Sunflowers Cafe and Catering closes its doors after 14 years on Jaffrey’s Main Street

  • Sunflowers Cafe and Catering, run on Jaffrey's Main Street for 14 years, had its final weekend last week, as owner Carolyn Edwards is retiring. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Chaz Beaulieu on the flute and Eric Blackmer on guitar play one final time at Sunflowers Cafe on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Sunflowers Cafe and Catering was packed with reservations on Friday night, with regulars wanting one last experience at the restaurant before its closing last week. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Waitress Cathrine LeBlanc takes orders from Gunilla Johanson, Charlie Palmer and Owen Houghton on Jaffrey, who came to have a final dinner together Friday night at Sunflowers Cafe. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Sunflowers Cafe and Catering, run on Jaffrey's Main Street for 14 years, had its final weekend last week, as owner Carolyn Edwards is retiring. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Chaz Beaulieu on the flute and Eric Blackmer on guitar play one final time at Sunflowers Cafe on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/24/2022 2:04:35 PM
Modified: 1/24/2022 2:03:18 PM

For the first time in more than a decade of hosting local artists, this past weekend Sunflowers Cafe and Catering’s walls featured the art and photography of owner Carolyn Edwards – a last hurrah for the Main Street restaurant’s final weekend.

Sunday was the last day for the cafe, which has been a staple of downtown Jaffrey, both as an eatery and a small-arts hub, for the past 14 years.

Edwards said she wanted to be that presence for good food and great art when she first opened the restaurant in Fitzwilliam in 2005, and it’s a concept she continued when she moved it to Jaffrey in 2008. She said she came from a background in the publishing industry, but had been doing catering on the side, and dreamed of opening her own cafe.

“The publishing company was a great job, but I wanted to do something that was more from myself,” Edwards said.

And she had a specific vision of a space that not only created great food, but could host great art and great live music.

“That’s exactly what I wanted, to combine music, arts and food – and I think I’ve done that,” Edwards said.

Edwards has hosted art from Monadnock artists on her walls, and – pre-pandemic – hosted local musicians to provide live music once or twice a week on the restaurant floor. It has created a special atmosphere that her regulars adored.

“Having a cafe like this is an art in and of itself,” said Chaz Beaulieu, a former chef at Sunflowers who returned to offer his services for the final weekend – partly as a cook, and partly as a musician. He and Eric Blackmer, who are part of the band Gap Mountain together, played live music in the cafe – the first time since the pandemic started – to close out the final weekend.

Beaulieu said Edwards, as an artist herself and lover of music “appreciates that side of life,” and said the way she integrated it into Sunflowers made the place special.

“Carolyn has been amazing to keep it going,” Blackmer said. “It’s a shame to see it go.”

Amy Pfeil of Jaffrey, a regular customer, made sure to visit the restaurant twice its closing week to say goodbye.

“Carolyn really took hold of this place, and made it a center of Jaffrey,” Pfeil said. “The food is good and the ambiance is great. I’m going to miss it like the dickens.”

Edwards said the space was a restaurant for a long time before Sunflowers came on the scene, and she anticipates the space filling quickly, likely with another eatery. There has already been interest from other potential renters who want another restaurant, she said.

Edwards said a sit-down restaurant on Main Street is one of the pieces it needs to thrive.

“Without a restaurant near the theater, I know it would be a big loss,” Edwards said. “The downtown needs shops, and reasons for people to be downtown, like a restaurant, a little grocery or a coffee shop.”

Cathrine LeBlanc, a longtime waitress at Sunflowers, said she was a customer before she was an employee, and would often visit the restaurant with her children, and got to know Carolyn through the cafe and her work with TEAM Jaffrey.

“When we met, I was working for another restaurant, but I would take my kids to Sunflowers for lunch and a gourmet dessert often,” LeBlanc said. “I always promised if I left, she would be my first stop for a new job. When my previous restaurant closed, she hired me that day, on the spot, and it's been a match made in heaven ever since.”

LeBlanc said Edwards is what makes Sunflowers special.

“She donates so much to this town,” LeBlanc said.

“She did a lot for Jaffrey, and made it better,” agreed regular Charlie Palmer of Jaffrey. “I have a lot of memories here.”

Edwards said the last two years have been tough, with COVID-19 hitting a lot of sit-down restaurants hard. Even now, she said she did many more takeout orders than previously. But the main reason she’s shutting down, she said, is it’s simply time.

“I’m old enough to have retired quite a few years ago,” Edwards said. “Even if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, physically, it’s just becoming a strain on my body.”

More accurately, Edwards said, it will be a semi-retirement -- she intends to keep the catering side of the business going, particularly for her current roster of regular customers. But she said she’ll be doing mostly smaller jobs, a few times a month, and enjoying time to rest.

In particular, she said she wants to stretch her artistic wings.

Edwards has been painting and taking photos since her high school days, and took a minor in fine arts in college, as well as multiple classes from the Sharon Arts Center over the years since, but said she doesn’t currently consider herself and “artist.”

“I don’t think I’m an artist unless I’m doing it,” Edwards said.

She wants to take the time in her retirement to make that dedication to her art again, she said. And one of the benefits of her many years hosting other artists, is that she has built a real community of connections in the artistic world.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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