Find The Allston Mall
by Scott Hefflon
There is a place, 107 Brighton Ave. in Allston, that is much more than it appears to be.
Just up and around the corner from Local 186, or just down the street from Allston Beat HQ, there is a mall unlike the fluorescent and mirror chain store malls you see everyday. Rather than garish entrances of sliding glass doors with pressure sensitive mats and strategically placed shrubbery, there is merely a door. It used to be a fading forest green door with the simple title, 107, but now it’s been painted yellow. And I mean yellow.
People may remember it for the funky lil’ shop Primal Plunge that used to be there. That shop is no more, unfortunately. The mall used to house the offices of Quimby magazine. They sponsored free-for-all drawing workshops and other events. They even had G.G. Allin play in house. And yes, as expected, he crapped on the floor. G.G. Allin is dead, for better or for worse. Quimby magazine folded and is no more, unfortunately. Allston Beat’s humble origins were in this mall. Their outlet store is now up the street and they’ve got how many stores now? So we’ve got one success story and a history of legendary stores that rest in peace.
So what’s going on in the Allston Mall now? There are a few new shops open and each takes advantage of the freedoms inherent is this rare kind of set up. The atmosphere as a whole is almost dorm-like. As you browse from one room to the next, you find the owners of the others shops doing the same. The Allston Mall is a much needed alternative approach to the retail world of Boston.
Rites of Passage
Rites of Passage body piercing by Joe J. has two very different worlds divided by a curtain. The waiting room is a veritable gallery of African and Oceanic art. The masks, statues and hangings in the reception area are from Joe’s collection of tribal art he’s collected from around the world.
Behind the curtain is Joe’s piercing studio. It’s comfortable in a very different sense than the waiting area. It conveys the safe atmosphere of a doctor’s office and assures you that you’re in the hands of a trusted professional. The piercing is done in compliance with all health regulations and to hospital sterilization standards. Joe J. has been piercing for three years, the last of which was at Hubba Hubba. He was trained by Fakir Musafar in San Francisco who is responsible for many of the techniques of modern body modification. To many in the field, he is considered a guru. When asked about the name of the shop, Joe explained, “Body modification is not just a trend, it’s a form of expression that’s been performed for centuries in many cultures. It’s meant to be a spiritual experience and a rite of passage.”
Bibliodrome is an ulterior book and periodical shop. It is also the only store in New England carrying Los Angeles County Department of the Coroner merchandise. The spring line includes T-shirts, beach towels, coffee mugs, and toe tags. The summer line may include hats and book bags, but we’ll see. The shop specializes in a wide range of underground press – “We’ll scratch your niche.” The periodicals include a good selection of skin art and body modification as well as movie and rock ‘n roll magazines. To name a few: Spun, Roller Derby, Horny Biker Slut, Dog Soup, Murder Can Be Fun, Answer Me, and Fuck Magazine. Sigourney Street, proprietor, is supportive of local talent and carries the work of local artists and writers. The book selection includes titles from Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Rollins, Marquis de Sade, and Anne Rice. For true underground literature you can’t find in your local bookstore, try Bibliodrome.
Underworld Comics is not exclusively a comic shop; it’s interest is in multi-media entertainment, as a name change this summer will indicate. While still in the early phases of the vision, Underworld carries model kits, toys, and action figures, T-shirts, posters and rents video games and animation. The model kits are not just the standard car, tank, and airplane sort, but import Jap robots, space ships, and Resin kits including detailed Evil Ernie, Predator, Terminator and Alien Queen kits.
The toys and action figures are the latest from comic and animation heroes, including the Star Trek line and X-Men figures. Seeing as how Underworld is coming from a completely different angle than most comic shops, we discussed the broader range of interests. Troy (of the Troy and Shirley team) stated, “Most comic shops are geared toward retail of comics to men 14-35. We carry books of interest to women and the non-comic reader, like graphic novels. They’re great for the general reader who want to read the whole story arc without having to pay inflated prices for each consecutive issue.” That’s not to say they don’t have back issues and current stock, including many mature reader books. Beyond the restrictions of regular comic shops, Underworld brings interactive entertainment to Boston.
B.C. Amps owner Bill Clarke (hence the B.C.) is a connoisseur of vintage tube amps. It’s actually more of a love affair with the warm sounds produced by a well cared for amp. “People bring me their equipment and want me to modify or soup it up. It’s just a matter of bringing it back it’s original, intended sound. It’s not magic, it’s knowing the many subtle differences that greatly affect the sound.” While discussing the past, present, and future of tubes, we ranged from tales of tracking that nigh impossible part to speculating the changes when “the well runs dry” and the limited supply of old American tubes is gone and everyone is forced to buy Russian or Chek tubes. While he admittedly has not achieved Guru status (is that like a merit badge?), he’s a self-proclaimed amp geek, and to who else would you trust your baby?
88 Room is the senior occupant of the Allston Mall. For six years the space has had installations from local artists and offered the community a small scale museum of local talent. Now operating as a non-profit organization, 88 Room’s sole proprietor, Andrew Guthrie, is trying to avoid the connotations of an art gallery. He says, “I’m more interested in fostering a community and creating a dialogue between artists than treating their work like a commodity. I don’t have price lists, I merely refer people to the artists.” The installation running until April 30th includes “Blue Bell Research,” a parody of our TV habits. It’s video surfing your favorite cable channels with an attention span of no more than 30 seconds. Also showing is Allyson Sreafella’s “Between Here and There” and Sheila Pepe’s work from the “Doppelganger Series”. This summer there is to be a big showing of painting and photography. While these are more traditional mediums, I trust the approach to installation to give it it’s character.
The Allston mall is an arrangement of retail and semi-retail shops the likes of which you just do not see in this fraidy-cat market. Each of the spaces in the mall are occupied by conceptualists rather than store clerks, knowledgeable professionals rather than sales staff. Once you find 107 Brighton Ave, you’ve stumbled into a relaxed and personable retail experience that in itself is hard to find.