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Dottie's Coffee Lounge Expands into Mission
By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff
05:06AM / Monday, February 19, 2024
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Jessica Rufo, center, has opened Dorothy's on North Street, an expansion of her popular Dottie's Coffeeshop. With her are bartender Alyssa Baisley and bar and events manager Auron Stark

Dottie and Dorothy's now occupy three storefronts.

The former Mission was renovated to give Dottie's a swankier and sparklier nightlife addition.

Jessica Rufo opened Dottie's in 2007 and named it after her grandmother.

Family is prominent in the coffee shop.

Server Victoria Mason with some of Dorothy's shareable platters.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Dottie's Coffee Lounge has grown and evolved over the decade to become a staple of North Street.
Its newest "accessory" is an expansion into the former Mission restaurant that closed in October 2022.
The adjacent space, now named Dorothy's, was renovated to connect to the coffeehouse and expand on the "welcoming and interesting" vibe that patrons love about Dottie's but also combine it with a "louder," "swanky" "sparkly" nightlife, owner Jessica Rufo said.
"I think that Dorothy's will continue the Dottie's tradition in bringing people together, making them feel comfortable, making connections, making friends, and building relationships with ourselves and others," Rufo said. 
"I mean, I think we're all just so disconnected and I know that this space is going to awaken the parts of people that have been asleep for a while."
The restaurant has drinks, shareable platters and will have live performances every night during dinner services. The performances are curated by bar and events manager Auron Stark. 
The platter will have a different theme every couple of weeks. Maybe it'll be Italian, maybe it'll be sushi, they're going to have fun with it, Rufo said. During the first couple of weeks, Dorothy's rolled out a Mediterranean theme.
"You'll receive a platter of vegetables, greens, sauces, spreads, dips, [and] choose your protein. Our homemade focaccia is there to sort of entertain you before your protein comes and you can dive in that way," Rufo said. 
"So, no one's ever going to be sitting around being hangry here like you get this giant plate of food to eat and share and I just freakin love that. I just love, love, love this concept for everyone. I think it's for everyone."
They hope the changing platter theme will keep customers engaged and the staff excited about what they are serving, she said. 
"We want people to be able to come and have different experiences all the time … that's our job to keep our customers engaged and curious and interested. I mean, we're serving one option, so it's our job to make sure it stays interesting and alive and playful and all that stuff," Rufo said. 
Rufo said chef Amber Maisano has an amazing and sturdy kitchen presence with an eye toward the need for fresh whole foods. 
"The universe just popped her in our lap and we are so grateful … I just could not have found anyone better to do this job," she said.
Dottie's first expanded about 10 years ago into what was formerly a barber shop and turned it into an art gallery space. It now occupies three of the four storefronts of the building at the corner of North and Maplewood streets. 
That first addition gave the coffee shop a lot more empty wall space that needed to be filled. Rufo had a friend of hers curate the art in that room for a percentage of the sales for a number of years. Another local artist, Richard Britell, took over the position of the shop's art curator about seven years ago.
"He's amazing. He is a local artist. He had a gallery in South County and has lots of relationships with artists in the area and beyond and he has just made us look good. So, we love him," Rufo said. 
When Rufo opened the coffee shop in 2007, with the help from her grandparents, she wanted to bring New York City-style coffee to the community and show how "dynamic and interesting coffee is." 
She was very "precious with coffee," she said, selling one size and without flavors. Over time she realized she is not here to educate people; she is there to give the people what they want, she said. 
Soon flavors such as peanut butter mocha started to appear on the menu per requests from patrons. 
The coffee is not the only thing patrons influenced — they also had a hand in the decor. 
 Rufo decorated with donated and Goodwill furniture and items to create an "eclectic, hodgepodge." 
"People would come in and be like, 'I have this table that I think would be great for you' and people would just bring us stuff because it was clear that we were open to all different styles and stuff. So, over the years, we have grown and changed but the baseline of really everything we do, as far as the environment that we create, is we want it to be comfortable for everyone," Rufo said. 
"That's sort of what makes Dottie's a really magical place is that everyone who walks through the store feels like they belong here."
The shop has family pictures on the walls and an altar for loved ones who have passed. Between 2013 and 2019, Rufo lost four family members she was closest to most. 
"I have a very big and complicated family but they are me and I am them and it's important to me to remember that, to remind people that they came from somewhere that whether it's painful or joyful, like we're all the same," she said. 
Both the shop and restaurant are named after her late grandmother Dorothy "Dottie" Rufo, who passed away in 2019. Naming the space after her grandmother was a way to show her gratitude for her grandparents' help, plus she liked the way "Dottie's" sounded. 
"The past four years, I've lost, like every person that means anything to me, with the exception of my mother, who thankfully is still alive, but it's been really hard to imagine moving on without these people. And bringing them along with me in the space is helpful," Rufo said. 
"What I've learned about grief after all this loss, is every single person is carrying around a piece of grief with them and I think we hide that and we don't acknowledge that and that's what ends up being sickness in our bodies and all that stuff. 
"So, it really just comes down to intention. You know, and in wanting to bring my ancestors forward with me and wanting to make people feel less alone." 
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