Pittsfield's Elm Street Java Coffee House set to reopen after July fire

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Photo Gallery | Elm Street Java reopening after July fire

PITTSFIELD — Maybe it should be renamed "Phoenix."

After eight months of repairs, renovations and reflection, a popular Elm Street café is rising up from the ashes of a July 2 fire that gutted the place.

Elm Street Java Coffee House will officially reopen for service at 6 a.m. on Friday, March 4.

City resident Angela Borden purchased the space last May from the local Juice N' Java franchise, so that she and her daughter, Danielle Martin, could run it independently as Elm Street Java Coffee House.

No sooner had they put their new sign up at the end of June, an electrical malfunction in the café's refrigerated bakery case sparked the early morning blaze a few days later. No one was injured, but Borden and Martin and their staff were literally left with no place to work. Fire and building inspectors estimated the damages to be around $150,000.

Instead of giving up, Borden and Martin got to work, cleaning out what furniture could be salvaged, hiring restoration contractors and filing insurance claims. They also created a modified floor plan that would open up the space more and give Borden a small office in the back, off the kitchen.

Martin said customers would regularly ask them about whether they would be reopening, so she began posting updates on the Elm Street Java Facebook page. She detailed seeking building permits in November, getting the permits to completely gut the place in December and rebuilding from the floors to the windows to the walls.

She and Borden met with The Eagle on Friday at the nearly renovated coffee house. Gone is the dark blue and yellow paint scheme, the tiled floor, and a pillar and partial wall that used to section off the dining area from the bakery and checkout counter. The new wall and molding tones are lighter, like a chai tea latte. The floor is wood. The counter and bakery cases are all new. And there are new ceiling fans and light fixtures to complement the place.

"I think it feels warm in here," Martin said. "The colors are soft."

"We wanted to give it a more modern look," Borden said. "We've also got a wider workspace behind the counter."

The café will have 10 smaller tables and a larger table to accommodate up to 34 seated patrons.

Borden said they also hired a few new people, for a total of five employees, to help with making and serving coffee and beverages, housemade baked goods, soups, sandwiches and salads. "They're new help, so we're hoping people will understand and be patient until they're fully trained," she said.

Martin said of the menu, which she's hand-lettered onto hanging boards, "People will find the same things we've had before, but we've got some new things too."

Though there are several cafés and diners in the Elm Street area, the two proprietors said they're not concerned about picking up and sustaining business.

"We offer free Wi-Fi, and our customers have always told us that this is a place where they can come and sit for hours," said Martin.

"We want to be a place where you can come and relax and enjoy yourself," Borden said.

Though Borden said she was able to cover some of the restoration costs through insurance, she's also had to make some additional personal investment into the establishment.

Asked why she decided to re-open instead of finding other work, Borden said, "I love a challenge, and it's fun here."

"We've also missed seeing our customers," she said. "We really miss them. It's been a long eight months."

Martin agreed: "It sure has."

What: Elm Street Java Coffee House

Where: 216 Elm St., Pittsfield

When: 6 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturdays; and 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sundays

Information: Call 413-499-5282


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