The 873 cafe: the opening of Ashby's newest restaurant

The 873 cafe in Ashby, MA.

By Elizabeth Ward

Since January 4th of 2011, there has been much buzz in the neighboring town of Ashby, MA of what should be done with the vacant real estate on Main Street. Hearing from locals, there had been a proposed idea of turning it into a coffee shop, or perhaps another market. The ideas then turned into the culmination of a project taken on by one David Rainville, former member of the Ashby fire department and now restaurant connoisseur. For Dave, this real estate property was an investment that started about 7 years ago, and one that would offer not only potential profit for himself and for his family, but add life to this quiet town.

“I’ve lived in Ashby my entire life.  I grew up on South Rd. and actually bought the house next door to the one I grew up in. Ashby was a nice town to grow up in,” states Rainville.

Though small, Ashby has been home to many great local heroes—the famed John Fitch, from which Fitchburg hails its name. Dave is no exception in the case of heroes. As a part of the local fire department for over 15 years, community outreach has been a big part of his life in Ashby.

“When we [my friends and I] were growing up, we had Sheldon’s and Brookside to go to for food and ice cream.  These places closed down many years ago, leaving the people in town nowhere to go to meet and mingle over coffee or a meal.  We thought that it would be great to have a coffee shop/restaurant in town so people wouldn’t have to travel so far out of town just to get a cup of coffee and bite to eat.”

The 873's newly finished counter.
The 873’s counter is a work in progress.

Though it has been many years since the residents of Ashby have seen a hometown eatery, Dave has big ideas for the 873. The coffee shop was the first part of the large building to be fully furnished and completed, but the town is still waiting for opening day, projected in February of this year. The coffee shop seats twenty-six people, with hopes of providing excellent service 7 days a week, from 5AM to 2PM for breakfast and lunch. A main benefit that makes Rainville hopeful in attracting the surrounding community’s college scene is the free wifi and space to enjoy the company of friends over coffee and great food. The 873 will be a great break from the daily, repetitive meals from commuter café and Holmes dining hall. From what Dave has told me, his prices are affordable too, which is beneficial for all college students.Dave’s plans for the large building on Main Street will provide more than just breakfast and coffee as the months of renovating go on.

“In the summer, we plan to open the ice cream shop.  There is a walk up window at the back of the building off the kitchen of the coffee shop where ice cream will be served,” giving incentive for commuting college students to return to the 873 long after classes have been out of session.

“There is a 30-foot patio that runs the length of the back of the building which will be used for outdoor seating, both for the restaurant and the ice cream shop. The next phase will be to finish the dining area, increasing the seating capacity by an additional 40 seats. There is a fireplace in the dining room, and as the coffee shop grows we may add dinners a few nights per week.  Future plans for the property is to add a separate restaurant (using the new dining area) and bar, as well as provide space for a marketplace/farmer’s market.  These plans are not concrete, and might change depending upon the wants and needs of the community.”

For Dave Rainville, it would appear that years of planning are finally turning into a profitable dream come true. Dave also made mention that anyone seeking further information on the 873 café and for when the store will have its official opening day should check out the website,, or see their Facebook page for photos and event updates.