Tribute to a beloved local business owner, John Magraw

In fall 2017, I was taking a course on journalism/new media and assigned to do a profile on a local business or attraction. Focus was especially given to places that had just opened, celebrated an anniversary, or preparing to close. I chose Unchained Pizza, a local takeout restaurant in my city that had reopened after shuttering for two years after severe snowfall collapsed their roof. I was fortunate enough to speak with John T. Magraw, the owner and general manager of the store. He was very kind and friendly to my family as well. I really appreciate people like him who are willing to speak with student journalists, despite the fact that many of these pieces we write are for the eyes of our professors, their teaching assistants, or classmates. Thus, articles like these are for very selective audiences and do not generate as much press (and therefore, consumers) as an interview with a big publication. Nonetheless, John treated this interview with much of the same respect as seasoned reporters from The Patriot Ledger or Boston Globe. Sadly, John passed away suddenly a few weeks ago, and I’m sharing this assignment in tribute to him. His establishment has remained closed since its owner’s demise, and its continuance is still in negotiation and undetermined. I hope John’s dream can be continued with the same panache and charm as what he brought to it. But more importantly, I pray for the solace of John Magraw’s family, friends, and colleagues. My words now or those from four years ago cannot change any outcomes, but I hope they show the world how he’d molded my own aspirations as well as his own. ~SD

Unchained Pizza Profile: Interview w/ John T. Magraw. October 4, 2017

Though the final days of summer loomed, the communities of West Quincy, Wollaston, East Milton and surrounding areas nonetheless found something triumphant as daylight hours dwindled—Unchained Pizza, a neighborhood cornerstone since 2010, had finally reopened.

The restaurant, located at 550 Adams Street in the West Quincy strip mall Adams Plaza, had been shuttered for two years after a top-heavy snow pile on the roof left the location unsafe for business in February 2015. The collapse additionally affected other businesses in the plaza, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, next door to Unchained to its left, and the UPS Store, adjacent on its right. The section was ultimately demolished and rebuilt, however, the section containing the plaza’s two other tenants, In Sync Center of the Arts and Walgreen’s, was saved with little need for renovations.

In the meantime, Walgreen’s customers were encouraged to visit their location on 418 Quincy Avenue in South Quincy. Those who desired a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts were directed towards the 545 Adams Street location in East Milton Square. Though it was not the only vendor who directed its patrons towards such area—the East Milton Post Office at 499 Adams Street provided UPS service to those who usually would have gotten it at Adams Plaza.

Though a majority of damage was composed toward the UPS location, Unchained was the last of the tenants to reopen after the snowfall. Walgreen’s and the In-Sync Center of the Arts reopened within a few months, with Dunkin’ Donuts returning shortly thereafter, coupled with the UPS store. John Magraw, owner of Unchained Pizza, suspects that notoriety of his neighbors provided swifter accommodations.

 “I feel a place like Dunkin’ Donuts, as a large chain, has a bit more pull and sway to reopen as opposed to a local pizza shop,” he said in a recent phone interview. He additionally noted that construction was done on an individual, store-by-store basis. He further cites insurance claims as an obstacle.

Eventually, progress prevailed after a year and a half. While Unchained still remained unable to utilize its Adams Street location, Magraw applied for a permit to open an alternate site on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester. The alternate location opened up in September 2016.

Additionally, frequenters were encouraged to sign up for the restaurant’s email newsletter. Once done, they were invited to VIP grand opening party at the new restaurant.

Though the approximate six-mile drive seemed burdensome for Quincy locals who are situated a few blocks away from Adams Plaza, “any port in the storm” seems an appropriate attitude for a community on the bay.

“People were going the Dorchester location until the Quincy one opened,” Magraw recalled. Indeed, community loyalty remains extraordinarily pronounced. The crowded dinner rush is noted, even as early as 5pm on a weekday.

Though pizza is the restaurant’s titular dish, other fare is quite prominent. Aidan DeBonis, a 16-year-old junior at Quincy High School, is especially keen on the macaroni and cheese bites.

“They’re so crispy, cheesy, and good,” he said.

Aidan’s father, Paul, works as a customer service agent at the MBTA. When he is positioned at any of the Quincy stations, he occasionally visits Unchained for lunch.

“I really like the salads there,” Paul said. “The chicken taco one especially. The chipotle ranch dressing is a nice touch.”

