Before finishing up her job as West Roxbury Main Streets Executive Director, Kara O'Connor answered some Patch questions about her time in West Roxbury, restaurants and more.
Patch: You started as the executive director for West Roxbury Main Streets in 2011, did the job end up being what you expected going into it?
O'Connor: I began working for WRMS in January of 2010. Having worked in fundraising and community relations at the West Roxbury YMCA for several years, I knew that West Roxbury was a great community. As with any new job, I was not entirely sure what to expect, but I felt strongly about supporting small businesses, and I loved the West Roxbury community, so I jumped at the opportunity to be the Main Streets Director. Working at WRMS has been a great experience. I have had the opportunity to be part of a lot of exciting things, from creating the Taste of West Roxbury from the ground up, to working with over 20 new businesses on everything from promotions to permits.
Patch: What was your favorite memory about being the executive director for West Roxbury Main Streets?
O'Connor: The Taste of West Roxbury is by far my favorite memory at WRMS. We had a great committee of volunteers who were a lots of fun to work with. To have 24 restaurants, and over 450 attendees at a first year event was amazing!
Patch: During your time there were a lot of food events like Burger Wars and the Taste of West Roxbury - are you a big foodie?
O'Connor: With over 30 restaurants, and six opening in the past two years, food events are a natural fit for West Roxbury. They are a great way to show our diverse array of restaurants and drive food traffic in West Roxbury. I definitely consider myself a foodie. I have eaten food from every restaurant in West Roxbury, and I always make an effort to support local restaurants instead to big chains.
Patch: What are your thoughts on Burger Wars and the Taste of West Roxbury?
O'Connor: WRMS is going to bring back Burger Wars again this year, and restaurants are already planning their winning burgers! As I said before, the first Taste of West Roxbury was my favorite memory from WRMS. The Taste is a great way for WRMS to utilize the Irish Social Club in the heart of our district, and feature West Roxbury’s restaurants. This year it is going to be held on May 9, get your tickets soon at www.wrms.org– it almost sold out last year.
Patch: Why do you think West Roxbury's business district has been able to maintain a high occupancy rate?
O'Connor: Our new businesses over the past few years have brought a diverse array of businesses to our district. The women-owned businesses of Fairview Corner brought much needed retail, as well as our new sports stores, Busted Knuckle and Wicked Sharp. Our new restaurants all feature something unique to the district, including barbeque, Mexican, and bahn mi. We also have an amazing group of business owners who support each other, as well as residents who are committed to keeping our business district vibrant and get out and support our local businesses.
Patch: You are going to be a Neighborhood Business Manager in the Office of Business Development at the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development - what will you be doing? And for what neighborhood?
O'Connor: In my new position I will continue to work with Boston Main Streets, as well as many other initiatives and programs designed to serve and support Boston's small business community. I have not heard what my neighborhoods will be yet, but I will be working on some city-wide initiatives.
Patch: You live in South Boston, but worked for the West Roxbury YMCA and West Roxbury Main Streets - are we going to see you in a West Roxbury position again in the future?
O'Connor: I am not sure what the future will bring, but I love the West Roxbury community and would welcome the opportunity to work here again someday.