Grayscale_Figgs_Zastrow_3Grayscale_Seed_House_Amanda_Gabriel1 (1)By Abby Wargo


“What is there to do in Chestertown?”

It’s a question asked by many college students and visitors, and one that is sometimes hard to answer. But while Chestertown may not be a thriving metropolis, several small businesses that have opened within the last year are providing a fresh landscape for possible economic growth.

Seed House owner Dr. Lauren Kosinski said there are steps the community can take to attract new business and more young families.

“There are just so many interesting things that could happen here,” she said. “When you come to Chestertown, it’s not a place that reveals its secrets very well.”

The Seed House, a cafe/yoga studio/healing arts center, and Figgs’ Ordinary, a gluten-free, vegetarian, and refined sugar free bakery and cafe, are both relatively recent additions to the community, but they have already begun to effect change in the business landscape.

Both businesses belong to the Chester River Wellness Alliance, a non-profit organization that is “committed to building a community of health, wellness and prosperity,” according to their website. One of their goals is to market the Chestertown area as a “vibrant wellness destination.”

“I can’t tell you how many people say, ‘Chestertown? Why are you in Chestertown? Our city doesn’t even have a place like this,’” Hansen said.

Figg’s was born from owner Ingrid Hansen’s love of baking. She had started experimenting with gluten-free flours, but when one of her children became gluten-sensitive, she began using gluten-free flour exclusively.

In the summer 2015, Hansen opened a stand at the Chestertown Farmer’s Market to gauge the town’s interest in gluten-free baked goods. Not only were people interested, she said, but they wanted more than just baked goods. Thus, Figg’s Ordinary opened its physical location on Cross Street in March 2017.

“I’ve always wanted a cafe, and I knew that Chestertown had a need. There are lots of places I considered opening a business, but because I’ve never opened a restaurant before, I wanted to have it on a scale that would be a bit more forgiving than in some other areas,” Hansen said.

The Seed House opened shortly after Figg’s, in June 2017.

Kosinski, after working as a gastrointestinal doctor for 30 years, decided it was time for a change. She was looking for ways to reform the current practices of medical procedures, like surgery. But to shift the current medical landscape would take a complete reversal.

“I thought it could be helpful to make a demonstration case of a different kind of practice that even a conventional medical doctor could work in,” Kosinski said. “I was also interested in having a place to host workshops or retreats for distressed physicians.”

So, she turned to the seed house. The building itself is located next to the old Radcliffe Mill, and used to be the seed house for it. While the building is only 100 years old, there has been food production on the site for over 400 years, Kosinski said.

“I just always loved the building, and some other people, these medicinal herbalists, had looked at it as a potential healing arts center, and they weren’t really sure about it, but it got me thinking that there was something we could do here that would at least — not satisfy everything in town, but create the beginning of a presence,” she said.

Currently, several different medical practitioners work out of the Seed House, and offer acupuncture, physical therapy, one-on-one yoga, healing therapy, and Reiki therapy. Kosinski herself will soon begin seeing patients clinically in functional medicine.

The Seed House also offers open, unguided meditation times six days a week from 8 a.m.-8:30 and from 11 a.m.-11:30 on Sundays.

“It’s a place to come and gather yourself,” Kosinski said. “It’s beautiful, comfortable, every day of the week.”

Washington College music professor Dr. Jon McCollum teaches at the Seed House with the Chester River Sangha, a mindfulness group which meets on Sundays. Dan Teano, who graduated from WC last spring, began teaching a mindful writing program, which junior John Linderman has been continuing this year, Kosinski said.

“We wanted to host two more writing sessions here in the cafe area…so that after the yoga class starts, some other people could be having this experience of being exposed to a couple different mindfulness practices, that are also meant to help with people’s writing if you’ve got a writer’s block,” she said.

Kosinski always wanted yoga to be incorporated into her business. She started practicing yoga a few years ago, and since then it has grown more important to her well-being. Currently, yoga is the most popular service at the Seed House, and there is at least one class every day of the week.  Drop-in classes are $18 and the student rate is $10.

Dr. Kate Moncrief, professor of English and chair of the WC English department, teaches yoga at the seed House on Thursdays from 6 p.m.-7:15 and Fridays from 5 p.m.-6 for a “yoga happy hour.”

