Planned eatery, arcade, music hall draws mixed reaction
Change proposed for former Polish eatery
HADLEY — The former home of a beloved Polish restaurant could house a new restaurant and vintage arcade as early as April, but the proprietors must face the gauntlet of a continued Select Board hearing on licenses before it can open its doors.
The venue, called the Quarters, will be at 8 Railroad St. in the building next to the Norwottuck Rail Trail that formerly housed Sofia’s Praises, one of the last Polish restaurants in the Valley.
Kristina Nikonczyk Beaudry, 57, founder and owner of Sofia’s, said she closed the restaurant in September when landlord Paul DiBenedetto ended her tenancy to make room for the Quarters. Though she said she was sad to close, moving was not financially feasible.
“I made a lot of good friends over the years there that I’m still in touch with,” she said by phone Feb. 18.
The space will see a very different kind of restaurant if the Quarters succeeds in getting approval from the Hadley Select Board. The proposed restaurant would include a bar, classic arcade games — like Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris — and live concerts. The owners are seeking licenses for liquor, food, live entertainment and amusement devices.
The Hadley Select Board held a hearing Feb. 20, but fate of the proposed establishment remains unresolved as the Select Board delayed voting on the licenses until March 6. Concerns about whether abutters had received proper notice of a previous site plan approval hearing by the Planning Board, along with questions raised by Timothy Neyhart, the building commissioner and Fire Captain Michael Spanknebel, led the Select Board to postpone its ruling.
A crowd of close to 30 people turned out to comment on the Quarters’ applications at the first meeting, overflowing into the hallway. The comments were mixed, however, with the restaurant drawing impassioned support as well as strong criticism from the audience.
Co-owner Greg Stutsman said that if the board grants the licenses, the Quarters is currently on schedule to open in early April.
Stutsman, who works in real estate and owned restaurants in Amherst and Northampton, plans to open the Quarters with George Myers, who manages Amherst Cinema and books events and concerts in the Valley.
At the meeting Feb. 20, Stutsman and Myers said that although the Quarters intends to offer many kinds of entertainment, it would primarily be a restaurant, open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. They said they intend to hold only four live shows per month.
The plans include 36 parking spaces on the property, according to Stutsman, who said that was sufficient parking to comply with the town bylaws. He also said there is space for additional parking if necessary.
Some residents shared the unease of Ted Giles, who said that he was happy to see a restaurant and arcade at the location, but he is concerned about alcohol and live entertainment.
“It is a quiet neighborhood,” Giles said. “We live at 23 Middle St. and we can hear the marching band at the high school practicing like they are in our back yard.”
Several residents expressed concerns about traffic, the proximity of children on the Norwottuck Rail Trail and the possibility of intoxicated patrons disturbing the neighborhood.
John Loconsolo of 32 West St. said he thought the Quarters would be bad for the character of the neighborhood.
“When you look back at Railroad Street and all the establishments that have been in business there, what you find are family oriented businesses: the ice cream shop, the bicycle shop,” he said. “This is a business that is not family oriented.”
Georgia Loconsolo, also of 32 West St., said she did not believe that the Quarters was appropriate for the area, which she described as quiet, agricultural and bucolic.
But some Hadley residents, who said they live near Railroad Street, argued that the Quarters would improve the area. James Burbidge of 41 West St. said that although he loves the neighborhood, Railroad Street looks derelict.
“All the businesses there are dying, they’re crumbling,” Burbidge said. “There’s really nothing on Railroad Street that would actually bring people back into town.”
He said that the people he has spoken to about the Quarters are excited to see it come.
Emily Houk of Cemetery Road said she and many of her neighbors are also enthusiastic about the Quarters because it would help “reinvigorate the area,” and give them a place to meet and hang out with friends on weekend afternoons.
“Frankly speaking, a place that has old arcade games that are nostalgic is going to attract nerds,” Houk said, who described yourself as a nerd, “and nerds are really respectful.”
Andy Morris-Freedman, the Hadley representative on the Norwottuck Rail Trail Advisory Committee, said that he is glad to see development along the trail, but he is concerned that patrons of the Quarters will wander onto the trail, increasing the likelihood of collisions with bicyclists. In a phone conversation before the meeting, Morris-Freedman said “the more amenities there are on the trail, the better it is for users,” but it is important that the establishment is friendly toward trail users by offering bathrooms and bike racks.
The only other business at the same address is Blueprint Gallery, an art gallery and tattoo parlor that is already in the building.
Meanwhile, Beaudry said she had been doing a good business before she closed Sofia’s and hopes to reopen one day. The restaurant, she said, was named in honor of her mother, who taught Beaudry to make the pierogi and golumpki that were signature dishes at Sofia’s.
Although she now has a job with dining services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a lot more free time, Beaudry said she misses the people she got to know through the restaurant. She said people still stop her in the aisles of the grocery store to tell her how much they miss her pierogi.