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Cafe, writing salon planned for former bakery in South Deerfield

SOUTH DEERFIELD — For months, lights have turned on and off and voices could be heard from the old storefront of the former Elm Street Bakery.

However, curious passersby did not find any homemade bread when they went to investigate the recent activity at the old shop.

The people coming and going from the old bakery building are not bakers and chefs but artists and writers attending a weekly creative writing workshop.

Since February, Ruth Flohr Uchiyama of Shutesbury has run a creative writing workshop on Wednesday evenings out of the Elm Street building, which she rented from its owners, Linda and Dan Goscenski. During the afternoon, she has offered writing workshops for students. In the front of the space, Carole Carlson of Greenfield had an art studio.

But what is now a white blank nameplate hanging on the concrete wall of the building will soon become a light gray 12-foot sign with a mosaic image of a coffee mug.

Uchiyama hopes to officially open Monday as the Mosaic Arts Cafe. She still needs a final business permit from the town, however.

“I decided to do the cafe to create an environment where writers can come sit and write,” said Uchiyama. “It is to support artists coming in the area.”

The cafe is part of the next phase of the Elm Street building, which has been closed for several years. This summer, the Pure Yoga and Wellness Studio and the Pure Beauty Studio opened in the back of the building, where the bakery had been located.

In August, Uchiyama began work on the building, repainting its walls, redoing the flooring and installing tile. On the walls are examples of Uchiyama’s photography and other local artists’ work.

The cafe will be split into two sections.

The front area will be the cafe, where people can get a cup of Pierce Brothers Coffee or a sandwich or pastry.

Amy May, a baker at the Bement School and owner of Nice Buns in Bernardston, will provide the baked goods. Food will not be baked on the premises.

In a refrigerator, the cafe will have lunches to go with organic peanut butter, jam and wheat bread and natural sodas.

The cafe will also offer tea, served with a tea pot and water.

The back section will be the writing salon with a cozy couch and bistro tables.

Uchiyama says people can go to write and stay as long as they want. And unlike most coffee shops, writers will not have to keep buying coffee to stay.

“I want people to feel like they are coming to my home and can hang out,” Uchiyama said. “I want it to feel like it’s my kitchen or living room.”

Uchiyama is putting together a committee of poets and writers to figure out how best to use the salon space. Ideas include poetry readings or author events.

The cafe would be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and by event on weekends.

The hours could change in the future depending on customer feedback, Uchiyama said.

She’d like to see the cafe take on the feel of a historic European salon, in which people gathered to share their poetry and ideas. “I want to create that kind of environment where people feel this is a place that inspires that in them,” Uchiyama said.

In the cafe, there would be a notebook of people’s writings: the literature of the Mosaic Arts Cafe.

Uchiyama’s goal is to eventually offer a memoir and creative writing class, along with an after-school writing class for students.

Currently, Uchiyama holds a four-week creative writing class from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays for $100.

Last spring, she held a workshop for area students 11 to 13 years old.

Uchiyama lived in the Pioneer Valley 21 years ago until she moved to Berkeley, Calif., where she taught communication studies at San Francisco State University. Uchiyama retired from teaching last August and moved back to western Massachusetts in September.

“I’ve always wanted to come back,” Uchiyama said. “I love the small community life.”

Once here, she set out to find a space for a writing shop. After viewing spaces in Florence and Shelburne Falls, Uchiyama was driving through South Deerfield and saw the Elm Street bakery building.

“As soon as I walked in, I knew it was the place,” Uchiyama said.

So far, she has found a welcoming reception in South Deerfield. “I feel so happy and grateful,” Uchiyama said. “People stop by and stick their heads in the door. Everyone’s been so warm.”

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