During the 80 or more years that Chelsea Floor Coverings has been on the corner of Everett Avenue and Chestnut Street, they’ve amassed a list of clients that is quite impressive.
From hotels to hospitals to universities to regular Chelsea homeowners, they pretty much have serviced everyone.
At least that’s what they thought until last week.
That one client they’d never served in their store was Hollywood, but over the past month they’ve actually been hosting Hollywood’s Columbia Pictures in their storied store.
“I am never surprised by the clients we get and service because we have a good reputation built up over many years, but I have to say, I never thought we’d be doing business with Columbia Pictures and actually renting out our storefront to them for a movie,” said Bradley Rosen, the current manager of the operation.
Then there’s Les Rosen, the second generation owner and a son of the company’s founder, Lewis Rosen. He’d thought he’d seen it all in his many years working in Chelsea…until last week.
“I never, never thought this would happen,” he said, with co-owner and his brother, Richard Rosen, nodding as he spoke. “It’s a totally new experience. It’s interesting to watch them filming it. You sometimes think they are disorganized, but they’re not. They’re all on the radios and in contact constantly. The mechanics are overly meticulous about their work. It’s been a tremendous experience.”
What has happened over the last two months or so is that the front, old retail portion of Chelsea Floor Coverings – which has fronted the family business since some time in the 1920s – has been painstakingly converted into a fake coffee shop for the Denzel Washington movie, ‘The Equalizer.’
Called the Bridge Coffee Shop (established in 1954), more than 20 carpenters worked tirelessly to transform the old retail counter into a dirty, old-looking cafe located under the Tobin Bridge. All of the big stars in the show, including Washington, have been on set for the last two weeks filming inside the new “cafe” that is now enclosed with a big white tent to control lighting. A full movie set crew and control panel has been set up on Cross Street and Chelsea Police officers stop traffic frequently on Everett Avenue and Chestnut Street when filming is underway.
Long-time employee Pat Smallwood said Chelsea Floor Coverings has been doing business with movie productions for the last 15 years, every since Hollywood started to warm up to Boston and the state’s lucrative Film Tax Credit program.
“They came in here about 15 years ago looking for linoleum and some specialty flooring and we had it and got it to them quickly and they liked that,” he said. “Not every place you go has specialty commercial-grade flooring in stock – cork, rubber and other stuff. The next thing you know we were selling to all of the movies.”
Added Bradley, “They like things quick and we do quick.”
And that’s another piece of the equation that has helped Chelsea businesses such as Chelsea Floor Coverings and others, like Kirshon Hardware – who supplied all the paint and no small amount of skill in converting the new “Bridge Coffee Shop.”
Barry Kirshon told the Record that he has been the paint supplier for most of the movie productions in Massachusetts since 2007. He said most movie productions use only Benjamin Moore paints, and his store’s willingness to deliver paint has won favor with Hollywood. For that reason, Kirshon said he has become a tireless advocate for keeping the Film Tax Credit – which often comes under fire from Gov. Deval Patrick.
“We’ve had to hire one extra employee because of all the extra work and deliveries,” he said. “The extra business is really good. When there was a downturn in the economy, it kept us even. We didn’t falter or have any major dips mostly because of that added business. They like Benjamin Moore paints and they don’t like Home Depot paint…They don’t give the people credit cards to run up. They have to open house accounts with us and I accommodate that. They always run up a pretty good bill and then they do pay it.”
Kirshon said it has been interesting in helping out to create a coffee shop in the front of Chelsea Floor Coverings. He said the challenge was to build something brand new, and then have to go in and make it look old and dirty using faux finish techniques.
“It’s been exciting for the community and the business community,” he said. “I think it’s great publicity for Chelsea.”
Meanwhile, Bradley Rosen said the expanded movie opportunity for his building came about six months ago.
“A location scout from Columbia Pictures came in and said, ‘How would you all like to take a month off so we can film a movie?'” he said. “I said, ‘I’m listening.’ He said that they really liked our building for their ‘Equalizer’ movie and wanted to know if they could rent it for an extended period. We struck a deal and it’s been pretty exciting to watch it all happen.”
He said they see Denzel Washington all the time and several other stars – as well as their stunt-doubles. There was even a scene, he said, where they filmed a fight scene outside the “coffee shop” under the Tobin Bridge.
For the most part, though, business has gone on as usual in the other portions of the Chelsea Floor Covering business.
Tiles, carpet and linoleum still have to get to job sites, and regular customers need their orders so that life can go on – movie or no movie. That’s the same story that’s been told at the corner for some 80 years…perhaps.
“I really don’t know how long we’ve been in business,” said Les Rosen. “My father started the business and he didn’t know when. We thought it was somewhere around 1929, but that’s honestly just a guess. My father never kept accurate records so we just don’t know.”
What is known is that the two brothers, Les and Richard, took the business from more of a local retail establishment to one of the go-to floor covering businesses in all of Greater Boston. Their list of clients is quite impressive even today.
They frequently opened at 5 a.m. and worked until there was nothing left to do.
“They really worked their tails off,” said Bradley. “These guys are really to be respected. They built this business up with really, really hard work.”
Bradley took the reins some time ago – though Les and Richard are not and will not retire – and he said they’ve kept relevant by changing with the times.
“I think we’ve survived because we’ve changed with the times,” Bradley said. “We do quite well with the ethnic communities, whether Spanish, Vietnamese or any other group. We appreciate their business and they know it.”
However, one business they won’t be in anytime soon is the coffee shop business – despite the hordes of people who have came into the store looking for donuts and coffee during the construction of the movie “coffee shop.”
“The movie people wanted to know if we wanted to keep it or tear it down when they were done,” said Les. “We had them tear it down. We have no desire whatsoever to open a coffee shop. No donuts here. No coffee here. We sell high-end flooring, very expensive stuff with good profit margins. Do you know how many cups of coffee I would have to sell to equal that? No way.”
Cutline – ‘BridgeCoffeeShop
Movie crews from ‘The Equalizer’ have been filming steadily for nearly two weeks in the front of the Chelsea Floor Covering building on Everett Avenue and Chestnut Street. Prior to stars like Denzel Washington arriving, carpenters and painters busied themselves in creating the meticulously-designed cafe called the ‘Bridge Coffee Shop – Since 1954.’
Chelsea Floor Covering owners (left to right) Richard Rosen, Bradley Rosen and Les Rosen have done business with just about every major institution, from Logan Airport to Chelsea homeowners, over the years, but hosting a full Columbia Pictures movie crew has been one new customer they never anticipated.