I did an interview on March 20th at Plum Crazy on Plum Island to report on their recent opening. The more I learned over there and in researching at home the more interesting the story became.
The story idea was suggested because that store site had been vacant for a number of years.
The owner (Kurt Littlefield) and his partner/manager (Trish Cram) were very cooperative despite being in the midst of a setting where finishing work was still going on.
One point that Kurt made very clear to me was that the neighbors were very excited to have a restaurant/convenience store opening up. That got me started in trying to figure out why the neighbors would have such an unusual attitude. Living near Fruit Street, I know that pulling out a paintbrush can result in neighborhood hysteria.
My research got me reacquainted with the name, Jeanne Geiger. I recalled reading about her death (in 2005) but hadn’t thought much about her in any context since then.
Starting in 2003 I dare say that anyone living on Plum Island knew her very well. Supposedly, the New York resident visited PI and fell in love with it. Not only did she fall in love with the place but with the help of husband Julian (CEO of Aeropostale) decided to buy as much of PI as she could.
The long range plan was to turn PI into a resort that her wealthy friends from New York would be comfortable at. Property would be bought and eventually given a makeover into a common theme.
You would have assumed that the PI locals would turn her down flat when she came trying to buy property that wasn’t even for sale in some cases. But this was a woman who believed that everyone has a price. She spent $10,000,000 to get 16 PI residential and commercial properties in two years.
PJ’s Variety was one of the buys. It was an island center for the locals – food and talk were served up in big doses. Shortly after buying the place she had it closed down and shuttered. That didn’t please the locals.
Jeanne Geiger died suddenly in February 2005 from a second-story fall from the PI hotel she had purchased. What PI would look like now if this hadn’t happened would not be something the locals would wish to think about. This was a lady in her 50s with plenty more money to use than the $10 million she had already spent.
Anyhow, with her out of the mix, the curiosity was over what would become of the property she had bought and the plans she had for those properties. Her husband, Julian, didn’t have the fire in his belly to do much as far as more buying was concerned.
He put PJ’s up for sale and Kurt bought it in June 2008 and has been rehabbing it ever since. He now lives on the island. He has a day job in Waltham as the VP of information technology at a dialysis company.
It has been a long trip to my point that the locals were cheering Kurt on when he bought PJ’s because, I suspect, that in their heart of hearts this signified the turning of the tide against the big spending Geigers from New York. The PJ buy would mean that at least one commercial property would belong to someone who actually lived on PI.
I think that Kurt sensed the wave of support early and that made the trip out into the neighborhood for feedback a likely success, which it was. Kurt also hired an artist to do several murals of local scenes that represent PI for the interior of Plum Crazy. I saw them and they are very nice.
They raised the ceiling and have several skylights. It is very bright. I picture PJ’s as having been a low-ceilinged, dark spot.
Kurt agreed with me that the place’s biggest problem will be parking or lack of same. There is room for 44 restaurant patrons but I can’t fathom how that many folks would have room to park. Maybe that’s where being on the good side of the neighbors will help.
Plum Crazy is located halfway to the lighthouse on the right-hand side of Northern Boulevard.
I have done a separate article on Plum Crazy. It is scheduled to appear in The Town Common on, no fooling, April 1st. When that happens I will slide that article and accompanying picture onto this blog.