Creative cafe on tap in Tupper Lake

TUPPER LAKE – “There isn’t enough being done to protect the hearts and minds of creative people in Tupper Lake,” said Evan Bujold. “And I’m sick of it. I’ve been sick of it. Now I’ve finally decided to do something about it.”

The high school librarian and board member of the Tupper Lake Community Engagement Coalition spoke with conviction about his idea to bring an internet arts and music cafe to Tupper Lake. Now, with community support and a dedicated venue in the heart of the uptown business district, those plans are approaching reality.

The Connection at 123 Park St., a collaboration between Bujold and a local baker, is less than a month away from opening its doors to creative youth, adults and visitors of the town. Bujold mentioned the idea at a TLCEC meeting about strategies to undermine underage drinking and hard drug use in town.

“They were saying, ‘We need open gym; we need open skate; we need all these physical activities for kids to take part in,'” Bujold said. “I told them, ‘Well, that’s all good and well, but what about the creative kids who don’t seek those pursuits?'”

Bujold then began to outline his solution: a cafe environment with wireless internet and a dedicated space for creative activities like music performance and art demonstrations. He explained the success of similar venues among youth in several cities he lived in.

“If you want this kind of demographic on your side, you have to give them what they want,” Bujold said. “All the kids at school have a device. It’s impossible to get them not to use them, and there are a lot of kids with interesting creative pursuits here.”

Jenn Walsh and Jon Kopp were all ears. They found Bujold’s idea a perfect match for the outlet they would soon open to sell Walsh’s baked goods. The partnership was finalized after Bujold provided them with a student-reviewed proposal for the venue and a petition with 121 Tupper?Lake Middle-High School student signatures.

Walsh’s confections will sell at the location, alongside a variety of products produced by home processors she met at farmer’s markets and craft fairs. Parker’s Maple Syrup, On Hands Lotion and Uncle Jimmie’s Backwood’s Goods are all partnered manufacturers for the store. Walsh welcomes any certified local processors to contact her with collaborative ideas.

Coffee and teas at the store will be a source of creative fuel for the “Mod 18” music and arts venue. This area of the store will be the sight of open mic nights, concerts, art workshops and general schmoozing among youth and adults alike, Kopp said. Sewing, painting and wood carving are a few event themes Kopp and Walsh hope to organize at the venue.

Renovations needed before the store’s formal opening include the construction of a kitchenette, additional furniture and painted walls. Kopp said the store should be open with limited offerings by the end of the month.

The idea of the creative hangout resonated well with local officials.

“It’s something the town will definitely support,” said Supervisor Patricia Littlefield. “I bet it will be very popular; something that a lot of kids would frequent, and it could be a destination for people here for camping, vacationing or visiting.”

“I support anything we can do for the teens to get them off the streets and offer socialization,” town Councilwoman Tracy Luton added. “We used to have arcades with games for that but now we have cafes with WiFi.”

The public received a sneak-peak of the venue Saturday during a memorial open mic held in honor of Jeff Bradley, a local musician who passed away at the age of 27 last January. Through the storefront windows at Park Street’s main intersection, visitors were seen filling the seats and socializing throughout the spacious venue while local musicians shared instruments and jammed.

“It’s great to be the first store of it’s kind in Tupper Lake,” Littlefield said. “And right on Park Street. Why not?”

Updates will be posted to The Connection’s Facebook page as it moves forward with construction and opening.