Kevin and Lynn Smith have about the best breakfast in 02129 and beyond at the Grasshopper Café on Bunker Hill Street, but the owners said this week that keeping up with the restaurant business is tough and they’re ready to retire. And they’d like to do it at the Grasshopper, in a sense.
Kevin Smith, who owns the building, said he has been working since he was 14, and he and his wife would like to enjoy their later years in a smaller home without leaving Charlestown.
Smith said he is proposing to eliminate the commercial use on the site, demolish the existing building and replace it with a three-unit, four-story building that has ground-floor parking and a roof deck. He said he intends to live in one of the units, and might keep the other units in his immediate family.
“What we’re looking to do is downsize our lives a bit,” he said. “I’m just wanting to retire and stay in Charlestown. I’m not a developer where I’m coming in and trying to squeeze things in. I know some people are upset about losing the retail space. It’s the way of the world. In the 1970s and 1980s they got rid of a lot of that. It was a tough neighborhood. My wife and I want to enjoy this part of our lives, spend more time with our grandchildren and travel…My dad died when I was 14 and I went to work in Charlestown right then. I’ve been working ever since. I want to take a break now.”
That was all presented at a meeting on Tuesday night in the Grasshopper, which will close down for good as part of the plan. The restaurant was filled to capacity with neighbors, and those in attendance had concerns, but there weren’t any “fireworks,” as it was described.
Smith started the Grasshopper about 10 years ago, and said he and his wife built the business with their own two hands. Part of the issue is the escalating costs required to keep the doors open, something that has hit restaurants all over Boston.
“If I didn’t own the building, we couldn’t have afforded to keep the restaurant open with rents the way they are,” he said. “I built the restaurant up by myself with help from the City. If you had to keep this place open paying rent, with food costs and labor costs so high, it wouldn’t be possible. Those costs are through the roof. In the end, family is more important.”
Kevin and Lynn Smith are quite well-known for giving back to their community, and have been noted for many years in honoring students of the month from the Warren Prescott School, the Harvard Kent School and the Eliot School with free breakfasts at the Grasshopper. They’ve also quietly hosted fundraisers for those falling on hard times.
“We’ve done a lot for the community,” Kevin said. “I don’t look for publicity. I do it because that’s what we do in Charlestown. It’s just time for us to retire and enjoy life.”
After Tuesday’s meeting, Mayoral Liaison Quinlan Locke said they would continue to gather community input and work with the Smith family on any changes or ideas. The next step for the small project would be to schedule a date at the Zoning Board of Appeals, which he said they have not yet done.