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The day after the Boston Marathon bombings: Small businesses' stories

Crystal Cobb Collier tends flowers at Fern, which opened Tuesday.

Howie Rubin, general manager of Bauer Wine & Spirits 

The Fairy Shop closed about 20 minutes after hearing, feeling and smelling the explosions.

Dozens of Boston blocks are locked down so investigators can pick through bombing evidence in the triangle-shaped crime scene. But just outside borders of that triangle, small businesses are reopening. They’re unlocking their doors because they feel a deep connection and obligation to the community that houses them.

Transit and traffic difficulties have convinced many to steer clear of the area near the attacks, meaning fewer people walking around. The drop in pedestrians gives the area the feel of a college town when students are on break: Not empty, but tangibly lacking.

Just outside the police barricades are the pleasant and stately grounds of the Christian Science Plaza. On most sunny days like Tuesday, people lounge around the gardens and hear chirping birds, so long as they aren't too close to the Massachusetts Avenue traffic. But today the birds also competed with the sound of police helicopters overhead.

Among the businesses along Massachusetts Avenue that opened was a flower shop called Fern.

Crystal Cobb Collier was sweeping up as she recalled Monday’s events. Through the store windows, she saw people both fleeing the blast and running toward it to help. Staffers weren’t sure if their street would be accessible Tuesday, but once they knew it would open, the owner decided the store would too. But few customers came through.

“It’s been a slow morning,” Collier sighs.

It’s the same story for a lot of businesses nearby. None of them expressed surprise. Collier says that one reason to open in the face of slow sales is to be there for special transactions that occur without words or money. She described a man wearing his marathon jacket who stepped into the shop today. He said and bought nothing, merely leaning in to inhale the floral aroma.

“I guess he was just taking in that moment to thank God he made it through another day,” Collier says. “I didn’t say anything; I just kinda let him take that moment.”

A florist is a rare kind of business that serves people at their most joyous and darkest moments. Monday’s attacks turned one into the other. Flowers that might have graced bouquets for triumphant runners now await service in a memorial arrangement.

Massachusetts Avenue connects with Boylston Street, where the bombs exploded. But just beyond that is the quirky shopping of Newbury Street. Open for business Tuesday was Bauer Wine & Spirits, a business dating to the mid '60s. In normal years, the marathon’s aftermath was filled with popping corks. But there’s no such thirst this year.

“They’re not celebrating,” says general manager Howie Rubin. “I don’t think we’re gonna sell any champagne for a while.”

Just a block off the blast site, Newbury Street wasn’t guaranteed to be accessible today. But once Rubin found out it was, he decided to open. He says customers come in wanting to talk about their experience. And he wants to make sure they can gather over a drink if they prefer.

“You’ve gotta get life back to normal after something like that,” he explains. “People do want to get together with their friends and try and resume life as they knew it as quickly as they can.”

The Fairy Shop is near the wine store and closer still to the blast site. Michael Selletto closed about 20 minutes after hearing, feeling and smelling the explosions. The eclectic, fantasy-focused store has loyal fans, who thanked him for opening and providing an otherworldly escape from the week’s events. He shrugged off the possibility of slow sales this week when he decided to reopen.

“Bringing a little magic into the world,” he says. “That’s really what drives me.”

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.

Howie Rubin, general manager of Bauer Wine & Spirits 

The Fairy Shop closed about 20 minutes after hearing, feeling and smelling the explosions.

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