Jamaica Plain

New mural adds the spice of life to local grocery
By Diana Schoberg

Hi-Lo Foods, 415 Centre St., has been in business for 40 years.

The front of the Hi-Lo Foods supermarket in Jamaica Plain will be getting a fresh coat of paint this summer.

Only this time, the paint won’t be gray.

The city of Boston’s Mural Crew, in conjunction with the Hyde/Jackson Square Main Streets, plans to give the Centre Street building a colorful facelift.

In the heart of Jamaica Plain’s “Latin Quarter,” Hi-Lo Foods caters to a Latin American and Caribbean clientele. Brightly colored crepe paper and flags hang from the ceiling above 20-pound bags of rice stacked over 6 feet tall. Five varieties of a starchy tropical tuber known as malanga or yautia, especially popular in Cuba and Puerto Rico, join the standard fare of peppers, lettuce and carrots. Snippets of Latin music float from the back room.

“The mural would tie into that,” explained Bill Jordan, the store’s owner. After 40 years in business, he says it’s time to make the outside as colorful as the inside. “It’s an old store. We want to upgrade.”

The mural on the back of the building, originally painted 20 years ago by a Puerto Rican artist, was refinished last year by the Boston Mural Crew.

Last year, the Mural Crew, an arm of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, repaired a mural on the backside of the Hi-Lo Foods building. That mural, one of Boston’s oldest, was painted 20 years ago by Rafael Rivera Garcia, a Puerto Rican artist flown in to create the mural in honor of Dorado, Puerto Rico, Boston’s sister city at the time. It depicts three gods of the indigenous Tiano people of the Caribbean, explained Valerie Grabiel, director of Hyde/Jackson Square Main Streets.

The new Hi-Lo Foods mural will be the eighth in the three-quarter mile stretch of Centre Street that makes up the Hyde/Jackson Square Main Streets district. In addition to reflecting the community’s residents, the murals deter graffiti and help keep local businesses clean and fresh, Grabiel said.

“Murals are an amazing promotional tool,” Grabiel explained. “They mark in a passers-by mind that a business is there.”

The city’s Mural Crew has painted more than 100 murals since its inception in 1991. The city pays for the labor – crews of high-school age kids from across the city – while the business receiving the mural pays the cost of materials such as paint, brushes and scaffolding. In addition to the Hi-Lo mural, plans are in the works to adorn walls in Roxbury and Mission Hill this summer.

“[Murals] bring attention to places people might not have known,” said Heidi Schork, director of the Mural Crew program. “Murals give the impression that people care about what’s going on in the neighborhood.”

Table made from data compiled by the Policy Development and Research Division, City of Boston Dept. of Neighborhood Development; Source: Census 2000 demographic data for block groups adjacent to Hyde Sq./Jackson Sq. Courtesy of Hyde/Jackson Square Main Streets.

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One police officer's memories of changes in Hyde Square over the past 30 years.


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