Red Apple Butchers is a nose-to-tail shop that opens its expanded location this week.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It was about 10 years ago when Beth Carpenter wanted to get rid of some excess jewelry making supplies.
She sold them online and turned a decent income. Sales grew and eventually took over her living room. It got so large of an operation she brought her husband, Greg, on to help run the business.
Yummy Treasures continued to grow from there.
Two years ago, she opened a storefront on Commercial Street.
Now, Yummy Treasures is the No. 1 shop on Etsy for jewelry and crafting supplies and the winner of the Massachusetts Small Business Administration's Microenterprise of the Year.
"The fact that you are a family business means so much. We have a lot of legacy businesses and they all started like this and so many started in their living room. And that's the beginning of your story, starting at a kitchen table," state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier told Carpenter at the shop on Thursday, when SBA officials joined local officials to celebrate the award.
SBA District Director Robert Nelson presented the award to Carpenter in Boston a week ago but came to the Berkshires Thursday for the local celebration.
He said the organization offers a lot of assistance for small businesses from technical assistance programs to loans. The organization just got another federal grant of $500,000, which could match small businesses up to $12,000 to expand or start exporting -- which Yummy Treasures does.
"It is really important for me and what we do in the commonwealth to make sure that businesses all across the state know about the SBA programs and services. We're really happy we had nominees from the western part of the state and a winner from Pittsfield," Nelson said.
State Sen. Adam Hinds was particularly taken by the way Yummy Treasures can be successful on both the online marketplace and in a storefront.
"You are putting your finger on something we are all struggling with right now. How do our downtown shops exist when folks are moving to online sales? And here you've become the No. 1 on Etsy. It blows my mind," Hinds said.
Mayor Linda Tyer praised the work of all involved, from the SBA that helped perfect the company's business plan to the state for funding the SBA and the city officials on the ground helping to allow the business to grow.
"It is a great addition to this rich fabric of economy we have in Pittsfield. We are really grateful that you took a risk on our city and you are opening your business right here," Tyer said.
Yummy Treasures wasn't the only small business SBA officials visited on Thursday.
"I really believed there was an opportunity in this community to bring better food in, to close the gap. I am a believer that the food we eat is of vast importance and the system hasn't been working in our best interest for a long time, in particular when it comes to meat. I think there is a much better way to do it," Stine said.
"We took a risk and it was a great opportunity to grow and start small. We quickly realized that we were right, there is a need for that, and that we needed more space."
Now they'll be offering baked goods, produce, dairy and other food products out of its Crawford Square location.
"It is not just about meat but a philosophy of how you approach food, how you respect it, how you utilize it properly, how to not waste it," Stine said. "We now have the room to do that."
Nearly four years ago, Jazu Stine opened Red Apple Butchers alongside four other businesses at Berkshire Organics. His business has grown so much, he's expanding.
Keith Girouard, the regional director of the Berkshire office for the SBA, said Red Apple Butchers was provided financial modeling and forecasting, helped with a business plan and scouting locations, and was aided in getting financing through Lee Bank and the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp.
"This is what the Small Business Administration is all about, trying to help small businesses grow and succeed whether it is through our loan programs or our technical assistance," Nelson said.
The opening of such a shop supports a growing number of people living downtown, Tyer said. Recent years have seen the upper floors of North Street buildings being transformed into market-rate apartments and condominiums. A butcher shop adds to the changing dynamic of North Street.
"I'm really happy to be here to celebrate the opening of a new business right in our downtown that is going to be a great compliment to the art and culture scene, to the new downtown living we have and the emerging growth of market-rate housing," Tyer said. "It is a great moment for Pittsfield and North Street."
Farley-Bouvier said people didn't want to live downtown years ago but now that is changing.
"I think it is so cool when I see small businesses popping up to support the people living downtown," Farley-Bouvier said.
Hinds said focusing on the companies that are "right here, right now" is a winning proposition.
"The more we can do that, the better off we all are," Hinds said.
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Berkshire Humane Still Caring for Animals Despite Financial Struggles
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Humane Society has been forced to change operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic but its and care and support for animals will not waiver.
"We understand that this is a tough time for everyone. We just want people to know that the homeless animals in our care are still getting the same, nurturing level of care that they always do and we are continuing our programs to help pet owners keep pets in their loving homes," Executive Director, John Perreault said. "We appreciate the support the community has given us at this time. We'll work through this together and look forward to better times for both people and the animals they love."
The novel coronavirus has forced many businesses and organizations to close their doors or modify how they do business and this has been the case for the Berkshire Humane Society.
The nonprofit animal shelter has closed its doors to the public for the time being but is still allowing surrenders and adoptions, but only by appointment. Human contact has been limited and these appointments take place in a sterile area.
The online store features a variety of vendors and is open to all local residents. Those who have SNAP benefits or those who have recently lost their jobs or are facing economic hardship from the pandemic are eligible for $30 a week in free food from the Virtual Farmers Market.
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Inspired by the book "We're Going on a Bear Hunt," which Susan Wrba likes to read with her 2-year-old son, Wrba is organizing a "bear hunt" across the Berkshires from Friday, April 3, to Sunday, April 5. click for more