Business of the Month
“It’s about way more than just skiing.” So says Lucinda Vermeulen, owner of Kenver, Ltd. the outdoor specialty store in South Egremont that is famous for its atmosphere.
When Lucinda’s late husband Ken Vermeulen founded the business with Ernie Beckwith in Great Barrington in 1959, the focus of the business was rather different. Both men were avid hunters and outdoorsmen and, Lucinda laughs, “if you can imagine, they used to hang deer on Railroad Street, with everybody walking around in neon orange!”
Soon, however, Ken Vermeulen moved the business to its current location in Egremont. The iconic building, which dates back to 1731 and once served as a stagecoach stop, had been decimated by fire, but the beautiful marble floors, high ceilings, and original beams were still intact, and they captured Vermeulen’s fancy.
BerkShares, Inc. is a membership-directed non-profit organization focused on responsible economic development in the Berkshire region. BerkShares, Inc. has worked in partnership with local businesses and community banks to issue BerkShares, a local currency for the Berkshire Region. BerkShares help to build regional identity, raise awareness about the importance of local ownership, and empower community-based economic decision-making. On October 20th, BerkShares, Inc. held its Annual Meeting, where the membership elected the following five of their fellows to join the Board of Trustees of the organization:
“Honey, I bought a brewery.” That is how Chris Post announced to the world (and in particular, to his wife) that his home brewing hobby had morphed into something more serious. At that point, Post was still working in finance in New York City, and brewing was something that happened on a two-ring burner in his apartment. But one day, while browsing eBay for home brewing equipment, he had stumbled upon the entire contents of a brewpub in Michigan, listed at “an absurdly low price.”
“I was convinced that I would be outbid, but I didn’t want to die wondering ‘what if I had taken that chance and pressed the button.’ So I pressed the button.” As it turns out, that was the beginning of Post’s adventure from banker to brewer.
“The idea that a group of people can control a business by exercising the democratic process is a very powerful one,” says Daniel Esko, General Manager at Berkshire Co-op Market. And in Great Barrington that power, aligned with a common demand for high-quality food, has led the Co-op to evolve significantly from its “humble roots on Rosseter Street,” where it was incorporated by 160 families in 1981.
If you are “fiercely local,” what is the best way to show it? By drinking local beer, of course! At Big Elm Brewing, Bill and Christine Heaton and their co-founders Jen and Russell Jaehnig have set out to make the task of showing your Berkshire pride both easy and delicious.
Founded in Sheffield in 2012, Big Elm beer has fast become a staple in bars, markets, and liquor stores throughout the region. After gaining a strong foothold here over their first three years, the company signed an agreement with the Craft Brewers Guild for statewide distribution in January, which has allowed them to gain, according to Heaton, “really good traction” in the lively Boston craft beer market. And on June 9th they filled their millionth can of beer!
“I have these moments when I’m singing where everything feels exactly right,” says one young member of Berkshire Children’s Chorus, a non-profit community children’s chorus currently celebrating its 25th season. “Singing in a children’s chorus can be a very powerful and transformative experience,” agrees Artistic Director Julie Bickford. “It was in my life.”
Do all arboriculturalists drink green tea? Or is it only the crew of Barrett Tree Service? Founder and owner Winthrop Barrett laughs, “Yeah, we’re always drinking the green tea.” It’s by no means a profession-wide tradition, he explains, but it does serve a purpose. “It’s a performance drink. It gives you a nice steady buzz, whereas coffee brings you up and then you crash.” And when you’re in a business like tree care, you want an even keel.
Teamflys offers a new perspective on the local economy: a bird’s eye view! Based out of the North Adams airport, Teamflys offers scenic flights, aircraft rentals, and professional flight instruction to locals and visitors alike – and they accept BerkShares! “We’re not a typical start-up business,” says manager Trevor Gilman, explaining that the business launched with zero money in the bank. “We found a principal investor who bought the airplane and then we started up the business and began to take on students.”
Oskar Hallig had so much fun planning his own wedding that he was inspired to start a business – planning other people’s weddings! Though matrimony was his entrée into the business, Hallig’s company, Only In My Dreams Events, plans all sorts of to-dos, including birthday parties, fundraisers, and memorial services. “We do everything from beginning to end, so to speak."
289 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230
When Emily Carlotta goes out to dinner, she recognizes people by their feet. “I think, ‘I helped them get those boots – I knew they’d like them!’” Carlotta is the store manager and buyer at Barrington Outfitters at 289 Main Street in Great Barrington, and she loves where she works.
Brothers Richard and Peter Drucker founded Barrington Outfitters in
The Chef's Shop
31 Railroad Street, Great Barrington
(413) 528 0135
Like any good entrepreneur, Rob Navarino loves what he does and does not mind taking a plunge. Owner of The Chef’s Shop on Railroad Street in Great Barrington, Navarino “always knew” that he wanted to have his own business. In 1991, after “paying his dues” in the corporate world, he snatched an opportunity to fulfill his dream, and started a little store he originally
864 S. Undermountain Road (Rte 41) Sheffield, MA
(413) 229 8585
Nestled ’neath the shadow of Race Mountain, the Stagecoach Tavern is tucked beneath layers of history. Few places in Berkshire County have served as a “watering hole” longer than this tavern on Route 41 in Sheffield, and few have accumulated as much character. The oldest parts of the low-slung tavern date back to the early 1770s, while the grand brick “Coach House”
258 Stockbridge Rd. Great Barrington
31 Main Street, Stockbridge
By traditional Berkshire reckoning, Home Sweet Home Doughnut Shoppe is a newcomer. Owners Debbie and John Scalia are transplants from Enfield, Connecticut, and their Doughnut Shoppe at 258 Stockbridge Road (Route 7) in Great Barrington has not yet been open five years. But this new arrival has had no problem integrating into the community. In fact, the
“All of our local businesses should trade in BerkShares,” says Catherine Chester, an attorney at Hellman Shearn & Arienti LLP. In her view, BerkShares help to combat one of the main challenges that face the Berkshires. “We have an aging and a