CUMMINGTON, Mass. — The transition of the Old Creamery in Cummington to a community-owned cooperative grocery store took a giant leap forward this month with Florence Savings Bank's commitment to provide necessary outside financing.
Thanks to the bank's commitment, just one more fundraising task remains before the Old Creamery Co-op can purchase the business. In a drive to raise a total of $285,000 in member-owner loans or additional gifts — the final financing component — three community members have challenged the greater co-op community by promising $25,000 if member-owners pledge an additional $75,000 by the end of the month.
If this challenge is met, the co-op will be able to purchase the business and proceed with renovations to the store and grounds, and finish the last of the fundraising during this year. Of the needed $285,000 in member-owner loans and gifts, $135,000 has been raised already.
"We are excited to be providing the financing support for the Old Creamery Cooperative project in Cummington," said John Heap, president of Florence Savings Bank. "We are also looking forward to serving our Hilltown customers with ATM service at the Creamery when the renovations are completed. The Creamery has been part of the Hilltown community for more than 100 years and we are happy to play a role in building the financial foundation for the next hundred."
Financing for the project, including acquisition, construction, and a capital credit line, is being provided by Florence Savings Bank.
"The vibrant cultural heart of the Hilltowns is the Old Creamery in Cummington," said Rachel Maddow, MSNBC host, author of the best seller "Drift," and a Hilltowns resident. "It is my favorite retail establishment in the entire universe."
The Creamery, in turn, has created a sandwich called the "The Spicy Maddow" to honor the well-known supporter of the co-op.
"The Old Creamery is one of the most values-based and community-oriented businesses I have ever known," said co-op member and longtime Creamery cook and baker Emmy Howard. "I feel very fortunate to be able to work and shop at a business that is able to hold service to the community and environmental awareness as guiding principles. Because the community, in turn, supports the Creamery, it is able to remain a viable business that continues to give back to the community. If this sounds circular, it is, and that is the beauty of the Old Creamery and its community."
To learn more about the creation of the Old Creamery Cooperative, visit www.OldCreamery.coop.
Submitted by Bill Latimer, communications coordinator for Old Creamery Cooperative
Petrino's Cafe Changing Hands
By: Staff Reports On: 08:31PM / Tuesday March 29, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mark Petrino is calling it quits and heading West.
"I'm ready for something new," said a cheerful Petrino on Tuesday, who opened his namesake cafe on the Main Street corner barely a year ago. What's new is an offer he couldn't refuse from Colorado State, which will put him back into college food service.
It was Williams College that brought him to the Berkshires, then long miles traveling to colleges around the area for for AVI Foodsystems put him back into restaurant mode. Now he's ready for academia again.
Petrino's is the third eatery to try the corner of Holden and Main, following in the footsteps of the Cup & Saucer and Applachian Bean. It offered up fresh and local fare for breakfast and lunch, with various wraps along with some really great burgers, coffees and specialties. All the sandwiches were named after "relatives" to give it a homey touch. Our favorite is the Cousin Mary (chicken, chipotle sauce and Provolone) with an occasional Counsin Paulie (turkey, spring greens and feta on a panini roll).
It's no secret that the restaurant biz is the hardest, and this season has been brutal — too much snow and cold was keeping people inside. The restaurant has been closed on Mondays since February and rumors of its closure were going around weeks ago. Asked last week on the eatery's status, Petrino said he hadn't made a decision yet.
But Petrino says the new owner (he didn't want to say who yet) is in negotiations with building owner David Carver and is expected to take ownership as soon as next week. The new proprietor is considering getting an alcohol license and change to later hours, he said.
The cafe could close for a couple weeks to give the new owner a chance to do some renovations and "put his stamp on it," said Petrino, but it will be open in time for the avalanche that is the Solid Sound Festival in June.
"He knows Wilco is a cash cow," said Petrino, "he'll be open."
On a related note, we received some concern over the status of Desperados on Eagle Street on Monday after a large blue tarp was seen covering the entrance. No vandalism, broken glass or anything drastic — the restaurant was putting down new floor tile and had covered the entranceway to create a workspace.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — I pride myself in knowing the hidden gems of South County.
