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Goodbye To A Great Thing

I still remember the first good latte I got in Beacon. At the time there had been one or two places that had popped up on Main Street serving “European-style” coffee beverages on what was then a very young (or better yet, newly renewed) Main Street business district. But every time I stepped inside and ordered up a hot latte, what I got was scorched milk dumped onto two shots of tepid espresso.

Not, in my opinion, a very good way to spend nearly three of my hard-earned dollars.

The shop’s owner was a cherubic young woman with rosy cheeks who seemed to have been sprinkled with a bit of Pixie dust.

Then one morning I noticed a new “Open” sign hanging in the window of a coffee shop with a name I couldn’t quite pronounce.


Was that “ch” like church?

Or “c” like cat?

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Audrey, Mike, Debra, Jeff, & Nell. at the “Clash”: July 2004

Turns out, after receiving an answer to a slightly embarrassed query, that the “ch” was silent like “-“, making the letters “th” the dominant consonants and the name of the shop the TH-onic Clash.

The latte I got that morning was excellent. The milk was frothy and thick and had a distinct sweetness to it. The double-shot of espresso was creamy and delicious and the milk and espresso were perfectly mixed together and topped with a whorl of milk-foam and espresso.

Not long after making several regular trips into the “Clash” I began talking with the shop’s owner, a cherubic young woman with rosy cheeks who seemed to have been sprinkled with a bit of Pixie dust. She was charming and bright and had a real interest in making her business into something more than a money-making venture. She saw her shop as a place for meetings, music, and gatherings of every sort. She hoped her little business would help to draw more people to Main Street. Her name was Nell.

Late in the spring of 2004 I received a cryptic but intriguing email requesting my presence at a meeting at the Clash. The subject line of the email read, “Take-over of the Beacon Free Press,” but the gist of the meeting was simple: Nell didn’t feel that the Beacon Free Press was covering news in the City of Beacon with any kind of depth or care. She wanted to start an all-volunteer newspaper that covered the City and its goings-on. She wanted to know if the group she’d gathered would be interested in being part of her plan. Five of us (including Nell) agreed to give the paper a go.

My daughters, who were quickly growing toward legal working age, began discussing how they would get Nell to hire them.

That meeting took place on May 4th, 2004 and after a few more meetings and several decisions regarding what our first stories would be, we set a goal for ourselves to have our first issue on the newsstands by the first Saturday in June. The first issue of the Beacon Dispatch was little more than a newsletter when it hit the stands. But it was built around the idea that Beacon needed a paper to call its own. One that extolled the City’s benefits, challenged its politicians, and hopefully gave its readers something worthwhile to read. The paper and the ideas behind the paper were birthed at the Chthonic Clash by the pixie dust cherub who’d made me my first good latte.

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Born at the Clash: Beacon Dispatch, Issue 1

Coffee at the Clash became a social occasion. I’d arrive at the shop after dropping my kids off at school, order up a cup of coffee, and proceed to spend the next 20-30-40 minutes talking, with friends too numerous to name, often arriving at work 10-20 minutes late. My son, who ordered his first cup of coffee before he could see over the top of the counter, asked to go there often. My daughters, who were quickly growing toward legal working age, began discussing how they would get Nell to hire them. My wife and I would ride bikes, stopping near the end of our trip to sit and have a cup of coffee and dessert. the Clash became for us a destination. The place you were or the place you wanted to be.

The Chthonic Clash has been closed now for quite some time—My name is Jeff, it’s been two months since my last decent latte—so I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m waxing so nostalgic so late. The answer is simple: I just received an email that puts a nail in the Chthonic coffin for me. An email that confirms what I was hoping wasn’t really going to be true.

Starting today, Thursday April 10th, and ending on Sunday April 13th, the Chthonic Clash is having a “Garage Sale.” An “everything must go” event that for me marks the end of what was once, not just a good, but a great thing.

No more Malawi.

No more hot latte mornings.

No more great conversations that make me late for work.

No more children’s queries about when we can go there or if I can get them a job.

No more pixie dust greetings to help me start my day.

The Chthonic Clash is gone for good.

Long live the Clash.
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14 comments for “Goodbye To A Great Thing”

  1. My pixie cheeks are VERY red right now, Jeff. You are way too kind!!

    But, I will never forget making you your first “extra hot” latte. or Colin ordering his “de-caf” cafe au lait before his little head came above the counter. Or your girls turning from girls into “almost employees” before my eyes. Or Kathy holding one-week old Japser at the Solstice Celebration. Or finding out your name by googling your brother from his cd you gave me (because you had known mine for far too long than it would have been polite for me to ask yours!!) :)

    Or delivering papers at 6 am on the first Saturday of the month. or late night edit sessions at randall’s. or fiesty blogging over stories. or making kristine’s delicious recipes.

    it has all been so wonderful and challenging and rich…in more ways than i can count.

    thank you for the memories.

