Westfield Is Hot

When I was growing up, a distant relative of mine from Jamestown would pack a sack lunch several times in the fall and head to Westfield to help harvest grapes.

It was one of her favorite things to do. And whenever she’d return home, she’d say, “I just love Westfield.”

That’s a sentiment shared by many through the years, but did you know that Westfield is “hot” right now? Everyone from realtors to the mayor to visitors and residents say that Westfield is enjoying its own little renaissance.

“Real estate sales are outstanding right now,” says Catherine Brooks from Howard Hanna Holt. “I’ve got clients looking for secondary homes from Chicago, Florida, Buffalo and Erie.”

Brooks says Westfield has its own special ambience, and she credits the warm and friendly people, the great restaurants and a lineup of interesting local events.

“The people in Westfield are very proud of their community, and they’re very supportive of it. And very devoted.” Brooks adds.

I get it.

It’s not too hard to feel all warm and fuzzy about the village when you spend a sunny Saturday afternoon at their farmers market. And it doesn’t hurt to have miles of grape vineyards and wineries nearby or gorgeous turn-of-the-century houses lined up like soldiers on leafy streets.

And then there’s the antiquing and the new lakeside barbecue restaurant When Pigs Fly which is backed by a celebrity chef.

But what else is going on in Westfield that we didn’t know about?

Take a drive to the village and you’ll notice the well-kept houses and lawns as you make your way to Main Street. And once you hit the historic district, you’ll find a clean and charming center that boasts a new facade, along with some great new spots for eating and shopping. In fact, storefront occupancy and business activity is at its highest level in decades.

Still, it might be hard to put your finger on why, exactly, you kind of fall in love, but maybe because it’s got this “Seneca Falls” feel from “Its a wonderful life.” Or maybe it’s because you’ve had too much fun sitting at a winery listening to music and whiling away a Friday evening.

It’s all very charming but charm takes work.

Just ask Aaron Resnick – the director of Westfield Development Corporation, or Mayor Michael Vande Velde, or Martha Bills, the town supervisor. They say this lovely transformation was a few decades in the making. It didn’t happen overnight.

“We think Westfield has been hot for a long time,” Vande Velde says with a big grin. “But people are starting to realize it right now.”

He tells the story of a reporter who came through the village recently and said, “Your downtown is the best looking downtown in Chautauqua County.”

But the truth is they’ve worked hard at it. And they all agree that strong community support keeps the village together.

“We have a strong bond with the local libraries, the museums, all of our youth programs – we have all these great people behind everything we do,” says Vande Velde.

“People are willing to volunteer. They’re our greatest resource,” says Bills. “We have so many people who are willing to give of themselves to make things happen.”

Aaron Resnick, who’s the much heralded go-getter for grants, recites a list of the village’s attributes and assets, which he calls tremendous – “Especially for a community our size,” he says.

He puts the town into a neat little package by mentioning Barcelona Harbor and Chautauqua Creek, and the YWCA and the library, the Civil War Enactment, the Wine Trail, and a list of other events and that’s when you start to put it all together.

And for me, it really endears me to Chautauqua County all the more. You start to realize all the people in every town and village who are working hard to maintain what is best about their communities and then working even harder to improve them. The kind of work involved – the imagination, the creativity, the brain power and commitment is incredible.

But today is Westfield’s day to shine.

Go take a look around the village soon. Plan a day at their great farmers market, go have lunch on Main Street or enjoy a glass of wine somewhere.

And while you’re there, applaud them for exemplifying so well the sorts of things that can be done to bring back the splendor of small town America.