MONTEREY — The Roadside Café now lies in a heap by Route 23 after it was demolished Monday.
It took just a few minutes for the demolition by Tryon Construction in Monterey after a wait of several weeks.
“He’s had his big rig parked there for about two or three weeks and with the snowstorms, it had postponed the demolition multiple times,” said Lisanne Finston, executive director of Gould Farm, which owned the building. “Down came the claws of death and the building came down.”
There are plans to replace the little breakfast and lunch joint, which closed in October of 2021, with a slightly larger version, known as Roadside Café 2.0; both the original and the as-yet-to-be-built version are part of the work therapy program of 700-acre Gould Farm, the nearby therapeutic residential community for people with serious psychiatric diagnoses that includes a working dairy farm, vegetable garden, forestry program and bakery.
At the campus, 220 acres are under state agricultural preservation restriction. About 100 acres are devoted to living space; the rest of the land is forested with trails.
Gould Farm bought the building at 275 Main Road in 1978. It had been a gas station and convenience store previously. That same year, it was converted into a restaurant and, except for the pandemic, had operated ever since.
On Thursday, Gould Farm will approach the Planning Board for a public hearing.
The plan by Zac Culbreth Architecture of Great Barrington that was posted on the old building calls for 28 seats indoors but with a bit more breathing room between them than the old version. The new restaurant will have a display case to market both Gould Farm products — such as cheeses, baked goods and breads from its Harvest Barn Bakery — as well as other local products.
Outside there will be a covered deck for an additional 16 seats.
The old Roadside Café had a counter and tables, but it didn’t have a kitchen per se — or a lot of privacy for those staffing the so-called back of the house. The new one will, and it will have a pass-through window to the dining room for patrons to look right onto the griddle, where their breakfast or lunch orders will be sizzled.
The plan is to open the Roadside Café five days a week, from Wednesday through Sunday, for breakfast and lunch, once the building is finished — possibly in early 2024 following 300 days of construction.
The old Roadside Café had enough room for two to three paid staff to work alongside three to five Gould Farm residents. The new one will allow for a slightly bigger team of eight to 10.
“The team, you know, starts the day together and ends the day together,” Finston said. “And at the end of the day, we’ll spend time kind of checking out, talking about how the day went, sharing observations around how folks are doing, strengths, challenges, so forth.”
Structural concerns began to emerge in the original Roadside Café building about 20 years ago and there was some thinking about rebuilding.
During the pandemic, the Roadside Café and the Harvest Barn Bakery initially closed operations to the public. While the Roadside Café reopened for takeout several times, the Harvest Bakery remained closed.
“And what became pretty clear, as we were kind of doing the pivoting around the pandemic, was also the reality that the [Roadside Café] building had fallen into some age and disrepair and needed work,” Finston said. “And it was clear, we were not going to be able to reopen safely in a COVID and even post-COVID era.”
At that point, the decision was made to go forward with rebuilding from the ground up.
“Every step of the way, this has been I think, I wouldn’t call it a comedy of errors, but I would definitely call it a chain of events that I don’t think we could ever have imagined,” Finston said. “It’s also become eminently more clear that this is absolutely the right time and the right path.”
Finston said Gould Farm has raised more than $900,000 toward the total $1.75 million cost of design, construction and site work and is currently seeking additional donations.
Established in 1913, Gould Farm sets out to help its residents, known as guests, “move toward recovery and independence through community living, meaningful work, and clinical care.”
The staff of about 60 serves about 65 people in Boston and Monterey, with about half of the guests living on site, some living in half-way houses, including Fellside House in Boston, and others living independently. There are two consulting psychiatrists, nurses and social workers, as well as “skilled folks,” Finston said, including foresters, farmers, chefs and bakers.
About 15 percent of the food that is consumed at Gould Farm is grown or produced there.
“We’re really excited to be signing on with Restorations Inc.,” Finston said of the Hinsdale company that won the contract for the building.
Francie Leventhal, kitchen and Roadside Café manager, spoke of the importance the Roadside Café in the lives of Gould Farm’s guests.
“Roadside provides real-world experience in a supportive environment that enables our guests to build the necessary skills to transition to working and living more independently,” Leventhal said. “Roadside serves as the public face of Gould Farm and is a representation of our mission. It also serves as a place where the Gould Farm community and the Monterey community can come together.”