As published in Berkshire Living Magazine, Issue #53, October 2010

Elf Parlor in North Adams, Mass., made an easy transition from relaxed coffee shop to trendy college bar this summer because, well, it really wasn’t much of a transition at all.

“It’s still a coffee shop first—we just happened to add beer and wine to the menu,” says Mike Blakeman, who owns the place with his wife, Seven.

Part of Elf Parlor’s appeal lies in its fresh, fun, and welcoming interior, built and decorated entirely by the owners.

“We wanted to keep it simple and clean but flexible for stuff to happen,” Blakeman recounts. (That “stuff” includes local art exhibitions, impromptu jam sessions and open mikes, and weekend performances by MASS MoCA musicians such as the Bang On a Can crew and Todd Reynolds.)

A moss-covered cash register, funky stained-glass lighting over a copper bar, and sparkly tabletops lend a quirky ambiance to the otherworldly space, in which patrons can enjoy good teas and coffees and homemade dished made with local ingredients. Almost everything on the menu is vegetarian and gluten-free, including baked goods made in-house. Sunshine Bagels, handmade by North Adams, Mass., artisan baker Annie Kirkpatrick, are also available.

Blakeman says that creating “a little art venue/music venue that would be here for a couple hundred years was pretty much our goal.”

While it still has several decades to go, Elf Parlor is off to a great start, evolving into a self-sustaining artists’ community complete with bright-green walls. Add free wireless Internet access and Berkshire Brewing Company beers on tap, and it’s no wonder the spot has been such a hit with MCLA students who reside just across the street.

Blakeman has a much simpler explanation for why Elf Parlor has been so successful: “It’s just an easygoing, friendly place.”