The Battle For The Round House
When I took the cheap, ugly and intrusive "For Sale By Owner" signs down from the Round House Cafe a couple of weeks ago, a number of people were horrified, they were worried about the poor landlord and his rights. As a reporter and former resident of New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Atlantic City, I learned that landlords seemed to do pretty well at taking care of themselves, the people I always met and saw who got screwed were tenants.
Just ask the hundreds of thousands of tenants in Boston, San Francisco and New York City who have been kicked out of their homes and apartments to make way people with more money. The landlords are doing fine.
In America, money speaks more loudly than anything else, certainly louder than community or the environment. It is heresy to some to protest what landlords do, we are supposed to roll over quietly while the corporate economy ravages our communities. There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations devoted to protecting things of value that town after town has lost in America: peace, kindness, community, freedom, work we love, health, callings and good jobs, factories and businesses, wilderness, farmland, small family farms, families, wilderness, rivers and streams, fish, species of plants and animals, trees and bees, the very atmosphere, scenic roads, fine old buildings, community businesses and cafes, pharmacies and grocery stores, country roads, scenic views and landmarks, historic places, quiet, darkness, the stars int the sky.
"Collectively," writes the famed author and environmentalist Wendell Berry, "these organizations comprise a movement of redemption, a movement to deliver the holy earth from its ruthless exploiters who are claiming everywhere their "right" to plunder, waste, corrupt, and destroy the great possessions that have been given to us on the condition only of our devoted care."
I embrace the idea of the "holy earth," and I plan to be a part of this movement.
One reader demanded that I apologize for taking down the landlord's signs, signs it seemed were meant to bully, not sell. And I do apologize, I am sorry that I didn't take them down a second time. Scott Carrino asked me not to.
The signs could, in many ways, be a mixed thing, even a blessing. They seem to have inaugurated a new chapter in the struggle to save our community cafe, they might yet do a lot of good. Everyone is about to exercise their rights.
The landlord is asking $250,000 for this building, an old bank building that has been on the market for nine years. "There is no building in Cambridge that is worth $250,000," one real estate agent told me last week. I am not an assessor, I can't say what a building is worth. Negotiations have begun.
But the signs have refocused the community's attention on the urgency behind the campaign to save the Round House. On their gofundme project, and thanks in part to many of you reading this, and from loyal customers, Scott and Lisa Carrino have raised more than $60,000 to buy the building where the cafe is located, and where they have worked so hard for three years to make it a going concern.
As loved as the cafe is, it is still a small town of less than 2,000 souls, and Scott says he needs between $10,000 and $15,000 more dollars to make the offer he wants to make in order to purchase the building. He and Lisa are launching a month long funding campaign that will culminate in a special evening and dinner at Pompanuck Farm, he will be providing the details as updates online and on his gofundme project. People who can't get to the dinner can contribute to the gofundme project and in other ways to be revealed.
Scott and Lisa are thinking about holding their dinner during the Bedlam Farm Open House on Columbus Day Weekend in October. We will support it in any way we can.
I believe this goal is achievable, people all over the country have chosen to support the Round House as it struggles to keep community alive. People who aren't here understand its value, one lover of community far away sent a check for $5,000. The cafe is important to those of us who live and gather here, but it is important to everyone who cares about community anywhere, and who wishes to reverse the relentless tide of loss and deprivation that rural communities have suffered.
This is America, and almost everything is controversial. People have protested that they see no reason to support one family's personal business. People have told me it is none of my business. Many more people get it and are on board.
My message to those who disagree, is simple enough. Don't read my posts, don't contribute. Eat where you wish. Subway and Applebee's don't square with my idea of community.
When democracy works, it is a sweet thing to watch. We are going to have a fun month raising this additional money. Scott and his landlord will each make their own decisions, and that is their business, for sure.
Scott and Lisa can buy this building, which is their wish. Failing that, they can take their money and find another, even better place for the cafe. There are, alas, some beautiful buildings up for sale in our town.
If plan B fails, Scott and Lisa can regroup at Pompanuck Farm, their beautiful home and farm retreat. The landlord can sell the building at his asking price, lower his price, or wait for someone else to come along. Money always speaks in its own language, and in America, money is louder than almost any other sound. It is our national religion.
I believe the movement to save the Round House is a movement of redemption, a movement to deliver a piece of the holy earth from the people who see their "rights" in a different way than I do. All of life cannot be about the highest bidder, the biggest profit. At present, it sometimes seem that there is nothing, literally nothing, held sacred by the proponents of the marketplace.
So the next chapter is upon us for the Round House Cafe, maybe the final one, maybe not. I will be there to root for Scott and Lisa and see what we see. I told Scott today that a lot of people, in many different places, are watching. You can contribute here.