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Restaurant owners Xavier Jones and Warren Dews Jr. cut the red ribbon on the Firehouse Cafe on Thursday with Selectwoman Christine Hoyt.
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Long-Empty Firehouse Cafe Reopens in Adams Saturday

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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The new cafe features Mediterranean cuisine. The building, a former firehouse, has been closed for eight years.

ADAMS, Mass. — After being closed for nearly eight years, the Firehouse Cafe and Bistro at 47 Park St. will reopen this Saturday with new owners and a new menu.

The Board of Selectmen held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the restaurant, the site of the town's former firehouse and ambulance bay, on Thursday. Restaurant co-owner and Chef Xavier Jones thanked his fellow owner Warren Dews Jr. and everyone who helped make the opening possible.

"We can't do this by ourselves, so we want to just once again thank everybody. We're going to serve great food, have fabulous service, we have a beautiful atmosphere and we look forward to seeing our restaurant when we open up the doors," he said.

Dews said he is excited for he and Jones to be in business in Adams.

"I've known [Jones] for a couple of years, and the man is gifted," he said. "He is gifted at what he does. So I am blessed to be his partner here. I am blessed to be in Adams, because he told me how much you all loved him and how you supported him."

Jones operated Bigg Daddy's Philly Steak House on Commercial Street before moving to Pittsfield several years ago.

There's no Philly steaks on the new Firehouse menu. Instead, it's serving up Mediterranean infused cuisine with soups, salads, tapas and entrees including petite filet, a polenta ratatouille and a ricotta gnocchi.

The former firehouse has opened and closed several times since becoming a restaurant, most recently in 2014, when building owner William Kolis closed that restaurant after just nine months in operation. The space continued to be a meeting location for various entities including Adams-Anthony Center.

Jones, Dews and staff coordinated a soft-opening last Friday, giving those who purchased a ticket online an opportunity to visit the restaurant and sample several drinks and menu items. At the event, Jones said it was an opportunity for people to support the restaurant.

"People have been waiting for a long time for this place to reopen," he said. "It was closed for eight years, and we want it to be here for 20 years."

Town Administrator Jay Green said the opening is an example of the ongoing business development in Adams.

"This is an example of the rebirth of downtown Adams," he said. "Storefront by storefront, business by business, we're seeing people come into Adams and realizing the benefits and the beauty of our town."

Selectmen Chair John Duval said he is excited to see activity in the building again. He said the opening should help bring some nightlife to Park Street, which he said has been lacking in the past.

"I see this grand opening as one piece of the puzzle into many things that are happening on this street that you'll be hearing about very soon," he said. "There's more coming, and this is one of the pieces in this new resurrection of our downtown street."

Tags: restaurants,   ribbon cutting,   

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Hoosac Valley School Committee Reviews School, District Improvement Plans

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley School Committee has approved an updated district improvement plan. 


Superintendent Aaron Dean said his cabinet took feedback on the plan after the last meeting by adjusting some of the goals. He explained that the district can and should change the plan as the needs of the district and its students change. 


"This is a live document," he said. "It has links to our resources, links to rubrics and links to our professional learning experiences that we're providing. And it will be a live document that will be posted on the website so people can see that this is the work we're doing."


In addition to the district plan, the committee also heard updates on the individual school improvement plans. The principals and assistant principals of all three schools provided the committee with progress on strategic objectives. 


Elementary Principal Erin Beaulac said this year's school improvement plans hope to build off of accomplishments from last year. Specific to the elementary school, she said both students and teachers are responding well to responsive classroom, the school's social-emotional learning program. 


"The focus on all three plans, just like the district improvement plan, is not to introduce a ton of new things, but to go deeper with where we started last year," she said. 


At the middle school, Principal Chris Sposato discussed the success of the student support center. He said the center exists for students that request or need help, rather than as a punitive measure. 


"We have the Student Support Center working better than ever," he said. "... We prefer it to be proactive. So if a student would like to see someone, for whatever reason, if they're just feeling a little anxious, if they're stressed out. Maybe they don't even know why, they're just like 'I can't do this right now,' they can request to the teacher to go to the SSC, the teacher will then assess the situation and do their professional judgment." 


High School Principal Colleen Byrd said the high school has also opened a student support center this year. She said the center for the high school is close to the offices of the student councilors, so students can be available for them. 


"What we have done at the high school so far, which has kind of been a soft opening of the Student Support Center, is that we've identified students who really need some extra support and we've already started building plans for those students," she said. 


All three principals said they are working on increased community participation and better communication with families. Each spoke highly of Erica Girgenti, the district's family and community engagement coordinator and the work she has done this year. 


"She has been phenomenal at coming in, taking pictures and publicizing all these events on social media. We've gotten a lot of great press from that, which is a small but, I think, powerful thing," Beaulac said. "She herself has also helped branch out to the community at large for these events and getting volunteers, getting donations, getting people to show up. That has been something I've been very aware of this year."


Committee Chair Michael Mucci spoke highly of the principal's work on the improvement plans and their efforts to benefit the district. 


"To truly see the six of you come here on the same night and show the vertical alignment and talk through the process. There really is, for myself and hopefully most of the committee here, a deeper appreciation. You are actually writing this, you are actually putting this together. It is organic documents that's adapting to what we need at the school to really improve the school, which is what I think a lot of us are here for."


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