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North Adams Coffee Shop Offers Hot Drinks, Comfortable Atmosphere

By Melanie RancourtSpecial to iBerkshires
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Northern Berkshire coffee connoisseurs have a new place to fill their mugs — a family friendly coffee shop called the "elf parlor."

Seven and Michael Blakeman purchased the former Brick Oven on Ashland Street some time ago in the hopes of turning the pizzeria into the coffeehouse of their dreams.

"My husband and I met in southern Florida and decided to relocate to the Berkshires," Seven Blackeman said. "I am originally from Lenox and lived there when I was little. I missed the seasonal changes of this area and wanted to move back and did so about two years ago."

The Blakemans had always wanted to open a coffee shop and really liked the family atmosphere that the location had to offer. They live upstairs with their two young daughters.

The extensive renovations where made by them with the help of family and friends.

"We used recycled materials from the old Brick to make the benches, stools, and countertops," Blakeman said. "We added the stained glass above the counter area, added the side porch for comfortable outdoor seating on warmer days, installed the new front windows, which add more light to the room, and built a handicapped-accessible ramp in the back and handicapped bathrooms."

The eye-catching cash register covered with petrified moss on the counter is a must-see. The elf parlor serves coffee, espresso and organic tea.

"We have been serving just as much tea as coffee, which to me is surprising," Blackman said. "All of our tea is loose-leaf tea, totally organic and shipped to us from Divinitea, a distributor from Schenectady, N.Y. The flavors we have to offer are black tea, green tea, herbal tea and rooibos tea, a South African tea high in antioxidants and no caffeine."

The elf parlor chose Barrington Coffee Roasters in Lee for all its coffee needs because of it's freshness.

"The day we call to place an order with Barrington's, the beans are roasted and sent out to us the very next day, or if we are in South County we can pick up the beans ourselves, always guaranteeing our customers the freshest coffee in town," Blakeman said. 

Photos by Melanie Rancourt 
Above, the Blakeman family; below, something to have with your coffee.
Other hot beverages on the menu include lattes, cappuccino, hot cocoa, soy drinks for vegans and a "magical" drink called a hot cream. Prices range from a $1 for children's drinks to $3.25.     

"A hot cream is frothed milk with rainbow colors added on top, an elf parlor secret family recipe," said Blakeman. "Hot creams come with vanilla, raspberry, or maple flavoring, a perfect non-caffeinated hot beverage for our little customers." 

Children are invited to sit at a custom-made children's table, read a book, have a snack or listen to the music playing in the background.

Baked goods from Tutti Bakery in Pittsfield are made with all-natural ingredients and include a variety of cookies, muffins, coffee cakes and biscotti. Blakeman said the shop may expand to bagels and sandwiches in the future.

The Blakemans have been happy with the customer turn out since opening some weeks ago.

"On the Saturday nights that we have been in business, we have stayed open until at least midnight while customers have relaxed and played music on the instruments that are available in the jam area," she said. 

The jam area offers an electric piano and acoustic guitar; customers are encouraged to play them. The shop also offers Wi-Fi.

An art gallery has been set up in the back. The first featured artist is Nathan Rogers, a family friend from Florida, who created works out of items from the old Brick Oven.

The elf parlor is located at 303 Ashland St. It is open Mondays through Thursdays from 7 to 8 and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to midnight.
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BFAIR Learning Lab Open and Expanded

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

The lab offers a variety of hands-on learning opportunities for eligible high school and postsecondary students. At right, the new lounge for taking a break.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — With a fresh coat of paint and hew hands-on learning equipment, BFAIR's Learning Lab is open and expanded.
"Our goal is to get more students in and to get that hands-on experience they really deserve," Director of Employment Services Becky McAllister said at the Learning Lab open house Wednesday. "Before we really didn't have the space for it. This is a fun bright colorful space." 
The program is open to high school and post-secondary students ages 14 to 22 with a documented disability. The goal is to equip students with the skills they need to enter the post high school world.
"We want the people in the community to know we are here and to know you don't need a school to come to us," she said. "We teach them everything they need to know ... we help them figure out what kind of career they may be interested in."
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