Charles Street: A Bonanza of Stuff
By Ben Poser
Charles Street is one of the many highly historic and fascinating parts of Beacon Hill, dating back to the early nineteenth century. Today, part of it is a popular shopping street, stretching from the Starbucks at the corner of Beacon Street to the Beacon Hill Cleaners across from the Charles / MGH Red Line Stop. It is always packed with shoppers and tourists in the summer, but in the winter it is never deserted. People are always milling around, looking into the diversely furnished windows of a great variety of shops, from those of antique peddlers to leather workers. The entire street is a mish-mash of many different kinds of shops, catering to the desire, interest, or need of just about anyone, whether traveler or life-long resident (like me). It boasts numerous fashionable women’s clothing and jewelry stores, restaurants and delis, grocers, bars, repair and hardware stores, and maybe even more shops simply devoted to nick-nacks of every conceivable kind.
One particular place into which my group went which I have always found very interesting indeed is a store called Black Ink at 101 Charles. It could be said that it fits into the genre of “knick-knack” shops, but this place goes far beyond anything like that.
For example, among the many items for perusal are large LEGO figure heads which serve as pencil sharpeners, large rolls of thread spanning more than a dozen colors, wooden ink stamps (from which the establishment drew its name), rather odd greeting cards, books of Tintin comics, tea bowls, sock monkeys, “mapkins” (napkins with maps of Boston printed on them), probably every imaginable type and look of paperclip, plastic sushi and shrimp, assortments of silver and purple plastic tiaras, and — if I may say — mildly disturbing rubber baby dolls of many sizes which stare at the buyer with eyes a bit too large and eyelash-ed to be entirely right. Interestingly, the shop’s motto is “unexpected necessities” — therefore, I would be led to believe, these (mostly) fun but absurd objects might come in handy in some way eventually. I will admit that all my time living in Boston and frequenting Charles Street — and Black Ink since I was a child — I have never known the implication that such rubber babies could improve one’s life in any way. However, of course, the best thing about Charles Street is that if one finds a shop of a tea a bit stray of one’s cup, there’s always another one — though one does run the risk of it being a bit quirkier than the last.
photo by Ben Poser