Housatonic — Considering that the Housie Market and Cafe has only been in business since 2014, you wouldn’t think it’d be such a big deal that it was closing. And you would be wrong.
“What a sad thing,” Ellen Lahr, who lives and works in the village, told The Edge. “I feel really sad that this place is closing because Amy injected a lot of life into Housatonic. And it was an amazing restaurant.”
Owner Amy Hagerty, who also founded Baba Louie’s pizzeria in 1995 and sold it to Paul Masiero six years later, is moving to the West Coast — San Francisco, to be exact — to be with her family. And she made the decision to do so fairly recently.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Hagerty said in an interview. “I think we made a difference here.”
Hagerty has a sister in Mendocino, Calif., several nieces and nephews, and a daughter in British Columbia. She cited one major reason for the closing, aside from family considerations: not the construction on the Park Street bridge, which some had suspected, but the difficulty in finding reliable help.
“Ask any restaurant in this town and that will be the first thing they talk about is help,” Hagerty said.
And it’s not as if wait staff weren’t paid fairly. With tips, most were making close to $20 per hour, she said.
And of course there were the inevitable bills that come due this time of year: taxes and license renewal fees. “I just had to do it,” Hagerty said of her decision to close.
When she first opened the place in the former Corner Market, Hagerty sold a limited number of grocery items (eight or nine shelves full), but that part of the business was “just was not profitable, so I just made it a full-on restaurant,” she said, adding she still sold staples such as milk, eggs and butter.
Serving breakfast, lunch and community-style Sunday suppers, the popular eatery served a variety of homemade fare, including baked goods, salads and sandwiches. The coffee was a big favorite, with espresso-based drinks very popular.
“It breaks my heart to say that the Housie Market Cafe is officially closed,” Hagerty announced on the cafe’s Facebook page. “It was a hard decision to come to but it’s the best one.”
An outpouring of affection ensued: “You created an incredibly vibrant and cool space for so much beyond just inventive food: nature, art, stimulating community and engaging fun,” said customer Kathy Lampro Adams. “But it’s especially about you, Ms. Amy Hagerty, and your infectious personality.”
“Really truly sad to hear this,” added Nina Rubin. “I was nourished, delighted and satisfied by everything I ate there, and every conversation I had there. Hope you are rewNarded for all you gave us.”
The building at the corner of Pleasant and Front streets was built in 1915 but has since been turned into condominiums. In addition to the cafe, there are apartments on the top floor. The 2,800-square-foot cafe and storage space in the basement are for sale for $300,000. Some equipment is for sale at an additional cost, said Rich Aldrich, a sales associate for Stone House Properties.
Aldrich said there has been substantial interest in part because, the Housie Market and Cafe was “very well supported by Housatonic community. Residents are anxious to have it filled.”
“If someone doesn’t get in there soon, it will be sorely missed,” added Aldrich.
The Housie Market’s closing will leave the village with only two eateries: the Brick House Pub and Pleasant and Main.
Though she is not marketing the space specifically as a restaurant, Hagerty said her strong preference is for a buyer to pick up where she left off.
“The town needs a cafe, especially because there are so many young mothers and babies in this town,” she said.
The cafe is located directly across the street from the playground of the former Housatonic School and just across the bridge from Berkshire Pulse, a dance studio that specializes in training young people.
The listing says, “A new owner can create another food-based business, or bring a new idea to fruition. Affordably priced, open floor plan, rustic funky feel. This is one of few public spaces in Housatonic and can tap into the energy and flow of the village.”
Some have said the village of Housatonic, with its trendy but funky collection of cafes, galleries and former industrial spaces, resembles a miniature Brooklyn. If so, the “energy and flow” of Housatonic cries out for another cafe.