Thursday, May 24, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Toymakers

Can it really be five years since I had that first, seminal cappuccino at Toymakers Cafe? It was Memorial Day weekend, and I hardly knew anyone in Falls Village, and I sat on the front porch, deliriously happy that I could finally get a cup of coffee on Main Street. I hoped this cafe might succeed and become my hangout where I'd get to know my neighbors. Back then, I had no idea that owners Annie and Greg Bidou were not ordinary entrepreneurs but miracle workers, who would create a public living room for their adopted hometown, a place of warmth and welcome where lives would become intertwined and enriched.
Many of the people I know in Falls Village I first met at Toymakers, where the two communal tables encourage strangers to talk to each other. Annie and Greg, however, don't leave things up to chance, and more than a few times one of them would say to me, "I was just telling so-and-so about you. They are sitting on the sofa. Why don't you say, Hello?" I think that was how I met Joshua Stone, who was playing freestyle on the old piano one afternoon and had the joint jumping. When he finished, Annie suggested we discuss writing because Josh was working on a novel when he wasn't busy composing music. I don't remember when I first met the playwright Lonnie Carter, but I do remember that we bonded over our dislike for WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock, and I loved that Lonnie could do impersonations of the radio station's "personalities" such as North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley. Lonnie has earned a place of honor at Toymaker's with his own sandwich. The "Lonwich" is a BLT with cheese and mayo on a toasted everything bagel. (You can get it with egg, too, for extra protein.) Like its namesake, the Lonwich is awesome.

I don't remember ever not knowing Gloria Parker, who used to hold court at Toymaker's before she left for Mexico. Gloria loved nothing more than making introductions. It was her on-again-off-again-on-again husband, actor Howard Platt, who introduced me to Peter Felske, who designed and built the bookshelves of my dreams. I am pretty sure it was Gloria who first introduced me to Mary Palmer, Brenda Neilsen, Tino Galluzzo, Bob Blair, Clifton Jaeger, Larry Riley, Lara Mittaud, Mary and Richard Lanier and Betty and Martin Deeg.

Three years ago, when I was still a weekender, I would come have breakfast most Saturday and Sunday mornings and ask everyone's opinion about whether I should move to Falls Village full-time. After awhile, people started to roll their eyes when I spoke. I clearly remember Betsy Howie telling me that I couldn't filibuster anymore. "You have been talking about this for a year already," she said. "Make up your mind!"

And so I did.

I don't know if I would have moved here without Toymaker's as my social safety net. Falls Village might have been too scary, too lonely, too quiet. I always feel reassured on Thursday mornings when the cafe reopens for its four-day week. Annie once told me that their goal in starting the cafe was more spiritual than financial. They wanted to create a community gathering place (which would also serve expertly made lattes, hearty soups, savory sandwiches and the world's best sweet potato waffle.) They had moved to Falls Village because they wanted to live someplace where people really connected with each other and they wanted to create a cafe that would foster and nurture connections. They have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations

Congratulations, Annie and Greg.

Happy Anniversary. Many happy returns.


Dan Shaw said...

One of my favorite things about Toymakers it that they allow their regulars to run a tab. This level of trust is an important component of the Toymakers' vibe.

Anonymous said...

We moved to Falls Village 2+ years ago and were warmly welcomed by Annie and Greg. Friends of our from other town commented: "Oh, you've got that quirky cafe in FV." Well, I love quirky people and things. We've brought those friends and our kids and granddaughter there. We all love the comfortably homey big room and GREAT food. Happy 5 years!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Annie and Greg. Its hard to imagine "downtown" without them and the Toymakers Cafe. What a wonderful addition to our Village - best wishes for many years to come.

JerLor said...

We recently moved from West Cornwall here to Krickenbach, Germany. Among the things and places AND people that we miss the most is Toymaker's cafe and Annie and Greg. That was the nicest, most comfortable and homiest places around and the food??? Fantastic. Greg and Annie: We miss you. Jerry & Lorraine