Thursday, June 21, 2018

What's in a Coffee Shop?

When we started, we didn’t realize that we’d be having dinner with the same group of people once a week for the next fifteen years. And it all started because of a coffee shop.

I always say that everyone I know in Maynard I know because of the two cafés. While not completely true, it’s no lie that many of the people in my Maynard life, dare I say Maynard family, came to me over mocha lattes or little cups of espresso.

The Boston Bean House
I’ve said it before—Maynard’s downtown
is an extension of each and every one of our homes, where the downtown is the communal family room, and the heart of that great, big room is the coffee shops. In the Boston Bean House and Serendipity Café, you can hang out in the company of family and friends without having to worry about whether you have too much mail on your kitchen counter, or whether the pile of shoes by the door threatens visitors with an avalanche. Each place has its own flavor—small and cozy with home-baked goods, or spacious with an extensive sandwich menu.

But the real beauty of the coffee shops is the unexpected visits one can have, the would you like to join me moments, where you run into people you know, but somehow never manage to make time to see. Or maybe you only kind of know the person, but wouldn’t it be interesting to sit together for a little bit? I once had lunch with my mailman Sean.

The other day I had what I consider to be a perfectly-Maynard-kind-of-day. When we can, my husband and I like to have morning espressos at one of the coffee shops downtown. We sit and we talk about nonsense and important things while holding tiny cups of bitter—it’s wonderful.

Serendipity Cafe
And so we found ourselves downtown sitting in Serendipity when suddenly I saw a Maynard friend that I hadn’t seen in a while. Shirley had just been to Dr. Jackson for a dental cleaning and was trying to figure out what she should do next, so she was looking around and I went out to say hello. Shirley has to be almost eighty, but she looks so fabulous that it’s hard to believe it. I insisted that she come in because we weren’t sure she had ever met my husband. Judging by the way she looked around, I don’t think she had been in the café in a long time.

And so she sat with us for a while, and as we spoke she told us that her husband has been unwell, she talked about her fears, and I got to talk to her about my own struggles, and we even got to laugh a little bit. While we were there Nancy came in. Our kids went to preschool together and it turns out that she also knows Shirley. And so we all caught up. And then a couple of other people came in and they also knew me, and they knew Shirley. And so it went for a little while, and each time it happened Shirley laughed a little, and so did I, and it made me feel so happy. There’s something about being recognized and acknowledged that seems so fundamentally important, and in Maynard it just feels so easy.

Old Bill decided to help with snow removal.
Several months ago the Boston Bean House closed for a period of time, and the loss to the community was tremendous. I realized that there were whole groups of people that I wasn’t seeing anymore, mostly senior citizens, like Old Bill. During that time Bill would walk by the coffee shop daily to see if they were back to work. I was so grateful when the Open flag started flying again, and happy to see all the regulars taking up their posts: Joni and Larry reading their books at the table furthest back, Sander by the front window, Rob off to the side, Laura in front of the espresso machine, Bill at the small table in front of the door.

So how does all this lead to fifteen years of dinner? Well, it all started innocently enough. We all met, more or less, at the Boston Bean House when it was  where Serendipity now is. Somehow I connected with people over a book someone was reading, a watch someone was wearing, a food someone was eating—that’s it. Sometimes a few of us would be talking to each other across tables. After a while we started sitting together so as to not take up too much room. We got comfortable.

But how did it lead to dinner? Well, it was before we had our daughter. My husband was into philosophy and we had heard about something called Socrates Cafes, where people would get together in coffee shops to discuss philosophical topics. Interesting. Maynard had coffee shops. So I asked some of the people I had met whether they’d be interested in joining us. They agreed. Some had daytime jobs, and since the coffee shops weren’t open at night, we decided we should just meet for dinner. And there you have it, fifteen years of dinner.

We’re an interesting group of people, a real cast of characters. Many are single with no kids with our average age being about fifty-five. We are a mix of men and women. Most don’t have family nearby.

A few people have come and gone, but mostly it’s the same seven or
eight people.

My dinner mates are funny and quirky, as are most people when you get to know them, but they are also smart, and creative, and caring. If one of us is sick, someone will help. If someone needs a ride, another will step up. I know that if I needed them they’d be there for me. One offers sage advice based on a life of experimentation, another gives supportive sympathy. We have a couple of really good listeners, and some that are good at making friendly conversation. Some are simply willing to take their place in a nearby chair so that I am not sitting alone.

When our daughter was born she had a birthright membership to the group. Now she has these kind of informal Maynard aunts and uncles who, like her father and I, are watching her grow up.

Our group gave up trying to talk about real philosophical topics years ago, though some deep discussion does happen from time to time. Now it’s mostly a kind of family supper, a sort of check in. We rotate around choosing a different restaurant in Maynard for each week, trying to do our part to support our local restaurants as we do the work of supporting each other.

We still find each other in the late morning, where we chat across tables over mugs and reading materials, or we sit together quietly because we can. If you ask me, there’s really not much better in life than a coffee shop in a small downtown.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Who Makes This Town Special?

