Dine in a Building Rich in Local History

Red Riding Hood's Basket Café has been locally owned and operated since January 2008.  The Cafe inhabits the largest portion of the building as its dining room with original tin ceilings and walls, antique serving counter, and kitchen with extra seating and a reading corner complete with books and couches ready to relax on in part of the ell.  The sounds of Ella Fitzgerald and a rich bygone era echo through the building as the scent of freshly baking bread wafts from the Café kitchen.  If you are looking for a warm and inviting atmosphere and delicious food, look no further than RRHB.  From the antiques displayed proudly in and above all of the windows to the delicious treats baked from scratch in-house, a trip to Red Riding Hood's Basket does not disappoint.  

A Look Back

The three Congamond lakes in the southeast part of town have been for most of Southwick history a place where local people as well as those from afar would gather.  The enjoyments included picnics by the shore, steamboat rides, rowing or coneoing, and swimming.  Hundreds of people would come (by horse and buggy, then by train and later by automobile) to Southwick to spend a day or perhaps a week or two during the warmer months.  By 1894 there were three hotels (the Pavillion, the Railroad, and the Lake House) to accommodate the crowds.  There were also two ice houses in operation by that date.  A detail of the L.J. Richards map (which appears on page 22 of the book Around Southwick prepared by the Southwick Historical Society, Inc.) shows how congested this area was in that era.  Many people came to Southwick to find employment in the ice harvesting business run by the Congamond Ice Company. 

Congamond_Circa_1906Research has shown that the building our Café is housed in was built around the turn of the 20th century by the Berkshire Ice Company as a store and office.  Arrayed on the walls of the Café are four views of the building during its early history.  In the earliest photo, the sign over the porch says "MEAT AND GROCERIES" with "DRY GOODS" and "RUBBERS" in slightly smaller letters.  The sign near the front door advertises that it served as a Westfield Laundry Agency.  (Note the three windows over the two windows and a door on the right side of the building.)  Local manufacturer Henry R. Barnes may have made the wagon (on the extreme right) in his shop on the west side of what is now College Highway across from the Southwick Town Hall.  (One of his wagons, owned by the Southwick Historical Society, Inc. is on display in the foyer there, and a drawing of his shop appears on page 20 in the book Around Southwick.)

The second in the photo series shows that H.R. Malone sold hay and grain in the ell, while in the main building E.J. Malone featured cigars and tobacco as well as meats and groceries, with Gold Medal flour advertised in both sections.  (Notice that both the mail building and the ell have been enlarged and that there are both an automobile and a hitching post for the horses.)  Henry Raymond Malone (born in January 1889) and Erving James Malone (born in June 1892) were the youngest of ten children of James and Mary (O'Neil) Malone.  Although James was born in Ireland and his wife Mary was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, they must have settled in Southwick immediately after their marriage, since all their children were born here.  The general store was evidently a family affair with older brothers Timothy and John in charge in about 1910, with the younger ones serving as clerks.  By 1915, Henry and Erving were proprietors as in the photograph.  This situation did not last very long.  Both men served in World War I, with the former in the United States Army and the latter who had enlisted in the United States Navy by June 5, 1917.  When they came home, the general store had a new owner: C.L. Balch.  

Congamond_-_Balch_Store_-_IIClayton L. Balch was born (In June 1896) in Sandisfield, Massachusetts, son of Edward and Frances Balch.  Clayton and his brother Raymond came to Southwick during the First World War and Clayton purchased the business from the Malones, with Raymond working as clerk.  The stock was expanded to include agricultural implements, shoes, and men's furnishings and auto parts.  Clayton was evidently an early proponent of recycling since he merely changed the name on the front windows and displayed again, on the side of the building, the sign that had been over the door in the earliest photograph.  Notice the massive Crystal Icehouse on the right side of the photo.  (One would wonder whether the hitching post on the left was still being used very often.)

Congamond_-_Balch_Store_-_1914Some time during the Roaring Twenties, Clayton's older brother Raymond joined the business as a partner, changing the business name to Balch Bros.  The front windows were redone to reflect the change, and Bell Telephone Company had installed connections to the building.  Fisk tires were for sale, and "SALADA TEA IS DELICIOUS" appeared in a prominent place.  By the time the Great Depression began, the partnership had been dissolved.  Clayton and his family moved to Plantsville, Connecticut, and Raymond became manager of A.H. Phillips, Inc. grocery store located in the center of Southwick where the Country Colonial Gift Shop is now.  A photograph of the interior of that store is on page 24 in the book Around Southwick.  (A study of the property deeds shows that neither the Malones nore the Balches owned the property in which their respective businesses were located.)

Congamond_Circa_1930sDuring the 1930's the owner of the business in this building was Joseph Ventrice, and the family of Deodato Bonini purchased the business and property from Mr. Ventrice.  Mr. Bonini and his wife Valia were probably the tenants of this building for the longest period of time, from the late 1930's through part of 1959.  The new owner was Richard Cahill.  He and his wife Joyce ran the store for many years also, from 1959 through 1984.  Cahill's Market had a reputation for fine meats cut to order.  Robert Grimaldi was proprietor for a brief time, under the name Market 8 in honor of his eight children, and then the building was vacant.  Matthew C. Watson, a former East Hartland, Connecticut, resident, now of California, became familiar with Southwick when he worked at Edgewood Golf Course for several years.  Mr. Watson purchased the property in 1995, and for the past several years, he has painstakingly and lovingly restored the building to its original beauty.  The members of the Southwick Historical Society, Inc. are privileged to have a small part in this enterprise by sharing some of our photographs with you.   


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