Sam’s Pizzeria in Northampton closes after 12 years

  • Sam's Pizzeria and Cafe at 235 Main Street in Northampton on Friday, March 8, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sam Harbey, owner of Sam's Pizzeria and Cafe in Northampton, sits in his favorite seat looking out on Main Street on Friday afternoon, March 8, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sam Harbey, owner of Sam’s Pizzeria and Cafe in Northampton, sits in his favorite seat looking out on Main Street on Friday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer/For the Gazette
Published: 3/9/2019 7:19:52 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On warm Friday nights during the summer, Sam’s Pizzeria and Cafe would open its large windows and one could hear strummed guitars and bluesy harmonicas down Main Street. For the past 12 years, the pizza shop has held one of the longest-running open mics in western Massachusetts and has become a popular hangout spot in downtown Northampton.

This summer, however, the windows will remain shut and there won’t be any more musicians plucking and singing away. The eatery’s owner, Sam Harbey of Springfield, has decided to close up shop.

“When I came here I said I was going to do 10 years, and I stayed 12,” Harbey said. Sam’s closed the last week of February and Harbey said he did not make a major announcement. He waited until his employees found work elsewhere before officially closing to the public.

“This place has been a great place for me and a lot of people — it became a real community place,” Harbey said sitting at the restaurant on Saturday.

He looked out the large windows reminiscing about the people he’s gotten to know since the shop opened in 2007. Some people walked into the shop on Saturday and Harbey delivered the news that it had closed to dismayed faces. As a red sedan drove by on Main Street, a man in yellow sunglasses yelled out “Hi!” and Harbey waved back.

“I’ve made a lot of friends up here,” Harbey said. “I’ve had great musicians play here — Darlingside, Heather Maloney, Evelyn Harris — a whole bunch of good people. Plus, the room was comfortable enough that if you were just starting out you felt comfortable, or if you were established, you were comfortable.”

For Harbey, it’s not easy saying goodbye to the pizza shop that has brought so many people together for over a decade. “I already miss the place,” he said.

Harbey credits his customers for the welcoming environment that was created at Sam’s, saying, “You’re only as good as the people that come in.”

If people needed a bite to eat, they were fed, Harbey said. “We never turned anyone away.”

That included dogs, as well. A bowl for water would always be filled and regulars like Sammy, Atticus and Jackson would stop by for a drink, Harbey said.

For the next two weeks, Harbey will be cleaning the restaurant and getting everything out. After that, Harbey is leaving the possibilities open. He stated he would like to open another business in Northampton with a partner, but he has no concrete plans as of yet.

“I want to take time for myself,” he said. “No quick decisions.”

The shop wasn’t just inviting to musicians, but artists as well. The work of local artists would regularly hang on the yellow walls of the pizza shop for purchase.

Currently, there are no plans for a new business once Harbey vacates the storefront, he said.

“I’m a lucky man, and I’m lucky to have had this experience,” Harbey said, adding that he would tell people, “If you have to be somewhere every day, Northampton is a good place to be.”

Harbey said he plans to hang a sign on the front door that will read, “Thank you Northampton, it’s been a wonderful experience.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




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