I just had a reprint done on my bumper/refrigerator magnet, the one that says, "Maynard, the town that feels like a neighborhood." I want to know who you think makes this town special. Who's putting in that extra effort? I'd like to give five bumper magnets to people who make Maynard the fabulous place that it is. I'll put all those names in a hat (and believe me, I know there are a lot of them) and pick five at random. If you want to tell me why you think that person is a superstar, by all means, please do. I'd love to hear all about them.

If you want to do your own award service, remind your college kid where they came from, or let your new neighbor know what kind of a place they're living in, you can get your own magnets at 6 Bridges Gallery. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Our Shifting Downtown

People have contacted me with more information about this post. Additions are in italics. Thanks everyone!

It's easy to get nervous about the long term sustainability of our downtown when we watch businesses leave and "For Lease" signs go up. But things aren't always what they seem on the surface, and it's not easy to get a glimpse of what's going on. Occasionally I hear things. Here's some of what I've heard.

I had heard this a while back, and I'm surprised that people still don't know that Emerson Hospital will be opening a primary and urgent care space at the Walgreens location. Yes, there is a planned Emerson Urgent Care facility planned for 129 Parker, but not till that area is ready. When it is, Urgent Care is supposed to move there, but the Primary Care space is slated to stay on Main Street. How long till it happens? I heard 6 months for them to start working on it, so it probably means a few more than that.

River Rock Grill is closing at the end of the month, but don't despair about another empty space. Someone will be taking over the location, but it's unlikely to be a restaurant.

Denault Studio is going out of business, but again, don't despair. Another business, Makers' Workshop, will be taking over that whole space. So feel free to go in their and get a good deal on some cool Denault merchandise.

The Gruber Brothers building sold, and then sold again, first to a developer out of Acton, and then to Jimmy MacDonald. It's likely that the building will need to be torn down regardless of what happens there—I've heard that there are some issues with the foundation. But knowing that it's a Jimmy MacDonald building it seems likely that it will be apartments. The zoning for that piece of land will require that the lower level be some kind of commercial space.

Those developers from Acton didn't change their mind about Maynard, not at all. It turns out that they went and bought the Bank of America building and the Maynard Trust building (where McWalter's insurance was). I have no idea what their plans are, but there is a new chain-link fence that blocks access to the driveway between the Bank of America property and Middlesex Savings. It seems that the driveway is private property that belongs to the Bank of America building, and if they want to do any work there they need to make sure that the driveway isn't a liability during that work. So it seems the fence is temporary, but it may be up for a while.

McWalter's insurance moved to that small, free-standing building on Main Street where Manufacturer's Direct used to be—almost across from Main Street entrance to the basin parking lot.

As you all likely know, the Boston Bean House was bought and has since reopened. I've been meaning to do a blog post about that alone, but I haven't had a chance to get to it yet. Since the new ownership came in they've decided to open on Sundays and offer omelets, and as of today they've decided to start offering their breakfast all day. They also offer some South American snacks like empanadas and pupusas (I've had them. They're tasty)

Art's Specialties has been paying close attention to our market and how traffic patterns affect the shop. Because of that they've started offering some prepared foods, so you can stop in after work and grab a little something. You may have noticed that they're carrying fresh bread. I think it gets there on Thursday. They've also started carrying milk and eggs. People have asked for things and Art tries to accommodate, so don't hesitate to stop in and talk about your food interests.

The former UCC church was bought by Maynard-local William Doyle. He had a naming contest for it some months ago, and the building is now referred to as "Sanctuary." His buying the building allowed the Community School to come back, which makes him a hero to many families in town. The Maynard Food Pantry (including the backpack program) is also moving to the Sanctuary in the spring. There's also a yoga studio (Be the Love Yoga Studio) going into the lower level. William's intentions for the building are for it to be a local performance space and community gathering place. Need a location for a concert or performance? The Sanctuary's your spot!

The Fine Arts Theatre was finally able to get their wheelchair accessible bathroom stall built, so that's a major plus, and starting this week they're going to be replacing the seats in theater one to be like the newer seats in theater three. I must also add that they've been doing an amazing job of getting great movies into the theater!

Amory's Tomb, a taproom and brewery, is in progress. The location is where Neighborhood Brick Oven Pizza used to be. I'm not even sure how many years that spot has been vacant, so it will be good to see some life there. I think the concept is one where you go in to sample beer but you can bring your own food, but I'm not sure if I'm right about that. Amory’s Tomb Brewing Co. Is a community based brewery and taproom. The brewery will have on site pouring and you can bring your own food or order in from one of the many local restaurants. There will also be a small retail area where you can purchase clothing and such, as well as growler fills bottle offerings. They were shooting for last October but through a rough patch with contracting help they have been a bit delayed. 

Mill & Main still has it in their plans to take down some of the iron fencing.

Serendipity Cafe is considering offering a southern breakfast specialty to their menu. I'll leave it at that with fingers crossed. 

It looks like we're headed into a period where there may be a lot of construction happening in our downtown, but hopefully on the other side we'll have some changes that will make good sense for the town. I'm hopeful. The empty spaces may make you a little nervous, but take a look around at the positive changes that have happened. You'll see that there is an upward trend and that there are more instances of improvement then there are of empty store fronts. And as these improvements happen, we may find that tenants more suited to our town come in.

