By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Karen Freker joined the Hudson-Concord Elks Lodge #959 in 2013 and serves as one of its five trustees. Her 13 years of experience as a business owner has helped the lodge while it undergoes a major renovation. At the recent officers’ installation ceremony for the fraternal year of 2016-2017, she was recognized as Officer of the Year for 2015-2016.
“I ran to be a trustee at a time of change for this club,” she noted. “The Hudson-Concord Elks Lodge was just about to begin its $1.8 million renovation and the membership is transitioning a bit. It seemed like a great opportunity with some changes in my life to be involved in an organization that looks to help the local and surrounding communities.”
Freker co-owned Harvest Café in downtown Hudson with Pippa Jollie from 2002 to 2015. They purchased and renamed Harvest Bagel on Main Street, which had been in business for seven years. Soon, they expanded the menu and added catering. Meanwhile, they became involved in the community by joining a few other merchants to launch the annual Hudson Downtown Holiday Stroll.
“Harvest Café was very personal when we were on Main Street,” Freker recalled. “We had contact with almost every customer that came into the building. I would talk with someone at the counter, take their order, cook it, ring it up and hand it to them.”
When the building was sold, the co-owners announced that their eatery would close because they couldn’t find a new location. They were encouraged by a supportive outpouring from the community. A building on Washington Street became available in January 2007, which they bought within a month. There, the business grew with a kitchen and wait staff.
“In the Washington Street location, it initially could seem a little less personal because we weren’t doing everything,” Freker acknowledged. “Eventually, I ended up bartending most of the time and got to reestablish personal connections with people.”
She also connected with area performing and visual artists. Harvest Café regularly hosted cabaret evenings. Among community groups that held fundraisers at the venue were Flyleaf Theater Company, Moonstruck Theater Company and River’s Edge Arts Alliance (REAA).
In 2015, Freker and Pippa received the Artists Appreciation Award from REAA. The award honors those who dedicate themselves to cultural enrichment of the community.
“It was special to be recognized for something that wasn’t really an effort for us,” she said. “Supporting the arts seemed a part of our mission, something we wanted to do. The arts are important to me, which I didn’t learn until I owned and operated the local independent restaurant.”
Freker applies lessons learned as a business owner to her role as an Elks trustee. When the former lodge manager left in September, she helped run the daily operations for three months along with the assistant manager and other volunteers.
“I worked with a lot of outside vendors as part of the renovation to transition from the old to the new services,” she explained. “I can also use skills and connections to help bring awareness about the Elks and what they do.”
Now, she’s also drawing upon her experience interacting with the public in a new work position. In March, she began working as district coordinator for state Rep. Kate Hogan, D-Stow.
“Rep. Hogan presents citations and goes to as many events that she can,” Freker noted. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to attend some of them with her and celebrate how people in our communities are working together to do great things. It’s all about people working together.”