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A place to gather in Talent

In an effort to help displaced businesses in the Phoenix/Talent area after the catastrophic Almeda fire, SOJ will occasionally shine a spotlight on those who are rebuilding. This week’s example is a sweet revamped coffeehouse and restaurant renamed Gather.

Husband and wife team Sumesh and Dimple Bakshi had purchased the former Downtowne Coffee House on Talent Avenue in Talent before the double kibosh of fire and virus hit. The Almeda fire spared their new enterprise, allowing them to open in October 2020, but the wind-driven flames had left thousands around them without homes and businesses. Sumesh thought it might be inappropriate to open a new business considering the extent of overwhelming loss surrounding them.

“But the town said, ‘We need a place to eat,’ because we lost, unfortunately, around four or five restaurants in the fire. There aren’t many restaurants in Talent right now. So, we started in a small way. And we’re still small.”

Their daughter came up with the perfect new name — Gather. That is the hope — helping to gather a healing community together, and even more so after the pandemic is a fading storm in the rear view. Now that the weather is such an obvious flirt, outdoor dining is a pleasant option at Gather.

Lane sketched while I sipped hot green tea with honey until I interrupted Sumesh at his table. You can usually find him there. As we talked about his latest endeavor, I asked what he recommended from the menu. “I like hot stuff. So I like hot butter chicken. The lamb curry is great. But everyone has different taste buds.”

I ordered a chicken pesto grilled cheese (mozzarella) sandwich on sourdough, which was generous and tasty. It came with a cup of tomato bisque for $13. Gather is open Thursday through Monday from 11 to 2:30, then again from 4 to 8:30 for dinner. I look forward to trying other menu items, which sound delicious. Perhaps an appetizer of pistachio crusted salmon or butter chicken for an entrée — full of Indian curry goodness. They also have a bar, with wine, beer and specialty drinks available.

Bakshi and his family’s decades of restaurant experience have paid off. They’re also the proud owners of Masala Bistro and Bar in Ashland, Flavor Restaurant and Bar on West Main in Medford, and Oberon’s Restaurant and Bar in Ashland. They have restaurants in India.

“All that experience helps,” Sumesh adds. By the fresh, new look of the place, I trust he’s right. The walls are calming and attractive with soft pastels and an occasional cheery bird. Cushioned chairs are ample and comfy for even my finicky back. The space felt clean and open.

I suggested that a restaurant is among the most challenging businesses to own. “I would agree with you on that,” he said. “The most difficult to me is show business—films. Making movies. But in a restaurant every day we have a new audience. Somebody’s painting, someone’s a writer. We are here to try and cater to everybody. It’s not that you do a good job one day and then you’re okay.” Yet challenges remain. “Because of Covid, staff is an issue in every business. People are scared to go to work. It’s a problem. That’s why we’re only open five days a week.”

“I love people. I love people. It’s fun, you know. In Talent it’s more of a healing process. So many guests have lost their homes or businesses. It’s been quite catastrophic. So, everyone’s trying to rebuild—to get their lives back. It’s not only loss about things or property. It’s about memories. Things that are precious to you. It’s been tough.”

His outlook for the future is sunny. “We have enough space. We can go outside. We want to do some events now. Some musical, some trivia. I have a very good team here now. So, they have ideas.

“We are ready. I need some more team members, then we can open seven days.”

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.