Then & Now: Highland Street, Worcester

Worcester Telegram – February 2020

WORCESTER – As much as things change, they sometimes stay pretty much the same.

Highland Street in the late 1960s was home to the popular Highlander Diner-Restaurant owned by Angelo T. Soter and his brother-in-law James Labovites. Soter and Labovites served up, among other things, Shirred Lobster a la Highlander in their Robert Burns dining room. Today the spot is the home of The Sole Proprietor Restaurant, where you might also get lobster, but in a different style.

The Highlander, at 118 Highland St., also was a popular spot for decades. It closed in 1970s due to financial problems. E. Paul Tinsley later ran Curley’s, an Irish pub, and Shannon’s II Restaurant there before selling the business to Rob Ahlquist of Shrewsbury, who opened The Sole. The Reading Lamp Bookstore next door in 1968 was owned by Soter’s wife, Evelyn. The neighborhood attracted people from throughout Worcester, but especially students from nearby Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The Boynton Restaurant, across the street from the Highlander, is still there. It was and remains a popular destination for students and others. Hickey’s liquors, which now operates in Milford and Shrewsbury, has been replaced by Highland Liquors.

Notis Pizza, with its slogan “You’ll Notis the difference,” is gone, but Tech Pizza is still frequented by college students. Notis Pizza was owned from the early 1960s into the ’80s by Roger “Bud” Cleveland and his brother Russ. They owned several pizzerias, including one on the Holy Cross campus.

One of the major losses on the street was Jay’s five-and-dime store, owned by Robert A. Jaffee. People used to say, “If you can’t find it anywhere, try Jay’s.” Jaffee sold wig combs, toys, penny candy, stationery and many other things. The store was a fixture in the neighborhood for more than 40 years.

Today Highland Street has Stop N Save Convenience store among its storefronts. Wooberry Frozen Yogurt is there, as is a Subway, an eyebrow threading and nail salon, a cellphone store and repair shop, a used clothing shop, and a Brazilian convenience store.