The Walnut Market, situated on Lincoln Street, sits between colorful storefronts and small colonial-style homes. While it looks like any other shop along the peaceful street, The Walnut Market has been in Newton for over 100 years and sports a wide variety of treats that are hard to find anywhere else in the country, according to its owner Matt Santarpio.
“From the time I was in high school, I knew I wanted to run my own business,” Santarpio said. “I got into sales to learn how to get customers. Then one of my customers was opening a new store and wanted somebody to run the old one, so I did that to see what it was like to run a business.”
The store sells various craft beers and a wide selection of rare foods. The Walnut Market is one of four stores in the United States that sells bagels straight from Montreal, according to Santarpio. Additionally, Santarpio sells a Peruvian delicacy called alfajores, which are difficult to find in the area, he said.
Santarpio said he has spent most of his life in Massachusetts. He grew up in Central Massachusetts, went to college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and has been living his adult life so far in Eastern Massachusetts.
“Directly before this, I was running two liquor stores … and then when I felt like I had learned as much as I could learn and had saved up a little money, it was time to break out on my own,” Santarpio said.
He bought The Walnut Market in January of 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He said he faced a world of hardships trying to keep the store in business.
“I kind of took over with the idea of being a wine shop, but we had trouble transferring the beer and wine license,” Santarpio said. “So the beer and wine license didn’t come through until … almost 10 months later.”
On top of this, many residents of Newton have vacation homes that they moved to during the pandemic, making business even worse for the shop, he said. Throughout all of this, Santarpio said ended up as the local face of supply chain issues.
“It was an adventure,” he said. “Channel 10 News called me and came in and did a news story. And then somebody at The Wall Street Journal saw that news story, and they called and interviewed me …. and then somebody at Fox News saw that article and called me, and wanted to do a live interview on Fox.”
Despite all of this, Santarpio and The Walnut Market have made it through the pandemic-fueled economic downturn, and life at the shop is beginning to return to normal, he said. The fact that the store’s name has deep roots in the Newton community has helped business, Santarpio said.
“I’ll see people walking by in town, visiting a parent or something, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, it’s still here,’” he said. “There’s kind of an emotional attachment right in the neighborhood.”