Business of the Month

Business

BerkShares Young Entrepreneurs

 

Andrew LaPatin is a young man from Pittsfield with a passion for art. He has autism, and his work reflects his unique perception of the people, characters, wildlife, & natural beauty of the enchanted hills of Berkshire County. After Entry to Entrepreneurship he plans to continue his education by taking college-level art courses, establish a store on Etsy, and start building his network. Andrew is ready to accept special commissions and sell his artwork. You can contact him through his Facebook page.

Monday, May 1, 2017 - 9:30am

Assembly Coffee Roasters

Assembly Coffee Roasters
814 East Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201
413 443 0280


“It is about caramelizing sugars,” explains Thomas Doyle, a fifteen-year coffee roasting veteran and co-owner, with his wife Julia, of Assembly Coffee Roasters in Pittsfield. The coffee bean, he points out, is a cherry seed; roasting coffee is really just the process of applying heat over a period of time to caramelize the sugars in that seed. Julia jumps in, “That’s why coffee really shouldn’t be bitter!”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 3:45pm

Kenver, Ltd.

Kenver, Ltd.
39 Main Street, South Egremont, MA 01258
413 528 2330

“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. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 5:00pm

Newly Elected Board of Trustees

 

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:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 - 11:00am

Wandering Star Craft Brewery

Wandering Star Craft Brewery
11 Gifford St., Pittsfield, MA 01201
917 573 3942

 

“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.

 

Saturday, October 1, 2016 - 11:30am

Berkshire Food Co-op

Berkshire Food Co-op
34 Bridge Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230
413 528 9697

“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.

 

Friday, July 1, 2016 - 9:30am

Big Elm Brewing

Big Elm Brewing 
65 Silver Street, Sheffield, MA 01257
(413) 229-2348

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!

 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 10:30am

Berkshire Children's Chorus

Berkshire Children's Chorus
P.O. Box 18, Sheffield, MA 01257
(413) 229 2465


“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
.”

Sunday, May 1, 2016 - 4:45pm

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AW Baldwin's Hardware
2 Center Street, West Stockbridge, MA
(413) 232-7757

Henry Baldwin’s hardware business has a genealogy.  His great-great grandfather, also by the name of Henry, bought the business 150 years ago, and Baldwin’s Hardware has been a steadfast presence right smack in the middle of West Stockbridge ever since then.  From this vantage point, Baldwin has a pretty special perspective on this little—and very walkable—town.

May, 2014

Monterey Masonry
39 Silver Street, Sheffield, MA
(413) 229-0475

Cold hard stone?  Not in the hands of master mason Mark Mendel and his crew at Monterey Masonry.  When you talk to Mendel you realize that his business has a lot more to do with warmth than you might anticipate.  In fact, Mendel’s “bread and butter” since he founded Monterey Masonry in 1982 has been in building fireplaces.  Mendel specializes in building energy

April, 2014

SEVEN salon.spa
7 South Street, Stockbridge, MA
(413) 298-0117

Maurice Peterson’s ambitions did not originally tend toward owning a salon in Stockbridge.  “I was going to be a movie star and director,” he explains.  But his husband, Mark Johnson, had always dreamed of having his own salon, and after working for some of the top salons in London, Los Angeles, and New York, he knew a lot about the business. So eight

March, 2014

Hilltop Orchards & Furnace Brook Winery
Rte. 295 / 508 Canaan Rd., Richmond, MA
(413) 698-3301

“I don’t think there’s a better place in the world to grow apples than New England and in particular the Berkshires,” says John Vittori, co-owner of Hilltop Orchards and Furnace Brook Winery.  Though they grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, Vittori and his sister Wendy always

February, 2014

Bizalion's Fine Food
684 S. Main Street, Great Barrington, MA
(413) 644-9988

Entrepreneur comes from the French entreprendre. “It’s the adventure of launching yourself into something new” says Jean-François Bizalion of Bizalion’s Fine Food in Great Barrington.  When Jean-François and his wife Helen opened their café and specialty food shop a little over ten years ago, in 2003, they were certainly embarking on a new adventure

January, 2014

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On a weekend trip to the Berkshires in 2012, Jeffrey Blaugrund entered a tried-and-true recipe from his New Mexico roots into a chili cook off at the then Meat Market in Great Barrington. To his surprise, and perhaps the dismay of some local contestants, his Carne Adovada dish won! At the suggestion that he begin selling the red chile pork stew, Jeff  became consumed by the idea of starting a business.

Moonlighting as a Crossfit coach, Jeff loved the routine and convenience of prepared meals that allowed him to maintain his fitness goals and made for quick desk lunches during his busy day. In thinking through his business idea, he realized that it’s not one great product that makes a business, but rather “the value proposition of quality sourcing, thoughtful cooking and a convenient, delicious result.” Enter Braise Worthy: a line of frozen meals that Jeff and co-founder Austin Banach say are “exactly what you want to eat when you don’t have time.”

These aren’t your grandpa’s TV dinners. Anyone who has ever braised anything knows the cooking process can take hours to develop flavors and tenderize meats. They'll also know it tastes best after a night in the refrigerator, so all meals are flash frozen immediately after production to preserve freshness and taste. Each of Braise Worthy’s meals showcase locally sourced high quality ingredients, masterful cooking, and creative recipe development. From the Beef Satsivi, a regional specialty from the Republic of Georgia, Mississippi Pot Roast with pepperoncinis and homemade ranch dressing, to the vegan Menudo that calls upon mushrooms to replicate the texture of tripe in the classic Mexican soup, Braise Worthy’s products respectfully honor the tradition of each dish while bringing it new life.

Braise Worthy has a unique business model, too. Through a direct-to-consumer subscription service, meals are delivered weekly to three pick up locations throughout the southern Berkshires. Jeff and Austin say this format gives them flexibility when it comes to research and development while sustainably scaling their business operations. In addition to feeding the masses at community events, their baby blue taco truck can be seen traveling around the county acting as a testing ground for new recipes. Braise Worthy will soon be releasing 7 more dishes, offering a total of 16 omnivorous and vegan menu items.  

Fundamental to Braise Worthy’s commitment to quality and consistency, is transparency. That’s why each batch of their slow cooked meals includes an ingredient tracker that allows customers to see exactly where their food is coming from. Jeff and Austin source their proteins and vegetables from local farms as much as possible, including fellow BerkShares businesses North Plain Farm and Mayflower Farm. The same commitment to transparency is why they decided to take BerkShares. BerkShares distinguish local businesses from global counterparts and makes visible how money circulates in the region. As they continue to iterate and grow, Jeff and Austin look forward to deepening their connection to the local economy and community.