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Amherst Coffee holds grand reopening

(Collegian File Photo)

Among sparkling beverages, warm comraderies and early fall showers, Amherst Coffee had its grand reopening event last Thursday from 4-7 p.m.

Folks of all ages gathered around to taste the newly expanded alcohol menu of draft beers, fine wines and even finer grilled cheeses (with artisanal Vermont cheese, but more on that later).

Some quickly visible differences in the newly refurbished space were the airy expanses in which people both gathered and tucked themselves away throughout the event. It felt like the type of place where you could go to catch up with a friend you hadn’t seen in a while, or shoulder down and get some homework done. Ash Crawford, who contributes to the family-run business, commented that this was the design and atmosphere angle they were going for.

Crawford was heavily involved in Mukunda Feldman’s, the owner and Crawford’s brother, pursuits to update the space since they first considered it years earlier. With the Chamber of Commerce’s recent move, it was the perfect opportunity for the pair to put their conversation in motion.

After carefully considering Amherst Coffee’s previous atmosphere and students’ practice of associating the shop “with a particular time in their life,” Crawford said the goal was to transition from a “complete study hall while reaching more people who were off put by the space as it was.”

In these efforts, Amherst Coffee is becoming a coffee shop in transition. Welcoming in students from the hell-beaten ways of wicked professors and their lengthy assignments, and local townspeople to relax while sipping on something bubbly. It’s an attempt at the best of both worlds.

With this sentiment in mind, the buzz about Wi-Fi policies altering slightly can be confirmed. As before, upon entering the café, the Wi-Fi operates on a two-hour time window. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t begin several different “time windows” and stay for longer. Where there’s a will there’s a way. And where there’s a sullen college student on a tight deadline, the way is stronger even yet. The only firm deadline of sorts is the Wi-Fi shut off at 7 P.M. This decision was made to help transition the space into an accommodating night atmosphere with face-to-face contact, rather than screen time.

Because of some custom craftsmanship, done by local contractors Henry Wallace and Henry Whitlock, Amherst Coffee acquired wooden booths that some others and I were originally weary about. Yet, after observing them in all their glory, it’s difficult to reject the comfort of familiarity.

Crawford commented on Amherst Coffee’s renovations, saying that the totality of the update was completed within a two-week time window. Crawford said this made it possible for baristas to both collaborate their crafts at other local locations including Greenfield Coffee, Tart Baking Co. and Northampton Coffee, and also help organize AmCo’s space with their interests in mind.

Amherst Coffee’s side manager, Colin Seger, added that baristas were “finding homes for things as they were being built,” while leaving the majority of the heavy-duty remodeling to the dynamic Henry duo.

In Seger’s near five-year span with the Amherst Coffee company (his official “workaversary” is in a couple weeks), he said that he’s occupied numerous roles behind the scenes. He has also observed a variety of floor plans, none of which he said come close to the newly decked out AmCo.

Seger said, “not only is it a beautiful space, it’s highly functional for baristas” in comparison to the quiet cramping that they were victim to in the past.

On the opposite side of the counter, the newly acquired space seems to flatter the customer as well. With several new seating options encircling the expanded bar, high-top tables framing the exterior and the aforementioned wooden booths amongst all this, it feels like a space for everyone.

Traveling hand-in-hand with these new expansions were some newly acquired positions. Seger confirmed that five to six new people were hired to help cover bar shifts in the evenings. While Amherst Coffee doesn’t intend to be the place you bop to for dance parties, they’re ready to embrace the casual night-life crowd.

It’s also important to notice the relocation of the brand’s merchandise. Now exists, front and center, a retail tower including Chemexs in varying brewing sizes, Tart Baking Co. travel mugs, T-shirts and other knick-knacks alongside a variety of earthy and robust brews for purchase.

Before, these items existed within some internal shelving behind the bar, making it difficult for customers to observe the retail and branding potential of Amherst Coffee as a whole.

Local businesses including Osteria Vespa, downtown Amherst’s taste of the Mediterranean, are extremely excited about the shop’s expansion and continued dedication toward creating a fresh and impressionable space for people of all ages.

In fact, Osteria Vespa held several pour-over events prior to AmCo’s grand reopening in an effort to help locals process the treacherous two-week coffee drought. That’s two-weeks too long for any coffee-loving person I know.

Complementing the sleek industrial-ness that has become AmCo on the night of the grand reopening were student performers Matt Twaddle, a junior Jazz performance major and Jack Griffin, a senior finance major, who looked overjoyed to be jiving together in such a renewed space.

Alice Tuttle, a Northampton resident and consistent AmCo customer who stumbled upon the event, spoke about the café’s changes saying, “[I] haven’t been here without a lot of people filling the space, but it hasn’t changed too much to me.”

Turning to Amherst Coffee for her morning cup of joe when she’s on this side of the river, Tuttle says her go-to pick-me-up is a cappuccino (a word she learned to spell from her mother when she was young, out of its obvious importance).

Looking around me, I couldn’t help but notice the pleasant chatter, open door and inviting smiles of the staff hustling and bustling around with oysters and champagne. The gathering felt similar to that of an upscale indoor garden party.

Naturally, before I concluded my stay at AmCo, I made a point to try the much talked about grilled cheese. Let me set the scene by saying, if it weren’t ultimately frowned upon by employers, I may list “grilled cheese connoisseur” on my resume, so you could say the ante was up.

All I can say is Crawford’s earlier proclamations that it was a grilled cheese “I wouldn’t find anywhere else,” rang truer than true to me. Artisanal cheese in general is a borderline religious experience, and somehow this took it a step farther.

But let the grilled cheeses, draft beers, fine wines and newly spiffed-up space do the talking for itself. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Gina Lopez can be reached at gmlopez@umass.edu.

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