“My father was raised in North Cambridge. He was a pillar of the community, and I worked with him in Cambridge for 30 years at our furniture rental store, Putnam Furniture Leasing Co, which he founded in 1938. In the 1970s, an existing tenant took over the building, so we relocated here to Central Square. We sold our family business in 2001 to CORT Furniture, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, and my task from the chairman was to extend the capabilities of the U.S. furniture rental industry globally. My father invented the industry and nationalized it — that was his legacy. My legacy as a son is to take the knowledge of what I learned over the years and create and help other people develop businesses to the mutual benefit of everyone involved.
After selling the business, I took a hiatus as I went off to work for my new employer, but my father didn’t slow down. He became more involved here in Central Square, working with 17 nonprofits and teaching a class once a week for Cambridge College in addition to starting a new family business, our real estate company called Caru Associates. His contribution to this community was great.
I came in to help my father and work with our commercial properties at Caru Associates as he got older. I look at all of the plaques here on this wall [at Caru Associates] that show his involvement in Cambridge, and think about my contribution to continue his legacy moving forward. We probably have another 200 plaques in the basement. I’ve kept this room as is because it has a lot of history and importance.
My day-to-day is exciting. I’ll come to Cambridge 2-3 days a week to spend time doing a community activity or a business activity, like working with a tenant or contractor. We have two buildings in Central Square — where the Target property is located, and where the Caru Associates office is. My favorite part of working with commercial properties is the people. Whether it be the tenant or contractors, it’s being able to develop relationships. Stuff can go wrong everyday, but it’s how you deal with challenges and respond to them that makes the difference in your relationship. We want to make sure our tenants are happy and that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
I have been in Central Square since the early 70s, so I’ve really seen it evolve. Central Square was truly a venue that was at the crossroads of the city of Boston. Everyone came here, but like all geographic areas, it goes up and it goes down. I would say we’re now in a “rebirth” phase in the area. There’s a lot of development, and I think people are cognizant of the investment that’s being made to make this a very special place to work, to commute through or to, and to live. I look forward for that development to set the stage for the next 20 or so years.”
— Ken Barron, Caru Associates