    Posted by Pixie Dust | April 10, 2008, 11:00 pm
  2. And, Jeff, I am excited to let you know that while the “Clash” may be closed, there is a new cafe coming in the same space. Please welcome Alex Gadea, Brienne Cliadakas and their son Nathaniel of “Zuzu’s of Beacon”.

    Alex & Brienne have some great ideas to bring and lots of wonderful tea…and even, maybe, the same coffee!! So, welcome to Alex and Brienne!

    Also, check out a new project I am working on…www.sitelinesartfair.com This will be a Hudson Valley Art Fair taking place in Beacon May 16-18th. There will be a LOT of art-related events, installations and fun things happening that weekend.

    Posted by Pixie Dust | April 11, 2008, 6:43 am
  3. Long live Zuzu’s! Hope you taught them how to make a great latte ;-).

    Posted by Jeffery Battersby | April 11, 2008, 7:06 am
  4. […] Rebroadcast from BeaconDispatch.com. […]

    Posted by Building The Perfect Beast | Goodbye To A Great Thing | April 11, 2008, 1:27 pm
  5. I recently moved out of the state, away from Beacon, and my favorite coffee shop. I have been looking, in vain for a decent cafe in my new home that not only served a good cup of coffee, but perhaps a raspberry muffin also. Chthonic ruined me, for no place now is good enough. I had been looking forward to return trips in the future and was so sad to hear of Chthonic’s closing. I’m not sure if I even want to visit Beacon again! Although friends and relatives might not like to hear that…

    Posted by Kate | April 12, 2008, 6:49 am
  6. Good ridons!!!

    Get rid of the Beacon Artists!

    Bring back the bars….

    Posted by Mark | April 12, 2008, 9:59 am
  7. Mark, may I suggest a dictionary before you post next? The word is riddance. Perhaps a little less time spent in the local bars would do you some good.

    Posted by Jeffery Battersby | April 12, 2008, 1:00 pm
  8. Dad? IS that YOU?

    Posted by Joey Daytona | April 27, 2008, 1:41 pm
  9. There’s no reason why bars, coffee houses, artists, and people from all walks of life can’t coexist in Beacon.

    Posted by Joe | April 27, 2008, 3:32 pm
  10. You’re cordially invited to join Carla Goldberg for the Opening for her new Series of work called “Soundings” at Zuzu’s (formerly the Chthonic Clash,453 Main Street this Second Saturday June 14th. at 6:00 pm. It will be a very relaxed atmosphere with a Jazz trio playing later in the evening.

    The series features abstracted batholithic imagery of the bottom of the Hudson River.

    Posted by Steve / Tuesday Crew / Sloop Woody Guthrie | June 13, 2008, 10:19 pm
  11. This is truly sad news indeed — which I only just learned of from an email posting by Screen 16 which mentioned the now-closed Chthonic Clash and new coffeeshop. I agree whole-heart and soul with everything that writer Jeff Battersby wrote in his article, and others have posted in these comments, about the special, warm and singularly unique place that Chthonic was.

    I moved to Cold Spring, NY in June 2005 to start a magazine internship in Norwalk CT, living with my uncle in his small Cold Spring apartment, and trying in my spare time to finish my journalism Master’s thesis, started in Missouri, long-distance. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t long before circumstances (and the need to find a cozy nook where I felt I could think, and work on my thesis past 4 or 5 p.m. when the regional library closed) led me to discover the Chthonic Clash. I had already come to love Beacon, tucked away off Rt. 9D with its red-brick downtown; its mix of well-kept old and shades of new. It felt real, not pretentious, but honest and possessed of a more poignant spirit, something that seemed to embody the Hudson Highlands with which I felt an instant kinship.

    I distinctly recall my first time venturing into Chthonic Clash, at its first home up the block, with its quirky accouterments, two rooms of lovely wood and comfortable couches; its warm yellow glow, old wood floor and rich red brick walls. The fact that the foods were organic (or as much as possible) and homemade, and that I could get …. GASP! … a maple latte (the ONLY place I have yet discovered to offer one, and Starbuck’s doesn’t count) instantly hooked me. That the staff and owners were so warm and friendly themselves, exuding a sense of camaraderie and familiarity, was even more endearing to me.

    I spent so many long afternoons and nights working on my thesis there — as well as stories for the magazine; later, in 2006, my first major feature article for E Magazine; and even as recently as July 2007, a series of magazine articles for an Australian ocean science project I was doing long-distance — that I was infinitely grateful to the staff and owners. Grateful that they didn’t kick me out; that they didn’t even seem to think twice about how long I occupied a seat; grateful for their friendliness, and that they had created such a comfortable antique-yet-modern place reminiscent of how humans interacted before the realities of modern life changed this, and made me realize just how different the Chthonic philosophy of community was than so many other places in the U.S. today.

