every major Boston media outlet since making her debut on the show.
Tiana Haraguchi: Since Boutikey’s initial launch earlier this year, the 25-year-old CEO and founder has been changing Boston’s retail scene for the better. Her Boston-based mobile fashion app, which provides an online community for local boutiques and shoppers, has taken off like wildfire in the Hub. This fall, Boutikey also launched their full e-commerce site, which features collections from local boutiques where shoppers can purchase local boutique items all on one website.
Swirl: This fall, the Boston-based mobile marketing company, Swirl, launched the first programmatic ad exchange for proximity-based, in-store mobile marketing, dubbed the Swirl Ad Exchange (SWx). The SWx, powered by iBeacon technology, gives retailers a way to exchange private in store ads securely to shoppers through the iBeacon network. This past year, Swirl was also activated in Lord and Taylor and Hudson Bay stores throughout the country.
Wahlburgers: Wahlburgers, the Wahlberg family-owned burger joint and A&E reality show, has taken off like wildfire since its opening. Besides its celebrity owners and star status, the restaurant is also well known for its tasty frappes and fare. Plans are currently in the works for several new Boston-area locations, including Lynnfield and Fenway. And the chain is also planning a nationwide expansion, including three future locations in Las Vegas.
Wayfair: Founded by Niraj Shah and Steven Conine, this Boston-based home goods e-commerce company has become one of the largest online platforms for “all things home.” The company boasts more than 7 million products from over 7,000 suppliers. This year, Wayfair completed its IPO, a true landmark for the Boston tech scene. Wayfair priced its IPO at $29 a share. And given that company is now valued at over $2 billion and its IPO was the second largest in recent Boston tech history, there’s no doubt that the company is one of the most successful Boston startup stories of the decade.
19th Amendment: The online fashion platform allows up-and-coming designers to create a profile and portfolio, as well as sell their products directly on the website. This year, the fashion e-commerce platform not only snagged Kayak’s Paul English as an investor but they were also chosen to participate in this year’s New York Fashion Tech Lab’s Demo Day. This fall, the Boston fashion startup was accepted into the Friends of eBay NYC startup incubator, making it the first company to be accepted into both the Friends of eBay incubator and Pay Pal’s Start Tank.
Images via Wahlburgers, Boutikey, Richer Pour Wine, Emmi Sorokin, and Boston Nightlife Ventures