How Elmer’s Came to Be

Elmer’s Store has a 100-plus year story in Ashfield and Western Mass, having gone through various owners and transformations: general store, meat store, lunch counter.

 

Then in 2005, life-long festival designer and sign-writer Nan Parati came to Greenfield, MA to work at the Green River Festival and visit her old friend Anna Fessenden in Ashfield. While there, Nan decided she really, really liked Ashfield and soon became especially enamored of a building called “Elmer’s Store” that had been closed for 3 years. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” she thought, “to own a little restaurant in a tiny town like this one?” She’d never worked in a restaurant before, true, but figured it wouldn’t be much different from working in a large festival (she was wrong!). In any case, she was headed back to New Orleans.

 

On the way home, however, she got word that a big hurricane was headed towards New Orleans and was thus advised to spend a few more days away. As she happily returned to Ashfield, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, taking out Nan’s house and everything in it. So she settled in Ashfield, buying that beloved building and re-opening it as a funky, homestyle breakfast house called Elmer’s Store.

 

Nan ran the store, as well as her later-purchased, across-the-street inn—Elmer’s Inn at Norton Hill—until 2018, when, just as magically, husband-and-wife Florencia Ferrari Haines and Andreas Auer inquired if she’d possibly be interested in selling the two buildings as well as the businesses they housed. Thirteen years had been long enough, she decided, and so, liking Andreas and Florencia, and feeling they would do right by the place, she sold. She didn’t leave town, however—she’s probably over in the corner, thinking about things, right now.

 

Florencia and Andreas, meanwhile, had spent the last almost 10 years living and working in Europe—Frankfurt, Germany, to be exact, where banker Andreas had been transferred from Houston, TX… where he’d been transferred from New York City… where they’d met, got married and had their son Alexander. Those 10 years, during which they travelled pretty much everywhere in Europe, both having friends and family all over the continent, were crucial in cementing their shared love of food, interest in small business and a growing passion for a place to call their own. Argentine-born Florencia had lived all over the map, including a childhood in Cambridge, England and several years between NYC, California and Buenos Aires working in art, film and business marketing. Andreas, born in Minnesota to footloose, wanderlust German parents, had grown up in the north of Germany and Nigeria. Neither had, or has, any family rooted in any specific place (instead stretching from Buenos Aires, Brazil and Colombia to Britain!) and the community-oriented charm of Ashfield and Western Mass, where one of Florencia’s oldest and closest friends Jen grew up and lived, beckoned.

 

In August 2017, Florencia and Andreas, with their then 12-year-old son Alex, arrived in Western Mass to visit old friend Jen just as Nan had done 13 years before—and, just like her, fell equally in love. They stayed at Nan’s inn (now their own!) and had breakfast across the street at Elmer’s, tasting the most delicious pancakes in the world and enjoying the mix of well-known locals and charmed drop-ins from near and far. They sunbathed in the town’s own river beach and shopped for souvenirs at the coolest hardware store—we want this, they decided, and so: the next chapter of Elmer’s Store was born!

 

The Auers are committed to keeping Elmer’s legacy alive, ensuring its famous breakfasts remain the best ever and that its popular, well-loved space grows ever-more creative and innovative into the future.

 

 

We hope you come and find the same magic!