    I recall seeing Nell and her son one evening sit down at one of the larger tables, along with a woman who I was told was a good friend who did a lot of baking, and share a take-out meal of Chinese. That vision so warmed me as I sat there mucking my way through a chapter — that the venue was truly a place for family, that the owners were invested in the business not just as a money-making venture, but as a place to foster community, locality, friendships, that I realized just how special a place Chthonic was. I’d sometimes stop in twice a day for a maple latte, the delicious scones — the **best-ever** maple-spelt scones I’ve ever had (so delicious, they inspired me to try making my own version… never as good, though) — the spicy chocolate cookies, the sense of love imbued in every detail.

    I had to leave the Hudson Highlands in Jan. 2006 to finish my grad. program in Missouri, and I then went to Tasmania, Australia for a year on a Rotary scholarship. But, the first thing I did when I flew home to visit family in December 2006 (I flew into NY) was to visit Chthonic Clash again. I couldn’t believe when Nell remembered who I was, and that I’d mentioned to her I’d be going overseas. Everyone in Tasmania probably knows about my “favorite coffee nook in the Hudson Highlands” now! I also bought a shirt for myself, and my best friend in Tasmania (which she loved) — and I’m glad I did, so I can remember the values that Chthonic stood for.

    It became a ritual between me and my dad every time we’d drive from western PA (where I’m from) to visit my uncle or grandmother in some part of NY — which was fairly often — to stop in Beacon for a good coffee, and relaxing respite from our road north to Cooperstown, or a much-anticipated pastry (or two, or three…).

    I did manage to finish my thesis before I left for Australia, and I felt so much gratitude to the Chthonic Clash for creating a warm environment to work, and for never making me feel I had to rush — essentially, for providing one of the only places where I was able to be productive — that I wrote a special thanks in my Acknowledgments section, though I realize no one who deserves to see or hear those thanks will likely ever come across my niche thesis subject.

    But, I have felt a great desire to express my thanks — and to say just what others here have said as well: that Chthonic Clash was more than just a coffeeshop; it was a destination; the sorely-needed bricks and mortar in which the foundations of community, camaraderie, and friendship could be blossom and grow; truly a special haven in the Hudson Highlands. In its wake, I’m sure it helped create a better Beacon, and through all the people it touched who radiate across the nation (and world!), its own small beacon of hope for the future.

    Best wishes and deepest thanks to everyone who made Chthonic what it was. I’m sure its spirit will continue to reverberate throughout Beacon and beyond — and while I will be sad when next I make it into town (I’m somehow back out in MO again) that it’s no longer there, I’ll look forward to experiencing the new cafe opening in its place. –tamsyn

    Posted by Tamsyn | June 18, 2008, 1:19 pm
  12. When close friends moved to Beacon, I was happy for them, but concerned a bit that certain of the niceties of life in Greater Brooklyn would be lost to them upstate, including the kind of coffeeshop where both the brew and conversation were of the highest quality. Chthonic Clash was a joyous surprise, and I became so fond of those morning visits to the clash when I was staying overnight in town that I started carrying a Chthonic Clash free coffee card, even though it was a 200 mile drive from my front door to Beacon. Indeed, when the Clash closed I had two such cards (buy ten, get the next cup free) fully stamped and ready for redemption.
    I tossed them out, ruefully, but will save my Clash ceramic mug and travel cup always.

    Posted by Buzz | July 8, 2008, 6:25 pm
  13. For the last little while since the closing of the “Clash” I kept hoping that “my” coffee shop would open once again, and especially when I am visiting…. I have missed it terribly the last two times I have visited son and daughter Rick and Christine. Alas, of all the days I should discover this site, the sale of fixtures and hardware and the wonderful counters begins today! ! I remember moving and cleaning the old place, going after the back door, getting the numbers for the “new” place, visitng the counter-guy to check his progress…. what fun that was for a visitor to become a “part of the family”; so quickly accepted. Nell put the sparkle in Main Street and even though it was not there to be a money-maker, it was money that closed it down.. . . . and, I am sorry!
    Love you, Nell, Ted, Henry and Jasper!!!

    Posted by Janie Price (otherwise known as, "Rick's Mom" | April 14, 2009, 5:18 pm
  14. I am a frequent visitor to Beacon (from Queens NY). I realy miss Chthonic Clash, but on the other hand, I love Zuzu’s! The coffee is great, the people (staff and customers) are very nice, and the atmosphere is wonderful!

    Posted by Carin Powierski | May 25, 2010, 9:31 am

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