• City Room: The Cornerstone of community building
    December 14,2012
    Jeb Wallace-Brodeur Staff Photo

    Rebeca Beall, of Barre, takes an order from a table at the Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen in Barre on Thursday. The popular new downtown eatery started serving lunch this week and will now be open at 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

    Barre’s renaissance is truly benefiting from the Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen.

    For sure, reviewers speak to the eating experience, touting its menu and ambiance; other restaurants are seeing a bump as some patrons unable to get in are looking for other Barre options.

    But the buzz about the Cornerstone lately, at a very local level, has been far more personal.

    Keith Paxman and Rich McSheffrey, owners and longtime friends, grew up here. They have family and friends here. They know people — many of whom are coming through their doors for meals, but also with conversations. In very short order, Paxman and McSheffrey and chef Jesse LeClair, a Barre native, have provided the place in the Granite City where people meet.

    Recently that translated into a remarkable — some might say miraculous — form of community building.

    Within hours after a fast-moving fire destroyed a two-story log cabin on Phelps Road on Nov. 28, Paxman, McSheffrey and LeClair turned their buzz into an asset.

    They mobilized using social media, word of mouth, the traditional media — all of the marketing tools that had been implemented to promote the restaurant — to saturate the broad market of patrons, customers and vendors they had come to know.

    Overnight, the young family of six left homeless heading into the holidays was on the radar of anyone who had contact with the Cornerstone.

    McSheffrey called The Times Argus and other media outlets to explain the plan, breaking down how he and his team were mustering food, supplies, gift cards, clothing and more. The Cornerstone would be the drop-off point.

    The response from within Barre and beyond exceeded expectations. Cornerstone’s efforts gave Damian Barnett, Kaysie Breer and their four children the essentials. For all that had been lost, they had been given a community they might not have known existed.

    Trucks were filled; accounts were set up. Barre’s returning sons had taken up the role of provider, and done it out of sheer concern for the need created by the devastating fire.

    Each night, after meals at the Cornerstone are served, the three come out and mingle with the customers. They talk, laugh, make new friends; they humbly accept praise.

    One Friday, two nights after the fire, Paxman and McSheffrey were mingling, describing the outpouring of support. They did so with tears in their eyes.

    They spoke about how moved they both were that the community they chose to reinvest in could be selfless in its charity.

    As Barre continues to redefine itself in this renaissance, it is good to know the community can rally for its residents with such grace and compassion.

    And it is good to know that some local guys at the heart of much of this community pride can demonstrate the resourcefulness and modesty to be one of the cornerstones of our community building. And our future.

    Steven Pappas is editor of The Times Argus.

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