Porter Square’s Gourmet Express closes, for now

Originally published April 2, 2014 in the Cambridge Chronicle.

Gourmet Express co-owner, Moujib Hamza, said the store may not come back after being a Porter Square staple for more than 20 years. The convenience store and late-night food spot closed to make way for a 27-unit building. Wicked Local photo/Erin Baldassari

Gourmet Express co-owner, Moujib Hamza, said the store may not come back after being a Porter Square staple for more than 20 years. The convenience store and late-night food spot closed to make way for a 27-unit building. Wicked Local photo/Erin Baldassari

After two decades serving customers in Porter Square, the Gourmet Express is closing down, at least for now, its owners said.

Restaurant equipment lined the counters at the convenience store and late-night food staple Tuesday, April 1, with tags marking the goods for auction. Moujib Hamza, co-owner of the store with his brother, Nazih, said the store is closing down to make way for a 27-unit residential building.

The property owner, Peter Wasserman, secured a certificate of compliance from the city on Jan. 14 to build the loft-style housing with 42 parking spaces underneath, 15 of which will be reserved for Lesley University.

Moujib Hamza said the store still has a lease for the space, but he wasn’t sure if they would be coming back.

“It’s kind of time for a change, anyway,” Moujib Hamza said.

Hailing from Syria, the brothers each own other stores in different locations. Moujib Hamza owns the Saugus Deli in Saugus, he said, and his brother owns Harvard Market on Cambridge Street. Most of the remaining inventory will go to those stores, he said.

Gourmet Express was one of the few places serving food in Cambridge 24 hours a day. Moujib Hamza said it was an experiment that he’s not sure paid off.

“In general, it was only really worth it to stay open on the weekends,” Moujib Hamza said. “During the weeknights, we weren’t really making ends meet. We just did it because it was convenient for our customers.”

Gourmet Express, located at 1868 Mass. Ave., has closed after more than 20 years in Porter Square. Wicked Local photo/Erin Baldassari

Gourmet Express, located at 1868 Mass. Ave., has closed after more than 20 years in Porter Square. Wicked Local photo/Erin Baldassari

At a large project review on Jan. 6, residents expressed support for the store to return, according to city records. North Cambridge native Billy Botelho said he had been coming to the store for nearly a decade.

“I was coming here when it was still White Hen,” Botelho said. “It’s kind of sad that they can’t make it work here.”

Moujib Hamza said their employees had been able to find other jobs, but he would miss working with them.

“Some people have been working here for 20 years,” Moujib Hamza said. “It’s sad to me because they grew up in this place.”

The construction project is expected to take roughly one year, according to city records.

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