“I was excited to see an actual yoga studio, a wellness hive, open. I think Chestertown has really welcomed having a place with such a beautiful facility, having a place to come together for yoga, meditation…and I’ve loved being a part of the community there,” she said.

The second-most popular facet of the Seed House is the cafe, where they serve Stumptown coffee, many different kinds of teas, and breakfast and lunch foods. All of the food is what Kosinski refers to as “slow “ food, which means that it is not processed, and that is organic and made from locally-sourced ingredients.

“The first priority is always that what we make is delicious, like people don’t have to be health food nuts in order to like what we have,” she said. “It’s been my goal to introduce people who are a little bit adventurous to things they might not normally eat, like different ferments or kombucha or — we make shrubs, which are kind of an old fashioned soda alternative.”

They are currently applying for a liquor license in order to serve biodynamic wines, which could take a few months to obtain.

“There’s a whole movement called ‘field to bottle,’ so that you can trace the origin of the spirit…so that there’s a sense of place in what you drink,” Kosinski said.

While Figg’s services don’t extend beyond food, their attention and care to what goes into making the food sets them apart. To Hansen, the ingredients in a food are more important than the menu itself.

“In the grand scheme of things, what we offer is very similar to what other places offer, but what we offer is the certainty of what is in the food. And that’s not important to everybody, and it’s of varying importance to others, but for some really unfortunate folks, it’s essential.”

In addition to baked goods, Figg’s serves breakfast and lunch items all day. In some respects, their menu is not dissimilar to a regular cafe. In addition to being gluten and refined sugar free and vegetarian, Figg’s makes as much food in-house as possible, and they locally source as many ingredients as possible.

“We know that it’s gluten free, we know exactly what’s in it, we have every confidence when we tell a customer (that), who’s often times pretty anxious about what they’re eating,” she said.

Sophomore Nicole Hatfield, who works at Figg’s, said she has just started learning how to make some of the food.

“I started working at Figg’s having no restaurant experience, but honestly, Figg’s is different than any restaurant I’ve been to. Ingrid makes sure that everything is fresh and locally grown and I’ve learned how to work with real, fresh ingredients,” she said.

Some of their most popular menu items are acai and dragonfruit smoothie bowls, southwestern-style breakfast wraps, salads, and egg dishes, which are “very, very popular.”

“We’re fortunate to get really fresh eggs, and they make all the difference in the world,” Hansen said.

Figg’s also produces “provisions” — power crackers, granola bars, turmeric, and cashews — that they package and supply to other local businesses, including the Seed House. The packaged goods help to extend Figg’s brand, Hansen said.

Figg’s also takes care to respect the environment in its business practices. They are working towards becoming completely waste-free.

“I see volumes and volumes of garbage, plastics in particular, especially with the idea of to-go cups and lids. I just didn’t want to be contributing to that. But it’s a balance between protecting the environment and appreciating customers’ needs and wants,” Hansen said.

To encourage less dependence on to-go containers, customers who bring their own mug for coffee receive a 50 cent discount on their drink.

Additionally, Figg’s composts food waste and re-uses food scraps when they can.

“That part really wasn’t hard,” Hansen said. “It’s freezing broccoli stems or cauliflower ends or zucchini pieces and then putting them in stock and making soup. It’s just part of the pattern.”

Chestertown seems to agree; business at Figg’s has been growing and steadily improving every month. A wide demographic — a “loyal constituency” of retirees, families,  and an increasing number of college students — patronizes the cafe. On weekend mornings, WC students and community members alike can be seen gathered around the tables inside the store and on the patio outside.

The Seed House, like Figg’s, is popular among all ages and demographics. Students use the cafe space to study or relax with friends, and adults and students regularly attend yoga classes.

“It doesn’t matter who walks in, whether it’s a wealthy person who has a weekend home here or a college student…or somebody who grew up on a farm here and has been here for four generations; when people walk in here, they like the space. They just feel good,” Kosinski said.

The Seed House, located at 860 High St., is open from 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. Sundays. Figg’s is located at 207 Cross St. and is open from 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday until April 9, when regular hours resume for the spring and summer.

The Elm

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