Paul Rishell and Annie Raines at the Homegrown Coffeehouse / Credit: Chris Pahud

Jim and Beth Sargent started singing folk songs as a duet in the 1970s in small clubs in southern New England. He was a classically-trained guitarist; she grew up in a home filled with music. In 1982, they combined their love of music with the need to put down roots for their young family. The couple opened Homegrown, a coffeehouse and live performance venue, in First Parish in Needham, Unitarian Universalist, where it has operated for 41 years, interrupted only by the Covid pandemic. The Sargents researched other coffeehouses, evaluating the musicians as well as the refreshments, and decided that suburban Needham could and would support live music. 

They were advised by church members that the coffeehouse would become the public face of First Parish, and as such it has come to demonstrate the value of the arts and folk music in particular: secular, grassroots and diverse. Over the years, performances have included folk, roots, jazz, klezmer, drumming, and even comic storytellers. The coffee house is run by volunteers — sometimes whole families have worked together — who set up, clean up and sell refreshments. Over the years, Homegrown has become a significant fundraiser for First Parish and its many activities.

In October 2022, Jim Sargent died of a rare and aggressive cancer, but Beth and her fellow parishioners have continued the concerts, with home bakers delivering fresh cookies and brownies and helpers brewing coffee and mulled cider. Beth’s carrot cake, the inspiration for the club’s slogan “Rooted in Folk Music – Powered by Carrot Cake,” usually sells out. She remembers researching recipes until she found the perfect combination, and topped it with thick cream cheese frosting.

Upcoming highlights of this season include singer and songwriter Abbie Gardner on Saturday, Oct. 28, and the New Black Eagle Jazz Band on Nov. 18. 

Tickets may be purchased online for $25. First Parish is located at 23 Dedham Ave. There is free parking nearby, and the venue is wheelchair accessible.

Needham resident Ginger Newcombe is a retired public school teacher and now works part-time at the Needham Free Public Library.

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