AYER — When Country Good takeout was founded in September 2004, the intent was to combine southern barbecue and a faith-based social mission in Ayer’s downtown.
Though the restaurant is owned by several members of New Hope Community Church in Ayer, it isn’t directly affiliated with the church.
Unfortunately, its location in the rear of the old Roux market building in Ayer wasn’t conducive to the restaurant’s operation. Its doors were shut in October 2005, said the Rev. Gary Palmer, president of the general partnership group that owns Country Good.
That move was temporary until a better location was found, he said.
Over the past year, he fielded numerous questions on when and where the eatery would open again. He said he’s happy to say it will open Saturday, March 10, at 347 River Street, Fitchburg.
Though Country Good was in the wilderness for some time, Palmer said he and the congregation never lost faith it would rise again.
“We really believe all things are possible if you trust God,” he said.
The new location is just off Route 2A in the old Peking Garden building. The group kept the previous restaurant’s number to help hit the ground running, said Palmer. When people call for Chinese, he said they’re given a pitch to try southern barbecue.
On a more serious note, he said approximately half of New Hope’s congregation is from Fitchburg and is optimistic the new location will be a hit from economic and social standpoints. Country Good provides economic support and a presence in the community for the congregation, he said.
Palmer singled out the church’s economic empowerment program as dovetailing with Country Good. The idea is to provide a positive environment and boost the self-esteem of youths and at-risk congregates through employment, said Palmer.
The program is one of several offered by the Hope Center that adjoins the church on Sandy Pond Road in Ayer. Other programs include counseling, mentoring and other youth programs.
Overall, Palmer said the center underlines the ministry’s philosophy, which offers support to the community in a variety of ways.
“These projects come out of the vision of the church. The first mission is spiritual, but you have to minister to the whole man,” he said. “Once we’ve helped them spiritually, we want to help them physically.”
And the hope is that this time Country Good will continue to grow. Palmer envisioned Country Good as eventually operating a southern-style buffet establishment. He said that’s possible with time and help from above, and cited the trajectory of his congregation, which started in the back room of the old church on Sculley Road in Ayer as an example.
“Country Good is a little takeout that began in the back of Roux,” he said. “What’s to stop Country Good from someday moving to a 200-seat dining room?”