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Who remembers….Destination Soups?

Okay – let me state right in the lede: No worries! Destination Soups isn’t going anywhere!

But it occurred to me that Destination Soups is a candidate – 50 years from now – for one of those New Bedford Guide stories that recall The Way We Were.

You know the ones I’m talking about. Posts like “Who Remembers…Arlan’s Department Store?”; “Who Remembers…Hot Wheels and Skate Plus?”; or “Who remembers…Barbero’s Pizza?”

The posts appeal to our collective nostalgia and romance with urban life. Usually, the businesses profiled in these pieces hold a place in our hearts that cross generations. We may have never stepped foot in them – but our parents or grandparents did and that makes them real to us, too.

Destination Soups is one of those places – but the love affair is still passionate. DSoups – as it’s colloquially called – is the type of mom and pop business that gives definition to a city. Owner Devin Byrnes hasn’t just created an eatery, he’s brought together a family of terrific staff members and patrons. And he’s done that in an old-fashioned way; by fashioning a unique menu that draws people to DSoups because it just feels very special to New Bedford.

To weave a business into the very fabric of a place, you have to go that extra mile. DSoups does that at 149 Union Street and beyond. It pops up at special events and community gatherings of all kind – like the Bookfests we host here at Groundwork!

But this coming weekend, Devin and company really get deep by launching Cocoa at the Common.

Cocoa at the Common

It’s a different sort of pop-up from DSoups. As the name implies, it’s dedicated to serving Hot Chocolate. And, it will aim straight for the heartstrings by adding a new layer to a cherished New Bedford tradition: Cocoa at the Common will be serving free cocoa at the Clasky Common Park Holiday Lighting on Sunday, Dec. 3 from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. And, every Saturday until the New Year at the park during the Holiday Light Display from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. thereafter (as in Dec. 9, 16, 23, 30). Grab a cup by the iconic statue of the soldier commemorating the Spanish-American War just beyond the entrance to the park on County Street.

The Clasky Common Park holiday light display is one of the beloved features of city life that somehow  – almost inexplicably – never disappeared, even when times weren’t as good as they are now in New Bedford. That’s probably part of its charm. It’s a reminder of the days featured in the “Who Remembers…” posts – but is still with us. (Tip of the hat to Greater New Bedford Regional Technical-Vocational High School faculty and students for all their work over the years maintaining the display.)

Yet, every good thing in a city sometimes needs some extra TLC now and then – and by launching Cocoa at the Common, Devin Byrnes is giving some new luster to the bright lights as well as renewed attention to them. He says that he hopes, “this leads to more overall involvement around the lights and the Common during the holidays.”

It may seem like a simple thing – but it’s not. Not least because it involves Devin himself standing outside in the December chill for a few hours each weekend! Also, he himself, DSoups as a business, and their supplier, Sysco – who donated the cups – are footing the bill for the free cocoa concession by the soldier.

Civic and Emotional Infrastructure

Beyond the personal commitment, it signifies an investment by a city business in New Bedford’s emotional and civic infrastructure. As we all know, infrastructure is the important foundation any city – or nation – builds its society on. Neglect it for too long, and you’re driving on streets like Cottage Street and the wheels come off.

It’s the same with civic and emotional infrastructure as it is with actual infrastructure. You need to keep it, too, in good repair. That’s no simple thing. That’s the constant application of time, talent and industry by a city’s citizenry, and business, political and cultural leaders.  

That’s Cocoa at the Common – courtesy of Destination Soups and Devin Byrnes. Free this Sunday, Dec. 3 from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. and then every Saturday until Dec. 30 at the same time thereafter.

And 50 years from now, when somebody posts, “Who Remembers….Destination Soups?”, we’ll recall Devin Byrnes, Michael Poe, Michael Ribeiro, Bethany Santos-Fauteux, Danny Sallom, Chris Jones and everyone associated with DSoups and think….”Wasn’t that a time…?” whenever we walk through a luminous Clasky Common Park at Christmas.

Steven Froias