Alum-Owned Café “The Foundry” to Replace Yellow Sofa Downtown
Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2012 07:03
A cozy new study space will soon be added to the Northampton map. The Foundry, a new Smith alumna-owned café, will be opening in downtown Northampton later this month. Following the closure of the popular Yellow Sofa in early February, the space was purchased by Sally Noble ’12J, who plans to open her own coffee bar later this month.
“I definitely didn’t foresee it happening,” said Noble, a music major who transferred to Smith in 2009. “We had always wanted to have a café sometime…It was really just good timing.”
Noble, who worked at Starbucks before transferring, bought the café with her boyfriend, who worked in a coffee shop in New Jersey, after they noticed the “for sale” notice for the Yellow Sofa online. The couple had been keeping their eyes open for some time, also considering the site of the new LimeRed Teahouse, as well as some locations in Greenfield.
“We just kept coming back to Northampton,” Noble said. “We love Northampton; there are so many great people here.”
The Yellow Sofa closed earlier this year, when former owner Gabriel Moushabeck decided to focus on his other Northampton store, Booklink Booksellers, located in Thorne’s Marketplace. The business had opened in 2007, but Moushabeck decided it was time to “let a younger couple with new energy take over the business,” according to an e-mail announcement in early February.
“It’s pretty much been a two-to-three person operation the whole time,” said Noble. She and her boyfriend, sometimes helped by Smith alumna Melissa Breor ’11, have done all of the renovations themselves. Some minor changes have been made, but no major construction has taken place. Noble also received help from her mother, who came up to Northampton early in the process to help prioritize necessities like hiring, finding a roaster, getting a license and more.
“It’s definitely a learning process, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” said Noble, who described her daily visits to City Hall to ask people questions and ensure the business started off on the right foot. “It’s been nerve-wracking, but I do think that going to Smith gave me the confidence to assert myself more.”
For Noble, starting a business while in her last semester as Smith was definitely hectic. “I was in school, I had a job, all while checking out businesses and looking for apartments,” she said. “I haven’t walked yet, so that’ll be funny.”
The Foundry draws its name from the industrial look of the location, according to Noble, who mentioned the exposed piping and ducts on the site. “It also reminded me of some of the history of this area,” she explained, referring to the large industrial factories and mills prominent in the Valley’s history. Most importantly, she wanted a memorable and fitting name for the new café; Noble described wondering what sounded like a good place to meet when texting her friends.
According to Noble, her experience in the community has generally been positive. She related stories of people from the community coming into the site wondering if they had coffee, and very curious about when the café would open. Noble decided to contract with Esselon Coffee Roasting Company to roast The Foundry’s coffee, following a personal visit from Esselon’s director and a representative.
“It was such a nice gesture,” Noble said, explaining the private taste testing Esselon held for the shop’s owners. “And it works out for them, too - they get to get their name out there.”
Noble was unsure whether she wanted to continue with the musical tradition the Yellow Sofa was known for, thought she did obtain an entertainment license for the café.
“We keep going back and forth about it,” she said.
The new seating arrangement might not be conducive to a concert venue, but Noble thought they might start out slow and see what happens. “I’ve had a lot of musicians stopping in, asking when they’ll get their second home back,” she said.
In terms of community involvement, Noble expressed her hopes to have local artists display their work on the walls, in addition to potential music nights. She might also host a Smith preview night or special Smith student promotional days, in order to encourage the Smith population to check out the café.
The Foundry, at this point mostly finished and awaiting a health inspection, is set to open at the end of March.