Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Walking Home

When I lived in the City, most especially during the last eight years, I often wished that I could walk to work. I often threatened to apply for a job at the Starbucks at the top of our hill. I even went so far as to read up on Starbucks on their website, and I bought a book about their philosphy and success. I never applied for a job there because I can't stand their coffee. Had that not been the case, my wish to work within a short walking distance from home might have been realized earlier.

Once we put in an offer on the house, I began to do some internet research into the businesses close by in hopes of finding a job. What I found was The Southfield Store maybe a three minute walk just up the road from our house.

The Southfield Store used to be the General Store for the village. This is what it looked like around 2003.

There was a couple who had owned and ran the store for 25 years or so and had decided they were done. This little store sold all the necessary groceries and newspapers that kept you from having to drive 25 minutes into Great Barrington. There are a few remaining General Stores like this in the little villages around here and most have adapted to the changing times by adding cafes, liquor corners and live music. But in 2003 The Southfield Store was for sell and a guy from California with a mediocre writing career who had come to town to help his daughter find a home - which she bought next door - decided to buy it and give it a go. He completely renovated the building adding a professional kitchen and all the stuff the other village stores had been adding to keep business alive. Here are a few pics from the website he set up. It's not been updated since he sold the business, but the store looks pretty much the same as in these pics.

I still hope to work in this part of the store one day:

Apparently, and as usual, he eventually found he was in over his head. So, in 2006 I think it was, he sold the business to Chef Peter Platt and Meredith Kennard, owners of The Old Inn on the Green, two miles up the road. From what I understand, Peter purchased the store primarily so he could have the kitchen for the pastry end of his Inn operation. But it was silly to use the store for just baking, so they decided to offer the pastries for breakfast and then they added soups and sandwiches for lunch, and then dinner Thursday through Sunday evenings. There is no liquor corner, although they do have a full liquor license so they can serve drinks and wine and beer, and there is no live music. The chef that cooks the dinners at the store for Peter is from Oaxaca, Mexico, and they have designated Thursday's dinner "Mexican Night". The other nights the menu is New American, similar to what Peter cooks up at the Inn.

Before our offer on the house was accepted, I found a job posting for the store online. They were looking for a pastry cook. How I wanted that job! But since we couldn't be sure we would be moving in anytime soon, I did not apply, but I was resolved to work at The Southfield Store when the time came. After a few weeks of laying on hay - which I could do full time, let me tell you - I decided to look for a job. I sent my resume with a cover letter to Peter and Meredith but did not hear back from them. Of course, I didn't even give them a week to respond, but I didn't have time to wait. So, I decided to march forward and was on my way to apply for a job at Guido's, a gourmet super market specializing in organic and locally grown offerings. As we drove passed The Southfield Store on our way to Guido's, I told Tom to stop, I was just going to go in and ask if they were accepting applications. Not only were they accepting applications, they were desperate! Perfect. I love desperation! At least in others. When it benefits me. This was on a Wednesday. On Thursday I stopped back by to talk to the manager and on Friday I began working at The Southfield Store. Needless to say we never made it to Guido's.

So now I work the counter, make sandwiches, bus tables and clean, clean, clean. And make no money. BUT, I get to wear jeans - another characteristic of what I consider an ideal job - and I walk to and from work. Usually I work the closing shift, although I'm hoping to work the opeing shift once Tom isn't commuting into NYC. That would mean I would be in to work at 6:45 a.m. and home by 3:05! It's nice in the store when I'm sweeping and mopping and putting away, getting ready to close. And then the occasional all-day coffee drinker comes in for a latte or iced coffee, and then I go back to puttering. I putter fast though as there is SO much to get done by closing. I like it because it gives me the feeling of what it must be like to be a little shop owner. At the end of my shift, I throw my dirty apron into the hamper and clock out. By then, Meredith, the real shop owner, has arrived to close out the cash register and lock up. I leave her behind and I head down the road to home. I can't tell you what a beautiful walk it is, and it's so quiet. Rarely does a car pass. The sunsets are to die for. And I often think of Grandpa Foon, not because he walked home from work - he didn't - but for some reason I picture him walking home from Basey's grocery store up the hill from where he and Grandma used to live on South Boeke. I recall Mom's story about Grandpa walking home from Basey's with groceries in his arms, singing, having shared some Old Crow with Basey's butcher, happy. And then I'm home.