NORTHAMPTON — The World War II Club’s building is up for sale, making the future of the organization that owns and operates it uncertain. The building, also known as the Deuce, is home to a bar and a room for special events and the club has both veterans and non-veterans as members.
“Nothing is definite at this point, but we’re investigating various options,” said Steven Connor, president of the World War II Veterans’ Association of Hampshire County. “We have been struggling financially … It’s a struggle to keep the doors open,” he said.
The building, listed recently with Gallagher Real Estate for $899,000, has housed the organization for nearly 50 years, according to Connor.
Listing the property was a difficult decision, Connor said. “This is really hard on everybody,” he said, “and we don’t want it to end, but we have to do something so we’re looking at our options.”
The future of the space and the organization is up in the air. “Operate the established business that exists – or reinvent your own business name,” reads the real estate ad online.
It’s possible the building will be sold, and the World War II Club can lease it and operate the bar as it is now, or someone will buy the building and liquor license and continue to run it, Connor said. The club’s board is also considering keeping the property and leasing it.
A buyer might decide to turn the space into something completely different. In that case, members would vote on the future of the organization, Connor said. “Do we go and find a [new] location? Do we join another location or do we dissolve?” he said.
Though members pay dues, Connor said the bar was key in keeping the operation afloat, until recently. “It’s been several years that we’ve been challenged with making enough to pay everything off. We haven’t for quite a while,” Connor said.
Last year, the board considered listing the building but decided to try to sustain the business and increase traffic, Connor said. This year, the board changed its vote.
“We’re not making enough for all the stuff we need to pay for and to have anything to make capital improvements and do advertising,” Connor said. “That makes it hard. There are a lot of choices in Northampton.”
Robert Cahillane, a former president of the club and a member for 50 years, remembers the club moving into the space in the early ’70s.
“Change is constant, they say. I’ll be very sad to see it go,” he said.
Newer veterans, he said, aren’t joining veterans clubs. “They’re all fighting for members,” he said.
Cahillane emphasized the club’s importance in hosting events and bringing people together. “It’s been a real community place,” he said.
Weekly veterans lunches, Cahillane said, are one example of that sense of community. Every Wednesday at noon, veterans can get a free lunch at an event hosted by the Building Bridges Veterans Initiative. Between 50 and 70 meals are served weekly, Christopher Carlisle, director of Building Bridges, said on Wednesday afternoon outside the club.
The gathering is also meant to foster community and “prevent isolation in the veteran community,” said Chad Wright, associate director of Building Bridges. “Far too often it can lead to suicide and depression,” he added.
Eddie Hanlon, a retired chef who volunteers to cook the lunches, said if the property is re-purposed, he’s confident the lunch program will find another space. “I love doing what I’m doing for the vets,” he said
Carlisle said he hopes a sale wouldn’t affect the lunches, but he is not sure yet.