In fact, I am even smug when I send people to Baldwin's for vanilla extract, or to Rubi's for real, French hot chocolate and an oyster feast (I even know the names and tastes of the oysters nearly every week). So when my boyfriend arrived last Sunday morning with a handful of specialty meats and a jar of sweetish, sharpish gourmet mustard, I knew I had missed something big. I swallowed my pride and in between savory bites of blood sausage and eggs I finally bit the bullet.
"So, uh, where'd you get all this stuff?" Chew, chew, savor.
"Sure you did," I said, scraping the last remnants of food off of my plate with my fingers and a fork.
That's when he busted out the secret.
"Maria's European Delights," he said. "I can't believe you, of all people, haven't been there."
I remedied that situation very quickly. Late Wednesday afternoon, after taking out the garbage, watching my laptop die and blogging about insects, I finally made it to 67 State Road for a serious taste of Eastern Europe at its very best.
Let me begin by saying, don't be scared. Much of the packaging at Maria's is inaccessible if you can't read Polish or Russian or German. Thankfully, there are self-explanatory pictures and some English phrases to guide you along. There is also Kryzysztof and Maria Sekowski, husband and wife owners of Maria's, who clearly relish the chance to talk mustard, honey, salami and whatever else comes up while a customer is sampling the plethora of specialty smoked meats and cheeses.
The Sekowskis, natives of Poland, haved lived in the Berkshires for nearly three decades. They opened the deli on Route 7 in 2007.
"We have a lot of Hungarians, Germans and Polish people who come in here," said Kryz (prounounced "Chris"). "And I have a rule that when a new customer comes in that I have them taste things before I tell them what it is. That way there is no judgment, just flavor."
Flavor abounds at Maria's, and the proprietors are very happy to have customers sample the goods and discuss, in depth, the merits of every flavor, before purchases are made. Maria's shelves are lined with mustards of all kinds, rich chocolate (including Milka, which is a coveted item among my children), concentrated juices in flavors such as cactus, rosehip and gooseberry, 20 different kinds of pierogis, pickled vegetables, strudel breads stuffed with apricot, apples, cheese, you name it. They even have caviar (red or black), as well as a wide range of smoked and pickled fish.
My senses were about to explode, but fortunately Kryz led me to the meats and Maria began slicing samples to get me focused. Actually, before any serious ingestion took place, I was given a small cup of sour cherries to try. I devoured them, relishing the sweetness and another familiar flavor that I finally was able to place after I drank the remaining juice at the bottom of the cup.
"Whoah! Is that rum I'm tasting?" I asked.
Maria just smiled.
The tasting began with a soft, mild-tasting pate that I recognized immediately as something my grandmother made years ago – chicken liver pate. Done right, of course, with very little of the irony aftertaste. Next was a thin slice of Danish bacon (all of the meats at Maria's are precooked and ready to eat). Very little fat, very much flavor. Next came the stuffed bacon, the center of which was speckled with spices such as pepper, rosemary and sage.
"This is very good with smoked cheese," Kryz said. I perked up like a hungry dog.
"You have cheese, too?" It's a French thing, I swear.
Lots of cheeses, each one with a unique flavor and texture – smoked goat cheese, sheep cheese that crumbles like feta (without the salt), buttery Swiss. I finally settled on a sharp, heavily smoked cheese somewhere between Swiss and gouda.
As I was reeling from the several rounds of tasting I saw it, right there on the counter in front of me. If it weren't for the fact that I was in public and wearing a very expensive camera around my neck, I would have cried.
"You have Halva?!" I picked up the generous block of sesame paste speckled with pistachio nuts.
"Yes, we can only get that kind at one place in the middle of Brooklyn. It's very special."
Yes, it is very special. The whole thing. I am hesitant to post this blog because I feel like Maria's is a secret that I want to keep to myself and let others discover in their own sly time. But, here you are.
It sounds a little weird and it wasn't what I expected when I walked into Nana's Country Market in Adams. What caught me was the sandwich board outside that said "Ham and cole slaw."
It was about 4 p.m. ; going back to the office meant no dinner until after a city council meeting and a ham sandwich sounded pretty good. I've been meaning to stop in at Nana's and this seemed a good a time as any.