His daughters, Nora, 20, and Sheila, 21, are enthusiastic about trying every specialty pizza at its introduction. One of their favorites is the baja chicken, complete with chicken, bacon, and onions, garnished with a drizzle of barbeque sauce and chipotle dressing.

Their mother, Eileen Lawlor, is more simplistic. “I think a pizza should taste like a pizza,” she said. By this, she means the marinara and cheese should not be overpowered by other things.If given a choice between any specialty, she opts for the Margharita. Otherwise, single-topping is much more desired, with mushroom being her favorite.

Additionally, due to the success the restaurant had achieved during the five years prior to its hiatus, the definition of community became increasingly broad. Testimonials accumulated far and wide.

“We miss our favorite pizza place even though you don’t deliver to Hough’s Neck,” wrote Shirley B., a customer who resides in the southeast peninsula of the city, during the restaurant’s prolonged closure. “It’s worth the car trip for pick up. Hurry back.”

Though their customer base does not only span within the opposite ends of the city. The user locations of Yelp reviews alone provide some insight. A few hail from Boston, Brookline, Elmwood, Medford, Hingham, and Bridgewater. Though this list does not consider the reviews coming from out of state, such as Rochester, NY; Pasadena, CA; Medford, OR; or Pawtucket, RI. One visitor was even from Canada.

The owner notes a warm embrace from his usual customers despite the obstacles. One would never suspect the restaurant had been out of commission for so long.

“My biggest takeaway from all of this is that business has picked up again really quickly with little to no marketing,” Magraw said. After a brief of pause to consider, he reveals an admission. “Well, I suppose social media and word-of-mouth contributed, but that’s really it.”

Though business has restarted thus far with little official commemoration, there will eventually be a ribbon cutting, planned with assistance by the Quincy Chamber of Commerce. Further, the restaurant requires one last grill installation, which is currently in process.

“As of now, we’re really trying to master what we’ve got going on and focus on the necessities,” Magraw asserted.

Unchained Pizza is located along the Furnace Brook, at the corner of Adams Street and Alrick Road. For further information, visit unchainedpizza.com.

You are never too fortunate to ask for emotional help.

I dedicate this to anyone who thinks their wealth, health, or success negates them from seeking counsel or psychotherapy.

Maybe you live or originate in developing land. Many areas are stricken with poverty or conflict. You, however, are wealthy. You come from wealthy elders, and are able to travel, maybe even outside your origins. You are educated, and see beyond dated tradition. You may still be faithful, but added nuances like procreation, diets, lifestyle, or appearance aren’t imperative to being such. Likewise, you are still aware of the strife that surrounds you, and while you haven’t experienced it, your friends and neighbors may have had to deal with it. You are sorry for them, and do sometimes worry about this. Maybe you even had a brush of misfortune. The family business almost had to be sold, you almost had to go into foster care, you were nearly hit by an explosive, you had a pregnancy scare, you were betrothed to a wealthy, untoward acquaintance, but you were lucky and got out of it.

Still, even though it didn’t happen to you, or even though it happened to someone else near you, it still hurts. You still deserve counselling, empathy, and solace. Please don’t think you’re too rich, too wealthy, too successful, too able, or too non-marginalized for therapy. You still deserve contentedness and love.

Hi

I miss you. Still do. Always will. Would be easier if I didn’t, and we both know it. But here we are.

I still wish you the best, and I hope you do the same for me. Hope we can reconnect one day. Whenever that day may be. But work on yourself. I won’t be in your way now.

Don’t be afraid of how we left things. I was hurt by you, but I hold no grudge for it. I did apologize for what I’ve done several times. I know you accepted, but my actions still haunt and upset you. But don’t let that cloud your perception of me and all the good memories we shared.

I still love you and I support you.

Interviewing employees from struggling, bankrupt, or defunct retail companies

As I may have written about here, I worked in a struggling department store within the last two years, and when applying for other jobs, prospective employers would often get distracted by my company’s name and the recent turmoil it had endured.

I’m working on an article that will be featured on Medium about what I wish employers knew when interacting with employees of our background and connections, and how they can make us more comfortable opening up about our skills. In short, using my perspective, I want to help people be better bosses, leaders, and recruiters instead of overwhelming us with complaints or perspectives we’ll all heard before.

