Jim Kenyon: Former Lou’s Restaurant owner finds a new, greener calling with Mascoma Lakeside Park

Valley News Columnist
Published: 10/9/2021 9:59:54 PM
Modified: 10/9/2021 9:59:55 PM

For 27 years, Pattie and Toby Fried were the hands-on owners of Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery in downtown Hanover.

From time to time, Toby, an engineer-turned-pastry chef, would emerge from behind the kitchen’s double doors, smidgens of flour blotting his apron.

Pattie wasn’t always as noticeable. Working out of the restaurant’s basement office, she handled the bookkeeping and other administrative chores.

The kitchen crew preferred Pattie stay out of their way, she joked, but “there was a time or two when I did dishes.”

In 2018, the Frieds sold the seven-day-a-week eatery — a downtown Hanover fixture since the 1940s — to Jarett and Cailin Berke, who have continued Lou’s tradition of berry pancakes the size of Frisbees.

The Frieds moved from Hanover to the fixer-upper waterfront property on Mascoma Lake that they had bought a while back as a summer home.

Three years into retirement, Toby, 64, still has a craving for baking. Pattie, on the hand, has found a new calling.

Through University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, she’s become what is known in the horticulture world as a “master gardener.” The 12-week program, which UNH started in 1993, trains volunteers to use “scientifically based gardening information” to help with community horticulture projects across the state.

Growing up in Attleboro, Mass., Pattie watched her Italian grandmother fertilize her yellow rose bushes with fresh coffee grounds.

“I’ve always loved to garden and having my hands in the dirt,” Pattie said. But unlike most of the students in the UNH program, she didn’t come from a horticulture background. “I could tell you about running a restaurant, but I had no expertise in gardening,” she said. “I wanted to learn.”

Pattie, 60, is now putting her new gardening knowledge to good use. As a newcomer to Enfield, she’d heard about Mascoma Lakeside Park, but didn’t know much about it.

Meredith Smith, another lakefront resident, filled her in. What was once home to a shorefront motel that had seen better days, the 3-acre park sits on the north end of Shaker Bridge, near Enfield’s Main Street.

Smith, who chairs the Mascoma Lakeside Park Committee, told me building the park has been a “10-year slog.”

For starters, the group had to raise about $135,000 to purchase the property from the state’s Department of Transportation, which had been using the site as a construction staging area for rebuilding Shaker Bridge.

Then it was a matter of clearing the land, putting in a parking lot and sidewalk. Picnic tables and benches, offering views of the lake, were added.

Access to the lake was also improved. Making it easy for people to slide a kayak or canoe into the lake was a priority, along with being able to moor sailboats close to shore. (Motorboats aren’t allowed to use the park’s launch.)

The gradual slope to the water also means that it’s accessible for people with disabilities. A group of disabled veterans launches kayaks from the park about once a week.

The park’s most recent addition is a large pavilion that sits on a hill above the water. Architect Paul Mirski, a former state representative from Enfield, designed the pavilion for free and park supporters raised nearly $160,000 to build the structure, framed in steel to withstand the lake’s strong winds.

But as much as the park was taking shape, a major piece was still missing. The park needed someone with gardening experience to oversee plantings, identify invasive plant species and develop a plan to remove them.

Enter Enfield’s master gardener.

“We had been floundering when Pattie just fell into our laps,” Smith said. “She’s not only an expert gardener, but she’s so good at organizing. She’s got an army of volunteers.”

In late September, more than 40 of them spent a day cutting brush, scattering wildflower seeds and preserving a large patch of sweet fern, a low-growing shrub that was growing naturally near the lake.

The Frieds also arranged lunch for the volunteers. (They have an in with a downtown Hanover restaurant.)

A good part of the day was spent on Pattie’s mission — ridding the park of Japanese knotweed and other invasive species.

Her husband, whom she calls her No. 1 volunteer, told me that when the topic of invasive species comes up in front of Pattie, watch out.

“The way she talks about them, I’m beginning to think they’re worse than the coronavirus,” he said.

I got the same feeling. While showing me around the park last week, Pattie picked up a strand of what she called Japanese multiflora rose that volunteers had apparently missed.

“It’s bad stuff,” she said, stuffing the plant into a plastic bucket that she carried on our tour for just this reason.

Along with gardening expertise, Pattie has also become an integral part of her committee’s ongoing fundraising efforts, Smith said. To that end, she secured a $2,000 grant from Toyota Motor North America, one of only 25 the automaker handed out this year.

She used some of the money to buy 1,000 daffodil and crocus bulbs, which will be planted in another worker bee later this month.

In preparation, when I caught up with Pattie at the park the other day, she was checking soil temperatures with a meat thermometer.

“It’s Toby’s,” she said. “He doesn’t know I have it.”

I’m sure he didn’t mind. Not everyone can say they’re married to a master gardener.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.

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