Where can teens perform in a nightlife setting? Try Dottie's Coffee Lounge ...

North Street coffee lounge expands after-hours offerings to include younger talent, fun beyond the traditional bar scene

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PITTSFIELD — Dottie's Coffee Lounge is courting a younger crowd of entertainers in hopes of becoming a downtown destination for nightlife on the weekends.

Launched this fall, and continuing into the new year, is Dottie's teen music series, as part of a Saturday night live music lineup taking place from 7:30 to 8:30.

Seventeen-year-old Fiora Laina will take the mic this week, using her voice and her keyboard to share "magical and introspective indie-pop songs." The classically trained pianist recently performed this fall at venues like Dewey Hall in Sheffield, Tangier Cafe in Great Barrington and the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference in Stamford, Conn. She's now working on recording and producing her first EP in her home studio. Stay tuned!

The coffee shop, located at the corner of North Street and Maplewood Avenue, began extending its hours last year to serve featured desserts and beverages from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Since they were staying open later, Dottie's proprietress Jessica Rufo said she's been opening the space up to the community as a stage to bring their ideas and creativity to light.

"The older I get, the more I realize that most of our socializing happens in bars and things like that. How sad is it that our community doesn't have a lot of options outside of drinking? At least that's how I feel about it," she said.

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She also realized that there's also a lack of venues that welcome teens as young adult patrons after 6 p.m.

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"Initially, I sort of thought we'd have teens come and play music and they'll come and invite their friends, but it's become more of a back-to-the-drawing-board situation. But that in itself is great, because it's allowed me to think a little more broadly about it and what I can do," Rufo said.

So far in the teen music series, Dottie's has hosted folk-pop artist Zoe Lemos, singer-songwriter Tristan Cormier, and singer-songwriter and musician Elliott Loverin.

"The importance to connect with teenagers is something I'm really passionate about right now," said Rufo, who has younger children of her own. "Building a space that's entertaining and wholesome, but also independent of being at home is something that seems important to me. I'm working on getting to know teenagers and what they do because what they're interested in seems so different than what I did [at that age]."

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Rufo is contemplating building a teen-led board to guide and lead evening programs on Saturdays. Young leaders in the community are wanted and welcome to reach out to her.

"That's the teen dream, to have a teen scene at Dottie's on Saturdays," she said.

For now, Thursdays and Fridays continue to bring in a variety of entertaining offerings for people of all ages, including paint and sip nights, Word X Word story slams and spoken word events, crafting nights, art shows, live comedy and other musical performances, like Brian Bissell's new "Sing-along" series. Most music events are free, classes and comedy nights have admission fees.

"It's like a rebirth of what Dottie's was in the beginning, which includes some of the most exciting memories for me," said Rufo. "It's exciting to be at this new expansive point."


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