After you make it, reach back to help others

  • Amy McMahan Amy McMahan

Published: 11/27/2018 11:03:00 AM

I love Greenfield. I drove up I-91 from Northampton (where I thought I wanted to live) in 1996 for a job interview at the Green Fields Market. I got that job and then a year later I got a job for a brew pub that was opening, as their first kitchen manager. The People’s Pint just celebrated its 20th anniversary.

When I bought a house in Greenfield in 2002, I was surprised that we didn’t have a burrito bar like Bueno Y Sano or Cha Cha Cha. I ate at those places three to five times a week in Hampshire County. A light bulb went off.

Restaurants don’t really get loans from banks, the risk/reward ratio is unappealing for most lenders. However, Greenfield Savings Bank lent us the money we needed to open Mesa Verde because their ratio was different: it wasn’t risk/reward it was risk/benefit to the town.

On Jan. 10, 2019 we will celebrate our 16th anniversary. In that time, businesses on Miles Street and Fiske Avenue have turned over and we have become the anchor business of the Energy Park/Fiske Avenue part of downtown. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to be trusted with capital, to found and grow a thriving business in this downtown. I walk to work from my downtown residence and I am greeted by people from all walks of life, I am saluted, and honored.

As a gay person of color, who was born in war-torn Vietnam and grew up in the South, my current life in Greenfield is far beyond what I thought possible.

As Michelle Obama said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, “When you’ve worked hard and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back.”

So on Nov. 4, I co-hosted an event called “Take The Floor” at Mesa Verde. Entrepreneurs were pitching business ideas, in front of a distinguished panel, with the hope of securing funding to realize their dreams. It all starts with an idea and a space to articulate that idea, to flesh it out, and to get financial and emotional support. My hope is that we can foster economic growth in the downtown.

There are a lot of empty storefronts downtown. Two salons left for Federal Street, a bridal studio moved, the Country Jeweler retired, and King’s Gym is moving to the outskirts.

Greenfield, like many downtowns, is being affected by Amazon and other online retailers. I, like most Americans, buy things online. Online shopping, while convenient, and in some cases necessary, is anonymous. Downtowns provide an experience and connection. Recently, a customer came in who had misplaced her wallet, I gave her the total and she mailed me a check. Downtowns are where we can be known, seen, and trusted.

I hope you will join me in holding a vision of a thriving downtown. Greenfield is a great town. Our downtown is a statement of our shared values, our connection to our past and our future, and our connection to one another. Let’s lift it, ourselves, and each other up.


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