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North Adams Big Y Celebrates Renovations

By John Durkan
iBerkshires Staff
Store Manager Raanan Hartman cuts the cake as Mayor Richard Alcombright, left, and others look on.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Some of the changes at D'Amours Big Y have been obvious throughout the last couple months.

An aisle was knocked down at the entrance for an expanded produce section. Pizza and grinder stations and a soup bar have been set up at the back of the store. New cafe seating now exists on the east side.

The list of changes go on at the 47,000 square-foot store: new floors, motion-sensor energy-efficient lights on the now completely encased frozen food cases, new signage, new equipment, and new storage spaces for meat and dairy.
 
The renovations began at the beginning of September. Store Director Raanan Hartman said there's not much left to get done except some back-of-house tweaks and replacing the lobster tank.
 
"I know my employees did a great job getting this ready and we're all happy that it's coming to an end," said Hartman. "And the store came out really nice, it looks great, and I look forward to the future here in North Adams."
 
Big Y celebrated the change with many samples for its customers and an official cake-cutting ceremony with Mayor Richard Alcombright on Friday morning.
 
Alcombright said although the investment speaks about Big Y's financial dedication, to the city, he credited the convenience and service to the store's success.
 
"People wouldn't come here if they weren't well served," Alcombright said.
 
At the entrance a table was set up with coffee and doughnuts. Employee Becca Pike raced around the store hustling fresh, made-from-scratch pizza and sharp cheddar cheese. Near the bread section, a popcorn machine was set up. And of course, a celebratory cake rested on a table at the cafe.
 
The cafe offers two rows of tables with chairs and is convenient for eating a slice of pizza, a sub or enjoying some coffee and doughnuts. A bar is set up against the window looking outside with stools to come, Hartman said.
 
"It's nice, it's great for my customers. It's great for my employees," Hartman said. "It's a nice change."
 
North Adams wasn't the only North County store to get a makeover. Next door in Adams, the smaller 27,000 square-foot store had some changes of its own.
 
Adams Store Director David Smith said the store expanded in many departments. The bakery now offers single-serving desserts. The produce and meat departments and the hummus and cheese section has expanded. The deli now offers premade on-the-go and hot foods, including stuffed roast chicken.
 
In addition, to compensate for the store's tighter space, there are new smaller carriages for easier mobility.
 
Hartman said the renovations cost a total of $1.4 million for both stores. The North Adams store employs 110 people while Adams has 100 employees.
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House Repeals 'Tech Tax'

Staff Reports

BOSTON — The House of Representatives on Wednesday repealed the much maligned "tech tax" that had been part of the revenue package in this year's state budget.

The addition of the 6.25 percent sales tax to software and computer design services had been estimated to raise $161 million this fiscal year but ran into trouble when no one could adequately explain how it would be implemented. The state's high-tech industry revolted, saying the tax would cost jobs and that its wording was too vague.

"I'm proud of the House's vote today to repeal the so-called tech tax. Our vote sends a strong message to the world that Massachusetts is the place for innovators to succeed and thrive," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

"Because jobs and economic growth are central to the House's agenda, I promised to listen to business leaders and House members on what the tax's impact would be when this measure was initially passed. After listening, we learned of the burden of this tax. Our strong commitment to business and the innovation economy led to its repeal."

The vote was 156-1. The Senate is expected to vote for repeal on Thursday.

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Sleepy's Closes in North Adams

Staff Reports
iBerkshires

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — One of the  business questions downtown has been "how long can Sleepy's survive here?"

Turns out about six years.

The Sleepy's mattress store that's anchored the corner of the L-shaped mall since about 2007 has closed up. This all apparently happened on Tuesday morning.

A sign on the door informs patrons that there is a Sleepy's showroom at 555 Hubbard Ave., otherwise known as Berkshire Crossing, in Pittsfield.

There are also Sleepy's in Greenfield, the Springfield area and in Manchester, Vt.

A Brooks Pharmacy had previously occupied the corner space.

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Decor Store With Local Motives Opens In North Adams

By John Durkan
iBerkshires Staff
Ashley Priester poses in front of her storefront with her 'child' and store mascot Scarlett.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Ashley Priester took her passion for locally produced crafts and has channeled that into a small business.
 
Her store, AP Home Decor and More, located at 10 Ashland St., opened on Monday and on Saturday will have its grand opening.
 
Priester said the idea for a store came about as her house began to run out of room for crafting and friends encouraged her to open a business. Renee Tassone, owner of Eat to Total Health, encouraged Priester to take a chance at the spot next door to her business.
 
"I just went for it," Priester said.
 
Aside from her candles, the shop currently includes products — jewelry, quilts, massage oils, jams, artwork and knitted hats — from different vendors from around the county — including Katie's Custom Jewelry, Cheshire Cat Creations, Sentient Skin Care, Tanya's Country Kitchen and Angela's Sock Cupcakes and More. Priester said when the store fills up it will feature 40 different artisans.
 
Even the store's displays are locally made, handcrafted by Corey's Country Creations based in Cheshire.
 
"It's definitely about keeping stuff local," Priester said.
 
Prices on items vary. Generally, most cost under $20 —  the candles are $6.25 for a 4 ounces and $12 and for an 8 ounce, most jewelry ranges from $5 to $15. Some of the higher-end items, such as quilts, paintings and crystal jewelry, cost more than $50. 
 
The store also features pieces from younger artisans, and will sell work Duct-tape flower pens by Hope and Hannah Blake who attend Clarksburg Elementary School.
 
Candles can also be made in customized containers.
"I'm looking to get as much unique [items] in the store as possible," Priester said.
 
Priester dived into her candle-making hobby about four years ago and began selling to friends and at craft fairs. She decided on soy candles after researching the process because soy wax burns slower and is easier to clean than paraffin wax; She said to clean soy wax you just need a wet towel. Priester also said soy wax burns cooler, and is safe to touch. The wicks, too, are cleaner, she said, as she opted to make them with cotton wicks instead of lead.
 
On Saturday, the grand opening will feature specials and sales with vendors on hand, raffles and massages from Circle of Life.
 
Every month, there will also be raffles for customers, whether its just stopping in, purchasing a product or reviewing their visit on the store's Facebook page. Priester also hopes host vendor parties and ladies' nights.
 
She's still figuring out more marketing plans, but plans to team up with other small businesses in the immediate area for a coupon book.
 
The store accepts cash, card and check, and is open Monday and Wednesday from 10 to 5:30, and Thursday though Saturday from 10 to 7.

 

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Berkshire Bank Acquiring 20 Bank of America Branches

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The county's largest bank is getting bigger with the addition of 20 retail bank branches in New York.

Berkshire Bank, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hills Bancorp. Inc., has entered into a purchase-and-assumption agreement for bank branches from Bank of America. The branches are located in New York markets within or contiguous to markets currently served by Berkshire.

The acquired branches have approximately $640 million in total deposits and $5 million in loans. Both banks will be working to ensure a seamless transition for customer accounts; employees will transfer over to Berkshire Bank.

This acquisition is subject to regulatory approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the commonwealth of Massachusetts and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions. The acquisition is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2014.

According to Berkshire, the acquisition will increase its total branch count to 94, and its New York branches to 37. Berkshire has $5.2 billion in assets.

Berkshire CEO Michael Daly said in a statement that the "transaction meets our financial criteria and is expected to contribute to our long-term strategic and financial goals."

Jefferies LLC was financial adviser to Berkshire and Luse Gorman Pomerenk & Schick P.C. was outside legal counsel. A presentation with additional information about the deposit acquisition will be posted on Berkshire's Investor Relations website.

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