Does anyone have any advice about stuff I should mention? Also, please get in touch if you’d like to be interviewed. I am also going to tag some companies which I will have in mind as I write this.

Still…

You’ve told me time and time again you’re not ready. You care for me and appreciate my own care to an extent. But I know my care can be smothering. I am sorry for not giving you space despite our distance. But please, be direct and say when my unloading is upsetting you, or you just don’t feel like talking. The only reason I confided in you was because I trusted you. I never expected you to have all the answers. Nor did I ever expect you to continue to listen to me drone on. Please let me know when to change the subject, and I’ll gladly oblige. I’ll gladly make changes, and I already had. You had too. I’d halt myself from getting too dismal, and you’d begun to tell me directly when you were uncomfortable. Change was minimal, but I wish you could really see the progress.

I really miss you, and I bet you miss me. I think of you a lot as we approach the month of your birth. Likewise, I did want to reach out again months ago, but was displeased to see I was barred from accessing you through several communication outlets. Even searching your name in a directory or search engine is too much for me. I’d love to find other ways to connect with you, but not if it isn’t what you want. Since you were the one to stop this, you’ve left it in your own hands to be the one to restart it. Please, do not feel perturbed to do this. I have forgiven you and have no respite at all. Sometimes I think you wish I did, and I had, but grudges just hinder our fortitude. I stopped being angry because I know you are going through significant challenges just as everyone else. Further, I understand my presence in your life presents a duality that you can’t confront just yet. Please know that whenever you are ready to restart our friendship, I will be here with open arms.

I love you…still.

I will

I will do better,

I will be better,

I will get more,

I will get respect.

I will get appreciation.

I will get validated,

I will love others.

Others will love me.

~ This is a positive affirmation I wrote to myself more than a year ago on a piece of receipt paper during a particularly stressful day working as a saleslady in a department store. It’s a very crumpled and stained paper, and it’s in my crummiest handwriting. Though I thought the message was good, and I need to remind myself of these certainties as often as possible. So I’m preserving this message here before I get rid of the paper.

A vivid dream

You were in my dream last night. My brother had told my mom and I that my sister was talking to you, seated across from one another at a small dining table in what seemed to be a restaurant, on an outside patio. My brother, mother and I were seated in a dining booth. I can’t remember if my father were present.

I walked over to your table, and somehow got the impression my sister liked you more than I did. I approached you meekly, as we’ve been noncommunicative for far too long, and I worried you were still cross, and continue to urge me to forget you. But you were your true self–your best self–and just as kind to me as the moment we began texting. You were funny, smart, charming, appreciative, and sympathetic.

I may have mentioned the argument you initiated, the one I didn’t want to end until it had graduated into a compromising moral. You may have apologized, may have said it was a rough time at that moment, and you don’t hold it against me. I may have even seen you take out your phone, find my name in that messaging service, and remove the block on me. All or part of that could have happened, but I’m uncertain; you know how fuzzy dreams can get.

Then we walked along a field, and I think my family accompanied us, loosely. You began to look different. Your hair got longer, and you wore it in a bun at the back of your head. Then your nose got crooked. Then maybe your beard grew out, maybe your skin lightened or darkened–I don’t fully remember, it was a dream. I felt unsure if you were the same person, even though you were still handsome and had a similar personality. I was unsure if I could recognize you as the same individual. Then the dream ended.

I don’t know what this means, but it made me hopeful that you might be thinking of me, missing me, and forgiving me, maybe changing for the best. To certify this optimism, when I got dressed this morning, I put on the same shirt I had worn the last time we met in person.

Resolutions

ReadytoFloat! ¡Lista para Flotar!

resolution # 1,003 :: junejordan

I will love who loves me
I will love as much as I am loved
I will hate who hates me
I will feel nothing for everyone oblivious to me
I will stay indifferent to indifference
I will live hostile to hostility
I will make myself a passionate and eager lover
in response to passionate and eager love

I will be nobody’s fool

from Haruko/Love Poems

https://poetrying.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/resolution-1003-june-jordan/

Resolution – Time of Insurgence Reflections 2021

I do love the world.
I do find love and joy around the shadowy corners and even the brightest sun-drenched places where only bugs and cacti dwell
I do not believe in keeping hate in my heart. 
I feel ill like Superman to kryptonite.
Those who feel such have no place in my life.
Those who pay me no mind or forget me may someday find their way back,
be they…

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