That's it from me. What else have you all been hearing?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Doing Holiday Shopping in Maynard, Part II, (Photos)

A few days ago I did my Holiday Shopping List for Maynard. I promised to do a post that highlights, using photos, some of the beautiful things I have seen. I've been rushing to get this out there in an attempt to keep you from making unnecessary trips to the traffic-packed mall, and to get you to be more connected to your home by the gifts that you give.

Sunglasses from Look Optical
So here are the photos I took. There were more things that I wanted to show, but this could go on forever, and we don't have forever!

Handmade Soaps, 6 Bridges Gallery
6 Bridges Gallery

Handmade handbags, 6 Bridges Gallery
Handmade boxes, 6 Bridges Gallery

Handmade Books, 6 Bridges Gallery
Richard Goddard Goldsmith
Richard Goddard Goldsmith
Soaps, Boxes, Tiles, 6 Bridges Gallery

Handmade Jewelry, 6 Bridges Gallery
Movement Charms, 6 Bridges Gallery

Handmade bags and scarves, 6 Bridges Gallery
Funny Cats, 6 Bridges Gallery
Unexpected items, 6 Bridges Gallery

Hats, Scarves, and Jewelry, 6 Bridges Gallery
Personal Training, Aim for Fitness

Books, Art/Video Signals

Decorate your own platters, Art/Video Signals

Paint a figurine, Art/Video Signals

Hot sauces with funny names, Art's Specialties

Jellies made from beer and wine, Art's Specialties

Wine, Art's Specialties

Vinegar collections, Art's Specialties

Assortments of special teas, Art's Specialties

Local maple syrup, local honey, Art's Specialties

So many hot sauces, Art's Specialties 
Vintage toys, Collector's Paradise

To add to your wine or beer gift, Denault Studio

Glasswork, Denault Studio

Beads for your own work, Denault Studio

Pretty cutting boards, Denault Studio

Pens, Denault Studio

Ring holders, Denault Studio

Bath treats, Denault Studio

Pretty candles, Denault Studio

Glass dishes, Denault Studio

Speakers made from gourds, Denault Studio

Puppets, Denault Studio

Kitchen tools, Denault Studio

Movie theater tickets and goodies, Fine Arts Theatre

Beautiful cards, Kind Goods

Pottery and succulents, Kind Goods

Local flavor,  Kind Goods

Pretty bags, Kind Goods

Classes, Metrowest Kung Fu

Classes, Metrowest Kung Fu

Harry Potter merchandise, Oliver's Wands and Wizarding Wares

Great bags, Raspberry Beret

Awesome outfits, Raspberry Beret

The funkiest clothes, Raspberry Beret

Lots of shoes, Raspberry Beret

Royal Nails

Stocking stuffers, Sugar Snap

Decorations, Sugar Snap

Stocking stuffers, Sugar Snap

Stocking stuffers, Sugar Snap

Color a gift, Sugar Snap

Candy,  Sugar Snap

Bags, The Corner Closet

Bags, The Corner Closet

Sports equipment, The Outdoor Store

Sports equipment, The Maynard Outdoor Store

Camping/hiking equipment, The Maynard Outdoor Store

Fishing Gear, The Maynard Outdoor Store

Ice skates, The Maynard Outdoor Store

Sweaters, The Maynard Outdoor Store

Beautiful sweaters, The Maynard Outdoor Store

More sweaters, The Maynard Outdoor Store

Leggings, The Maynard Outdoor Store

Winter hats, The Maynard Outdoor Store

The Maynard Outdoor Store

Socks, The Maynard Outdoor Store

 The Maynard Outdoor Store

 The Maynard Outdoor Store

 Plaid flannel, The Maynard Outdoor Store

 The Maynard Outdoor Store

So many gloves,  The Maynard Outdoor Store

Fuzzy robes, The Paper Store

Ornaments, The Paper Store

Candles, The Paper Store

Fun socks, The Paper Store

Local gifts, The Paper Store

Team merchandise, The Paper Store

Team merchandise, The Paper Store

Fun mermaid stockings, The Paper Store

Tech gear, The Paper Store
Yarn cracker, Island Yarn Company
Beautiful yarns, Island Yarn Company

Games, The Paper Store
Vintage items for home,  Summer Street Fine Consign
Classic Candies, Summer Street Fine Consign
Maynard T-shirts and sweatshirts,  Summer Street Fine Consign
Holiday decorations,  Summer Street Fine Consign
 Summer Street Fine Consign
 Summer Street Fine Consign
Holiday decor, Summer Street Fine Consign
Antique tea sets, Summer Street Fine Consign
Classic kitchenware, Summer Street Fine Consign
 Summer Street Fine Consign
Denault Studio, glasswork class
Denault Studio, glasswork class
Lego and Duplo blocks, The Paper Store 
Kids art supplies, The Paper Store
Kitchen tools,  Summer Street Fine Consign
The latest books, The Paper Store
Kitchen Knives,  Summer Street Fine Consign 
Pajamas, The Paper Store