BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – The funny looking building at the south end of Bellows Falls Square, narrow in the front and wide at the rear, became known as the flat iron building. It was named after the famous similarly shaped building in New York City. It reminded people of the shape of irons before electrical appliances.
For the past few years, the building has been a gourmet coffee shop like the kind that abound in our big cities. People can get a variety of drinks as well as the specialty coffees and baked goods. Some sit with their laptops or other devices just like in the big city, but the rest of the setting is definitely Bellows Falls.
It has become a popular gathering place as well as a gallery for local artists and artisans. The shop has been known as The Flat Iron Exchange since Jana Bryan took it over about five years ago. This past September, ownership was taken over by Diana Jones, a native of Bellows Falls. She has carried over much of what Bryan created there.
Jones says she loves that it is “comfortable.” Jones says she wanted a business she could always do, “and this is it… It fits me perfectly… I will stay here forever.”
Jones has a background in restaurant work. Her sister, Jennifer, owned The Happy Cat Café in town a number of years ago, and Jones worked there. She has worked in other local eateries as well. Jones is active member of the community. She is a board member of the Bellows Falls Historical Society. She says of Bellows Falls, “We are so many steps ahead of where we were before.”
Jones, once a regular there herself, says, “We have a mix of everything which is essential for a business like this.” There are more regulars in the morning, including Jones’ father, and, as the day goes on, more customers are those who are just passing through.
Another feature of the building’s uniqueness is that in 2000 Rockingham Arts and Museum Project painted a mural depicting the Square at the turn of the century, 1899-1900, on the exterior rear wall where motorists see it just before driving into the Square of today. Some of the paint is now peeling, and there is definitely talk of a “spruce up” in the future.
In addition to monthly art displays, Flat Iron Exchange also hosts a knitting group on Thursdays and presents jazz on Saturday nights. Jones hopes to expand those activities as well as providing “grab and go” food for lunches.