Brian McGrory

Another look at the T store

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / March 9, 2011

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Some people enter the scene with a gale force, straining to be heard in a time and place where the volume is always high. Others are like a gentle breeze, something to be enjoyed and for that reason, remembered.

And so it was that Steven Beaucher sent an e-mail last week on what was shaping up as something less than an ideal day for him and his business.

The public was seething over what has been a disastrous winter for the MBTA, a season that culminated when a commuter train took four hours to travel from Boston to Worcester, which sources say is only about an hour away. On the day in question, the delay was the subject of a front page story, yours truly offered suggestions for souvenirs the MBTA could sell in the online store it plans to launch by June, and hundreds of readers submitted their own MBTA T-shirt slogans to My new choice: “EvenTually.’’

The assumption, my assumption anyway, was this new outsourced T store was bankrolled by a bunch of suits in a faraway office park who, in turn, were paying Asian villagers $2 a day to make ill-fitting tees and toss-away trinkets that would lead to a future Globe Starts & Stops column headlined, “T holds fire sale on shuttered online venture.’’

Enter Steven Beaucher, gently so. He sent an e-mail that began, “Good morning,’’ and ended, “Sincerely,’’ and in between, he explained that his Cambridge-based, family-run business is behind the T merchandise. “I rely on the MBTA on a daily basis and am excited that my company can contribute what it can to the financial well-being of the T,’’ he wrote.

He then invited me to his Mass. Ave. shop, WardMaps, run by him and his brother, Brian, to see the T merchandise he has begun selling ahead of the online store. I got over there as fast as humanly possible, meaning I didn’t take the T.

Beaucher was as gracious in person as he was in writing. His store was at once quaint and inviting, with hardwood floors and towering walls lined with prints, maps, and high-end posters, many with a transit theme.

“We all have a love-hate relationship with our transit agency,’’ Beaucher said. “We’re trying to create something positive.’’

Of course, there are T mugs, but they’re bold and stylish at upwards of $10 apiece. The $20 T-shirts are clean and contemporary, either in black or white, with a simple T logo. Beyond that, there are mouse pads with replicas of old T passes, pillows with old T photographs, journals with old T route maps on the covers. There is a moody artist’s rendering of the region’s relationship with the T, in the form of a print of Boston landmarks, and below them, amid tree roots, a route map.

Years ago, you’ll recall, the T opened a store, sold ridiculous schlock, and failed. This time, it has contracted everything out, gets a cut of anything sold, and is urging a sense of style. To that end, Beaucher disappeared into the back of his store and returned with a relic from the former store, a white crewneck with the slogan, “In Boston, this is a T shirt.’’

“We all mutually agreed: Don’t make that,’’ Beaucher said.

“We’re designers,’’ Beaucher said of himself and Brian. “I’m an architect. We’re setting a high bar for design.’’

Which might explain the T station sign replicas — beautiful steel signs for Haymarket or Arlington or anywhere else. “You want Forest Hills, boom, we’ll make it for you,’’ Beaucher said. Probably on time, too.

No, the Beaucher brothers can’t make the trains run on time. But they might make you feel a lot more stylish while you’re waiting through yet another delay.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at