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Christian Brindel and Juliet Jones have made North Adams their home and a place to start over.
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Birdsong Gallery Shoots for 'Feel Good' Vibe in North Adams

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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In addition to merchandise and art at Birdsong, Brindel also has a selection of guitars from his collection.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — After losing everything in a hurricane, partners Christian Brindel and Juliet Jones have made North Adams their home — and a place to start over. 
They've poured their hopes into Birdsong Gallery on Eagle Street, a place they envision as a hub for artists, crafters, and musicians as well as another option for local shoppers.
"We were shooting from the hip and we had no idea what to expect but North Adams has a such a good vibe," Jones said. "We wanted this to be a feel-good place and it is welcoming and comfortable. There is something for everybody here."
The two originally ran a yacht maintenance company in the Florida Keys but when Hurricane Irma made its way across the state last year, they like others were forced to evacuate.
"It is a mix of tragedy and intuitiveness," she said. "We were hit by Hurricane Irma last year, so our businesses were both destroyed, and our home was in tough shape, so we needed to do a reset." 
Jones said the two bunkered down in Ashville, N.C., and after they heard reports that their community was under 11 feet of water, they decided to change course.
"We were just sort of hanging out on the side of this mountain and we shot darts at a map," Jones said. "I hit Stockbridge, so we came up to check it out."
The two immediately fell in love with the area but came upon the realization that Stockbridge was not the best fit.
"Stockbridge is beautiful, but it is like buying property in the Keys. It is not your average person's definition of affordable, so we puttered our way up here," she said. "We sort of were smitten by this city and just fell in love with it. The people were welcoming and Mass MoCA is such an interesting fixture. It just had a great feeling."
Brindel said they purchased a house and as he was exploring the city came upon historic Eagle Street, which he thought would be a perfect place for a shop.
"It was a challenge because we didn't have a clue when we first got here but we just started meeting people," he said. "This summer this street it was just so lively."
Jones said the store started out as mostly a hub to sell art and the two connected with local artists and artisans.
"It is a lot of fair-trade stuff and most of the art on the wall is by local artists," Jones said. "We want to work with them as much as possible … it sort of morphed into women's fashion and accessories, too. There are fun little bits everywhere."
Brindel, a musician and performer, has his own section in the store that he refers to as "guitar heaven."
"It's all vintage Gibsons, Martins, and Guilds but I still have stuff that is affordable," he said. "For the most part, it is my collection."
Brindel pointed to a guitar he purchased almost 20 years ago that he believes Stephen Stills gave to David Crosby. 
"There is no provenance on it and this is all story but from a very reputable luthier in Fort Lauderdale who worked with these guys all through the '70s," he said. "He was the shop you wanted to buy a guitar from when you were recording."
Brindel said they also have local musicians who come in and give lessons. Currently, people can sign up for beginning or intermediate guitar lessons as well as piano or banjo lessons.
Lessons can be scheduled in person or by calling 413-663-0840.
Jones added that sometimes musicians just pop in to sit and play.
"There are a good group of musicians that kind of puddle in," she said. "They go back, hang out, pick up a guitar and play for a while."
Brindel said he is excited to see the store change and grow but hopes it will continue to act as a place for local musicians and artists.
He added that he hopes Birdsong Gallery can also lend a hand in the efforts to revitalize Eagle Street. 
"I think anywhere we have ever been we have definitely been part of the community," he said. "This is definitely something different and we saw a need for something like this."

Tags: Eagle Street,   music,   store opening,   

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North Adams Council Passes $41M Budget for Fiscal 2021

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council approved a $41 million budget for fiscal 2021 on Tuesday along with using close to $300,000 in reserve funds despite concerns expressed by several councilors.
The total amount to be raised is $40,939,756, up $134,218, or 0.33 percent, from last year. Some $11,369.776 has already been spent over the past three months through continuing appropriations caused by delays in the state budget because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 
"This is now coming on really six months of a budget process," said Mayor Thomas Bernard. "We typically start talking about the budget with the Finance Committee in March, and this year we had our first conversation in late April because following the shutdown at the state and local levels, there was just so much uncertainty ... it made sense to pursue several months of continuation budgets, with the goal of bringing forward this budget now for you in October."
The budget on its own did not generate much discussion overall but the use of $320,427 in reserve funds to offset the amount to be raised by taxes did.
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