South Deerfield’s Downtown: The Good and the Sad

Are the empty storefronts in our little town indicators of what is to come in the future?  I was saddened recently when the one high-end restaurant in South Deerfield, called MRKT, closed its doors in July.  There is now a sign that says ‘for lease’ and like the general store around the corner, it seems unlikely that the for lease sign will go away any time soon.

I did my time trying to revitalize our village. I opened and ran the GoNOMAD Cafe for five years in a space across from the town common.  It’s fortunate that someone has finally rented the space, but it’s a home care agency, just like another similar business that opened two buildings down.  I once used to be so proud of our town, that we had restaurants, a cafe, a successful hardware store and even a pharmacy.  While I am happy to patronize these two last businesses, now the sad blight of empty stores is creeping in.

I was happy to see that the moribund TV shop, Leo’s TV, finally gave way to a new business, the Deerfield Fly Shop.  This type of specialty store might just make its own niche, if enough fishing enthusiasts make it here, and perhaps if he can also sell flies on line. And next door to the fly shop, the Franklin Community Television office just got a bright new leader, in Chris Collins, the radioman and Recorder columnist who was just hired to run the place.  Maybe Chris will energize the station and create television shows that people will be interested in. For now the main programming seems to be people dancing to polka music at a summer chicken barbeque.  We must have more to show off than that.

What I would love is to see someone build a new cafe right off Route 5 at the corner of Elm Street.  For a few months several years ago, the property was listed, and it was touted as a perfect restaurant site.  It is on Route 5, a busy road, and there is almost no other place to find good coffee and a meal right off the road.  What I worry about is that our town has too few people and it’s getting smaller.  In all of Franklin County, the population hovers at about 75,000, a number that hasn’t changed for ten years.  Without new blood, new construction, and new people coming to town, there is no incentive for new businesses except those that benefit from helping the elderly.  So we have two home care operations in retail stores that once served more inspiring purposes.