Red Apple Butchers moved downtown in September. He announced the shop's closure on Thursday on 'The John Krol Show' live on Facebook.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Red Apple Butchers in Pittsfield is closing its North Street location barely four months after moving in.
Owner Jazu Stine said on Thursday that the customer base expected to be generated by moving downtown just never appeared and many of the regulars from his previous location didn't follow the business there.
"We did a lot of projections and numbers but ultimately it is a guess. You forecast how people are going to receive you, whether people will stay with you, and whether people will come in. I don't think we were wrong. I just think it is going to take a lot longer than we thought," Stine said.
Stine's model was farm-to-table: good quality, locally sourced meats along with a deli, packed lunches and baked goods made on site, and produce and dairy. It began as a nose-to-tail butcher shop and he later started to build a base of restaurants ordering meat for dishes as well. With the new location, he added the prepared foods and other take-home items.
The butcher shop was started nearly five years ago in space next to Berkshire Organics out on Dalton Division Road. The business took off and, with help through the local U.S. Small Business Administration office, scouted the Crawford Square location as a suitable spot for expansion and to gain customer traffic.
But the drop off in regular customers and a slow increase of new customers put the business below projections. This week, Stine made the decision that he doesn't have the capital to keep the business alive long enough to wait for those numbers to increase.
"It comes down to access to capital. If I had a lot more access to capital, we could keep going for a while. I do believe the model can and would work. We just thought we were going to come in at a certain point and we so far below that it doesn't work," he said.
"I think the business could easily grow over the next year or two and get to a point where it is a financially viable business."
Stine said he heard from many of his former customers that the new location wasn't convenient. But in no way was he pointing any fingers at the city's downtown and he believes the potential for growth is possible — but in years, not in the months needed to survive.
Stine has been reaching out to his network in hopes to find a partner to help keep the business going. He said butcher shops like his are fast growing throughout the nation and he had success at his prior location.
"At this point, we would need somebody to come in as a partner, somebody who really believes in what we are trying to do here and wants to help it grow to move forward," he said.
He is currently in a three-year lease on the Crawford Square location and hasn't ruled out re-opening there. But he had to halt operations to re-evaluate his options before things got worse.
"Right now we've got to close the doors. I let go of our staff. And we're trying to figure out if there is a way to move forward with this business, whether that is here or somewhere else. It is unclear what is going to go on. But what is clear, at this point in time the model is not working," Stine said.
He does expect to still do catering but just isn't sure whether he'd base that operation out of Crawford Square or elsewhere. Stine hasn't given up hope on the business overall, nor has he given up on downtown Pittsfield.
"I'd love to keep the doors open and keep going," Stine said. "We put a lot into this and it is hard."
Adding that it isn't a lack of a market, but more getting those new customers in the door. He also said closing his last location for a period of time leading up to the move didn't help retain business.
"I don't doubt that there is enough people out there. I wouldn't have done it if I thought that was the problem," Stine said.
Another, older North Street business also closed recently. On a Roll Cafe, which had been on North Street since opening in 2003, quietly shuttered in late 2017. A more recent second location in Lenox is still open.
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