If I hadn't snagged a job in 1994 working on an oral history project with the then EDIC in Turners Falls I wouldn't have heard about the tiny space I now rent on Avenue A. I was transcribing interviews of elderly Turners Falls residents and someone mentioned a little place that sold roasted peanuts next to Equi's candy store. So I looked for it. There was a little doorway and what remained of a lighted sign post sticking out over it. So something was definitely there once. I liked the notion and tucked it in the back of my mind about that. Whenever I walked by with the kids I would point it out.
But that was years ago, 17 years ago. In all that time I don't think anything went on in there. At least I don't remember. But there were times when I wouldn't bother with that section of the avenue at all. I was busy with the kids and going to school.
Last March I was going around town with donation cans for the Feast for the Arts fundraiser in Turners. I put one in Equi's and asked about the little space just out of curiousity. Immediately in my mind I thought "Nina's Nook" which has been a little name I have saved up in my mind for a little store of my own someday. Walt, the building owner, let me in a few days later and we struck a deal for rent that I could easily front even if I made no money down there.
It was being used as a bottle depository for the candy store--which in its present configuration is more like a package store with candy--and stank like old beer. THere hadn't been electricity on in there for a long time so I had to get an inspection done before they would turn on the power. It has it's own fusebox and meter right by the door. When I went to register at Town Hall we had to decide on an address. I chose "125a" because Equi's is 125, but I could have chosen 123 1/2 because it is in between 123 and 125. 123 is Tognarelli heating co.
THe picture above is after Walt got rid of the empties about mid April-early May. The concrete floor was pretty slimed with old beer and soda. I planned to paint the floor, but ran into trouble. That comes later though.
First, when I came back downtown in the spring to start fixing it up, Walt showed me where the roof had been leaking. Shit! I went in back of the place (the roof slopes to the rear) through the alleyway, and climbed up to poke at it a bit. It was pretty rotten! In fact the whole back end of the store was a patchwork of old rotten plywood over what used to be a back door leading on to the alleyway. I pulled some away from the rest and saw a face!
There was a very strange painting on the plywood that was nailed over the doorway! I can't figure out if it is supposed to be a pirate, a Minuteman, or what! Maybe for a bicentennial beerfest or something? Here's the rest of it
The Montague Reporter ran a photo of it in the paper but noone stepped forward with a memory.
Memory! That's the other thing, the back burner inspiration for this space: story collecting. Me, an old black Underwood, a chair, a snug comfy safe little Nook to record and transcribe the oratory of passerby. This inspiration came from the Northangle Nocturne comic book created by my friend Wednesday's then-husband Russell. A guy in a storefront in North Adams --er--Northangle--typing up whatever spews forth from the characters that wander in. I had the idea people would just love to have a passive audience to soak it all up--so much so that I invested in a 5 minute sand timer to keep it managaeble and cut off the wandering ones. It really bears no relationship to what actually happens on a day to day basis though. Another big idea like the day glo bracelets and necklaces I thought I'd do a killing selling at the town events. Hah! I don't have the hustle, that's what I've found out!
Back to the building. I had to find someone to repair the roof and back wall. I decided I would put a door back there for cross ventilation as long as it was being torn apart. And I had half an idea to fix up that long, narrow alley in back that ran another 40 feet to the rear, even though it had two huge old heat exchangers blocking the end and trees growing up in it through the usual trash. I wish I had taken a picture of the alley before I fixed it up!
I called some contractors and home depot and some roofer spam that came over the company fax machine. The home depot guy showed up in his orange apron much to the delight of the street drunks who pointed and howled. It was obvious from the start when he saw the job that it wasn't something that home depot would touch but he just wanted to go on and on being "knowledgeable" or whatever. The contractors came in really high and the spam roofer set up an appointment and never showed up. I ended up using Terry Estes, the contractor recommended to me by Uncle Greg Sudak. A nicer guy could not be had for any amount of money though he cost less than the other officious and obnoxious contractor dudes.