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 Food Co-op. 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 Heaton and Christine Bump 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 began distributing statewide 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.
807 State Road, North Adams, MA 01247
(413) 862 9359
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.”
Lester Blumenthal claims to have lost all his marbles when he decided to make a go of the restaurant business. But anyone who succumbs to Bessie the fiberglass cow’s beckoning glance and follows the arrows to the Route 7 Grill will see that Lester has not lost anything but instead has found a way to make a restaurant into a celebration of a region, a landscape,
Say hello to the stalwarts of Railroad Street, Great Barrington; say hello to Steve Carlotta and Tony Carlotto of the Snap Shop. They have been in business since April Fools’ Day in 1972. That’s 41 years, no fooling!
But it’s no wonder that they have held down the fort for so long, even in the face of drastic changes in the photography world. They still believe that old-
Ask anyone in the southern Berkshires where they got their bike, and they are more than likely to answer, “Berkshire Bike & Board.”
Steffen Root was knocking at the door when the local bike shop first opened in 1995 (it was known as Berkshire Bike & Blade then). Though his position as apprentice bike mechanic at Bike & Blade
Locke Larkin, the man behind Berkshire County’s oldest established gourmet food shop, Locke Stock & Barrel, laughs when asked about “the local movement,” because for him it just means that he has been around long enough to see things come full circle. A native of the Berkshires,
332 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, MA
How often can you still find an independently owned bookstore, one with the local flavor leant by a used book section, a large collection of local histories, and books signed by local authors? Less and less often, as Eric Wilska, co-owner of the Bookloft on Stockbridge Road in Great