Friday, July 3 will be the last day of operations for the remaining Free Press Coffee House in Springfield, and owner Jane Ann Petty said she is shifting her focus back to the original location in Pittsfield.
“With quarantine and everything, it really showed me that I need to focus on all of the things that I have going on in Pittsfield, including my family,” said Petty. She and her husband, Jonas, are Pittsfield residents who restored and reopened the historic William Watson Hotel in 2008. The first Free Press location opened there, and Petty said the coffee shop will now be called William Watson Café.
“We think it’s going to be a really good thing to combine the two of them,” she said of marketing the hotel and coffee shop together.
Four years ago, the couple announced plans to open two Free Press Coffee House locations in Springfield, one in a former gas station at South Grand Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, and the other in a retail strip center off Toronto Road. The location at 1370 Toronto Rd. closed in July 2018 and is now home to Three Twigs Bakery.
While Petty said she couldn’t speak on behalf of the landlord for the 916 South Grand Ave. location, she hinted that the space may not be vacant for long. “I think there’s going to be some activity there in a while.”
Ward 7 alderman Joe McMenamin said he was not aware of future plans for the Free Press property but hopes to see another business replace it. “It’s a big loss; they’ve been a popular location and hangout for the neighborhood,” he said.
McMenamin noted that Court and Karen Conn recently purchased the former Paris Cleaners building next door and announced plans to open a neighborhood pub which, along with a coffee shop, would have provided both a daytime and nighttime gathering spot for area residents.
According to Petty, the decision to close the location wasn’t due to lack of support from the community. “A lot of people I’ve talked to, in all professions, have said this (quarantine) provided them an opportunity to re-evaluate and prioritize,” she said. “We enjoyed ourselves while we were there.”
Petty said she remains optimistic about the future of MacArthur Boulevard. “I grew up in that neighborhood. I look forward to watching it continue to grow, and I think it will.”