Jill Richardson and Frank Willis opened the tiny market and deli a few months ago. I'd watched the progress on the building just down from Angelina's as I'd sped by on my way up and down Route 8.
Look at that bread!
Getting there isn't all that easy. Columbia Street can be tough to cross at that time of day, so I turned around in the carwash and found a parking spot right in front.
Richardson was manning the counter as I perused the sandwich offerings, all around $5. The turkey with cranberry sounded good, so did the roast beef. (The market also offers sliced meat to go along with the staples of bread and milk.) But I came in for ham.
What's on the sandwich, I asked. "Ham, cheese, a slice of tomato and cole slaw on white, wheat or rye," she responded. Cole slaw on the sandwich? Yes, cole slaw on the sandwich.
This I had to try. My only change was the addition of some lettuce to hopefully help hold the dripping to a minimum. "You'll need a napkin," said Richardson.
Honestly, it wasn't that drippy. It was a nice mix of regular and red cabbage with carrots — not to vinegary and not mayo-gloppy. It went well with the sliced ham in between two slabs of homemade rye bread. Really good rye bread.
I could get used to having my side order on my main course and I'll definitely be trying Nana's next interesting concoction.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Peter Harrison likes to talk almost as much as he likes to cook.
He's the first one to admit it.
"Even the telemarketers are like 'hey, we've got to get going now.' That's how I am," Harrison said. "Even the Jehovah's Witnesses, they're like 'you know what, we've got to go.'"
Harrison, 46, of Pittsfield, is taking his two favorite pastimes — preparing food and socializing — and turning them into his first business venture. If visits from the health and fire inspectors go smoothly this week, he'll open Poppy's Deli on May 11. Located at 240B Main Street in the Colonial Shopping Plaza, the deli fills the space previously held by Angelina's Subs, which was evicted last month after failure to pay its bills.
Peter Harrison is realizing his restaurant dreams with the opening of Poppy's Deli in the Colonial Shopping Plaza.
Harrison will offer a menu similar to Angelina's while adding his own unique touch. He'll expand the deli case with an assortment of salads and casseroles, and he'll sell home-meal replacements such as vegetables and starches, along with breakfast items.
"This is a working man's place. We've got a big parking lot with a lot of trucks coming in," he said. "I want to keep the hamburgers, the hot dogs, steak and cheese. I'll make anybody anything; if I got the ingredients and you ask me for it, I'll make it for you."
Perhaps just as important as fulfilling the customer's hunger, Harrison also wants to make Poppy's a place to engage in lively conversation.
"That'd be another [career] I'd like to have is be an interviewer," he said. "Not like giving job interviews, but to sit behind a desk like [David] Letterman. I get to know everything about everyone.
"As much as I'm here for myself, I'm here to see who's going to come through the door and say hello. I want to be as much a part of the community as possible, where people want to come in and say hello just as much as they want to come in and get a sandwich."
Harrison has been toying with the idea of opening his own business for the last 10 years. His love for the culinary arts was invigorated years back while learning under chef Rico Deluca at the Seven Hills Inn located in Lenox. Harrison has since worked at the Love Dog Cafe and Canyon Ranch, both in Lenox, and at Helen's Place in Williamstown.
Along the way, he has learned all the ins and outs of the restaurant business, which eventually prompted the search for an establishment of his own.
"It doesn't matter where you work, you've always got to be prepared and be ready," Harrison said. "You can feed 1,000 people if you're ready. If you're not ready, it's hard to feed 10. Even to cook for your family, to cook for four people, that's a lot of work."
When Angelina's went out of business in March, Harrison saw a prime location up for grabs. And he's been a welcomed addition to the shopping plaza.
"He's marvelous," Sherri Thompson, owner of Avon, which is located next to Poppy's Deli, said. "He'll be a lot of fun to have next door. I just wish it was open already, so we'd have some good food to eat."
As for the name Poppy's Deli, Harrison said it came from his 6-year-old grandson, Evan, who started calling Harrison "Poppy."
And it will be all Poppy, at least for a while. Harrison will be a one-man staff until he decides that more help is needed.
"I've got all those restaurant owners I used to work for to thank because they left me alone in their restaurants," he said. "I'm confident I can do it."
Poppy's hours of operation will be every Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.