The Fireplace Café in the old New England mill village of Collinsville, Connecticut is in danger of closing after owner Bill Wilson died last week following more than four decades behind the bar. Wilson was a crusty guy brimming with strong opinions and cautionary tales who delighted in playing a curmudgeon. But patrons who got to know him found a friend fiercely loyal, amiable and humorous. Inadvertently, perhaps, he created a community of people of all stripes, from age 21 to 81 and beyond, who gather to relax and swap stories. The place is still open, but its future uncertain. If you haven’t been there, my advice is to stop in and have a brew before you miss out.
There used to be taverns like this in every community in America, but they’re quickly disappearing. An old-time-shot and a beer neighborhood bar, some people thought of it as a throwback to the 1970s because little work had been done on the deteriorating building since that time, but it’s really a relic of the 1930s when people were more likely to gather at day’s end in a no frills atmosphere to discuss personal travails and issues of the moment.