A Dream of The Future
By Kath McCusker
Imagine a family walking down Main Street in Ashfield. They are out-of-towners and are seeing Main Street for the first time. The kids just got ice cream at the Hardware Store (a hot tip they learned at Ashfield Lake) and the grown-ups want some coffee. They were told to go across the street to Elmer's.
There are a few tables and chairs set up outside, with people eating lunch or a late brunch. The front steps are accented with beautiful ceramic planters with herbs and flowers in them. They climb up the front steps and step through the front door. The interior is warm and colorful. Art hangs on the wall and from the ceiling. A sign at the host station, with beautiful calligraphy reads, "Lunch until 3pm, This evening: Poetry Open-Mic, All are Welcome". One kid notices an old fashioned looking cash register next to the sign and wonders if it works. Tables are in various stages of occupancy as lunch service is winding down.
The family walks towards the long counter in the center of the room where coffee is brewing and pastries and breads are on display. As the grownups place an order, the kids are drawn to the back of the room where shelves are bursting with interesting things: books, ceramics, cards, candles, jewelry, dry good, gorgeous looking fruit and beauty products. A child-size table next to a shelf of games is where the kids settle in.
At the counter the grownups are asked if they are interested in ordering food from the kitchen before it closes, and are told they are welcome to hang out for a while because in a few hours time, there will be an open-mic poetry reading.
As the family lingers in the space, a large wall mural and object display attracts them. It's titled "The Story of Elmers". Here they learn about the recent birth of the Elmer's Community Center and the older iterations of businesses in the building. They learn that the building was rescued from bankruptcy because locals raised the funds to buy the building and prevented its sale at auction. How cool. They learn the space is both a commercial restaurant and a community-owned and operated space for events and micro-businsses. A large book on a low podium lists the names of hundreds of Elmer's Community Center Members and Community Stewards. The book also has hand-written memories, drawings and appreciations from visitors near and far.
The family then looks through the myriad items on display in the shelves and decides to buy a hand-woven basket, a picture frame, an Elmer's bag with a swirling illustration on the front, and a memoir about this amazing building written by a local. They consider returning that evening for the poetry reading and can't wait to tell friends about the magical town in the hills of Western Mass they have enjoyed.