Tom and Bob Nichols have seen the business adapt to changes in the market and they continue to keep their grandfather's business alive.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Nowadays one can buy food anywhere — at gas stations, dollar stores, big-box retailers.
But that wasn't the case in 1914 when Harry Nichols Sr. opened up a variety store on Wahconah Street.
A lot has changed over the last century, and despite all of it, his business has survived.
This year, Harry's Supermarket is celebrating that 100-year milestone.
"It's a pretty big milestone to have a business last that long," said Bob Nichols, who with Tom Nichols, owns the Wahconah Street store.
Bob Nichols remembers being a kid and playing in the aisles of the supermarket that his father eventually took over. Now he is the one placing the orders and stocking products on the shelves as the third-generation owner.
"There has been more stores moving in. Within the last 20 years, you've got Walmart, Target, Price Chopper rebuilt into a giant super store, Price Rite came to town, all of these dollar stores. And our population has gone from 69,000 at our peak in Pittsfield down to maybe 45,000," Nichols said of the changes he's seen. "The pie is getting smaller."
It is with a dedication to service and quality, Nichols said, that the store will eventually be in the hands of yet another generation.
The supermarket has been known for quite some time around the Berkshires for its meat counter and has been building on that. The brothers also have been focusing on their deli offerings as they look toward the next century of business.
"I really believe we have a better cut of meat. Especially our hamburg; that we cut from a real chuck. The other stores buy pre-ground hamburg. They ground it another time and then repackage it. We don't buy anything like that." said Nichols. "It makes a big difference. You can taste the difference."
The meat counter has played a mayor role in the company as it has adapted over time.
It was in 1914 when Harry Nichols built the variety store next to where the current Harry's Supermarket stands and ran it with his family of 11.
"My grandfather started it in 1914. He had seven sons and two daughters, a big family. They all lived above the store where the pharmacy used to be. Their whole crew was the family," said Bob Nichols. "When they came back from the war, they kind of split up. They opened the package store. They opened the supermarket."
In 1957, the family build the Wahconah Street supermarket to replace the variety story. The supermarket was owned and operated by his father and two of his uncles. Eventually they sold the package store and closed the pharmacy.
Now the focus continues to be on the supermarket's meat and deli departments. The family has always been proud of its meat offerings and further upped the ante in 2012, after the building on Elm Street where they leased a second location was sold by the owner and demolished.
"Everybody has food. We're concentrating more on our meat, deli and produce," said Bob Nichols.
On deli side, they've been seeing more and more business on the cooked products —such as platters for group gatherings.
"I think the first thing we'll probably expand is more produce," Nichols said of the next expansion.
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