Nestled ’neath the shadow of Race Mountain, the Stagecoach Tavern is tucked beneath layers of history. Few places in Berkshire County have served as a “watering hole” longer than this tavern on Route 41 in Sheffield, and few have accumulated as much character. The oldest parts of the low-slung tavern date back to the early 1770s, while the grand brick “Coach House” was added in 1829. The 1820s were the heyday of the ‘turnpike era’ of early American history, when stagecoaches became the most popular mode of transportation. After miles on bumpy roads, travelers would rest and refresh themselves at taverns like the Stagecoach while the horses were watered and changed.
To this day, the Stagecoach Tavern is a beloved stopping-off place, with a fireplace to warm your bones, a restaurant, and a bar. According to Casey Rothstein-Fitzpatrick, the Stagecoach boasts “the most cozy and relaxed atmosphere in the northeastern United States.” Casey has just recently taken over the management of the Stagecoach Tavern from his father David Rothstein, owner of the adjoining Race Brook Lodge since 1990 and the Stagecoach Tavern since 2004.
Casey’s mother is Nancy Fitzpatrick of Red Lion Inn fame, so he grew up in the Berkshires “immersed in the hospitality world.” He did not originally imagine that he would follow in his parents’ footsteps but three years ago, after time spent in New York, Greece, and other places, he “ran out of excuses to not be here” and he came back to the Berkshires. “It’s a rural yet cosmopolitan community, and there are not many places like that in the world.” He jumped into the family business when he returned. “It’s kind of in my blood. It’s a lot of fun to let that natural element emerge from within me.”
The business may run in his veins, but it has still been a learning process. “It’s kind of like taming a wild animal,” he says. But it seems that Casey has the right instincts. He has registered the Stagecoach and Race Brook Lodge to accept BerkShares, started a garden to help supply the restaurant, and hired a young chef who grew up in Sheffield, Kyle Pezzano. “We’re interested in supporting the local economy because it supports us so much. So we accept BerkShares, giving people an opportunity to keep their money local, and then that incentivizes us to find local purveyors so that we can keep the circulation going.” The Race Brook Lodge is even offering guests a special package: “When they check in we give them a fistful of BerkShares and a treasure map of great local businesses. They can go on a local shopping spree!”
Since taking the reins, Casey has started thinking of new ways to use the “great, fun, functional spaces” that David, an architect, has created over the years. Highlights include the Down County Social Club—a speakeasy below the Tavern with sometimes local and sometimes imported live music—and Swing Night, a monthly swing dance series in the beautiful post-and-beam barn behind the Stagecoach. In March, the Stagecoach is opening a new space called the “Shay’s Lounge,” named after Daniel Shays, who Casey says was a regular customer in the late 1700s.
Is that true? Bring your local currency and investigate for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you like drinking or dancing, dining or hiking. No matter what, Casey says, “just come on down to the Stagecoach!”.