Lerner Gallery adds cafe

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By Joe Moskowitz
Martin Lerner decided in 2010 that he had enough of the corporate world and retired from his job at Minolta. It was time, he decided, to do something different. He found something really different. He opened an art gallery in Roxbury, but just that wasn’t enough. He needed a way to get people to come to town so he could get people into the gallery.

Timing isn’t quite everything. Money helps and the MARK Project had recently secured a Main Street Revitalization grant. With $50,000 available to start, Lerner decided to get to work. Actually he got contractor John Carson of On the Level Enterprises and Margaretville builder Dave Goodchild to start work. In fewer than five months, the 150-year-old building that used to house Brainerd TV and Appliance has been transformed into a stunning gallery and café.

Carson said there were no real surprises, no reasons for delay, and everything is ready for a July 4 opening. Carson contributed more than building help. He thought it would be nice to be able to sit on the porch and have a beer while the kids go inside and get ice cream. So now the little café, with about five originally planned menu items, has more than 30 items including beer, wine and ice cream.

Queen’s Mountain
The name of the café is Queen’s Mountain. Lerner’s family used to own rental units in the New York City borough of Queens. That’s where he met the man who is going to help run the café, Yeshi Gyaltsen. Yeshi was born in Tibet. He escaped and went to India where he lived for 20 years. He became a monk, then a Lama, a high holy man. He now lives in Roxbury and has been granted political asylum in the U.S.

Lerner’s wife, Yung Yung Tsuai, also has a somewhat unusual resume for the Roxbury café business. She is a former dancer with both the Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey companies. And now she also is in Roxbury.

Lerner knows that he is facing a challenge. He says Roxbury is not Woodstock, or Phoenicia, he says it doesn’t even have as much traffic as Arkville. He says he hopes his place will help draw people to the community. But he says he can’t do it by himself. He credits Phil Lenihan who rebuilt the corner store building across the street, the effort Lewis Wendell is putting into the nearby Enderlin Building and the crowd that The Roxbury Motel attracts.

He is not concerned about competition. In fact he wants it. His father used to say, “10 hotels on the street is better than one.”
In the meantime he offers his granddaughter, Sasha Ashe, some ice cream. She is related to tennis legend Arthur Ashe. It is a very interesting place.