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The faces and personalities of our downtown community.

Richie’s Beat

A fun walk shadowing former postal carrier Rich Micelotta as he made his rounds on North Pleasant Street.

Joe Habib – Mixologist and Bar Manager at Bistro 63

 Joe holds the mysterious bottle of Sao Joao Da Baria

Joe holds the mysterious bottle of Sao Joao Da Baria

Monkey Bar/Bistro 63

Bartender Joseph Habib

Joe likes the term bartender rather than mixologist because he tends the bar, engages with customers, takes the temperature of moods, and sets the scene. He works in an amazing space with the copious selection of spirits, bitters, tonics and tinctures — some arcane and mysterious. like the bottle of Sao Joao Da Baria – a distinct smokey flavored spirit that is incredibly hard to find.  RJ and Rasif, owners and inventors at Bistro 63 work together with their front of house staff and bar team, as RJ puts it: “in conquest of the mystery of the human palate.”

Joe is now a modern alchemist mixing curious, exciting and memorable drinks using tinctures, bitters, and spirits. He likes tinctures best and recently made chicory and sassafras combinations inspired by a recent trip to New Orleans. Joe also uses local and seasonal, for example a spring drink featured fresh rhubarb tincture.

Joe studied at UMASS Amherst in the Food Science Department and tithe Sustainable Food and Farming Department. He also studied at Johnson & Wales culinary school in Providence RI, but the chemistry and science behind food and taste combinations was more appealing.

He understands the history of the drink and how the first cocktails were derived from home-made tinctures and blends of bitters and herbs for health and digestive well-being, such as the Old Fashioned.

Red Door Salon

 Liana and McKenzie

Liana and McKenzie

Red Door Salon opened it’s doors at 55 South Pleasant Street in October, 2017. The manager and owner Kirsten Barnes has worked in Amherst for 19 years and she and her staff have a dedicated following. The renovations done to the former book shop are remarkable. Kirsten kept floor level stations for those clients not able to climb the stairs. The second floor is beautiful and boasts some of the finest views of the town commons. There is a separate private room used for special event styling and make up.

Red Door Salon Amherst

Fretted Instrument Workshop

Tony Creamer – Fretted Instrument Workshop
49 South Pleasant Street, 2nd Floor

Fretted Instrument is a downtown Amherst landmark and has existed on the second floor of 49 South Pleasant Street since 1971. The Amherst BID office was across the hall (in what was once Truc, a head shop as Tony remembers) and the most amazing sounds would often fill the hallway. It was tempting to wander over and peak through the door to see who was playing as some renowned local, national and international musicians have been and are customers. Joan Baez is a present client. The space is filled with instruments and the low-key atmosphere encourages relaxed exploration.

Tony has witnessed Amherst for these decades and remembers South Pleasant Street through it’s changes. Businesses like Rapps Deli, the first deli with bagels and lox in Amherst, that occupied the ground floor of 79 South Pleasant Street, the building that used to be a church (then the Peter Pan Bus Station, then the Fiber Arts Center) and is now part of Amherst College. Jeffrey Amherst Books was also in this building. He also recalls Laughing Gravy Natural Foods which was  in a building taken down for the Boltwood Parking Garage now stands.  The Jones Library Special Collections found out that Laughing Gravy ran for 2 years from January 1971 – February 1973 and began by delivering brown rice, tamari, miso, sesame seeds, apple butter  and more out of the back of a ’63 VW bug.

Tony said he recently learned that a part of the repair room on the third floor is the remains of a free-standing building, “Sweetser Hall” that was once dedicated to music, performance, theater and lectures. It was destroyed in a fire with most of the rest of the buildings in that area at the turn of the 20th century.

The view of the Amherst Common is magnificent from the second-floor window, especially in the early afternoon light.