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Coffee shop owner sees much potential in downtown

Date: 3/23/2010

March 24, 2010.

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE -- Artist Octavia Anderson-Mackey was looking for new studio space, but instead she opened a new business downtown.

Anderson-Mackey has operated Cabotville Coffee since the end of January and said the response to the coffee shop has been "amazing."

Nestled just inside the historic main gate of the industrial complex, Cabotville Coffee offers coffee and espresso drinks, pastries and lunch items. With free WiFi and space for art, she is hoping people ditch the corporate coffee habit and try a locally owned business.

A painter by vocation, Anderson-Mackey came to look for studio space at Cabotville last year after she lost her space in Holyoke. Originally she sought to share some space with another artist, but ultimately decided to go solo. Her daughter Kaela suggested she consider running a coffee shop, something, which Anderson-Mackey had thought about 15 years earlier.

She said she went through her large library at home and found some useful advice. She then spent two months preparing the space. Although she said she was concerned about a location with light -- a product of being a painter -- she likes her location that is on lower level facing the canal.

"I embraced its warmness," she said. Her customers have called it "cozy," she added.

She sells only Dean's Beans Coffees, which is a fair trade brand that buys organically raised beans from independent farmers at market prices. Another feature of the business is that she is willing to deliver lunches, from 1 to 2 p.m. to the Cabotville complex and the immediate downtown area.

Her coffee shop is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and has additional hours on Thursday and Friday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. On Saturday she is open from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Much of the art on the walls is her own, she said.

One advantage to her location is she has a "confined customer base" in the many people who work at the businesses at Cabotville. Signs around the complex direct potential customers to her shop and she said she is now "beyond passive" advertising.

"People out in the world are finding my signs and following them," she said.

With the warmer weather, Anderson-Mackey has already begun putting chairs and tables outdoors and she plans to offer entertainment such as acoustic jazz and an open mic night later this year.

Anderson-Mackey is a vocal supporter of using former mill buildings for several different uses. Currently Cabotville has tenants that include light manufacturing, lawyers, photographers and artists, she said. Joshua Guttman, the current owner is continuing his plans of turning part of the complex into condominiums, she added.

She said of the mixed-use concept, "if these old mills are going to work, it's the only way it's going to work."

For both customers coming to businesses and for potential tenants, Cabotville has the advantage, she noted, of having easy access from Interstate 391

"The possibilities are amazing in this place," she said.