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Since May of 2007, Allium has presented casual-fine food in downtown Great Barrington.

Watercooler: Allium to Close After 12 Years in Great Barrington

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Saying goodbye

After nearly 12 years in the Berkshires, Allium Restaurant + Bar will be closing its doors on Jan. 1.  Since May of 2007, Allium has presented casual-fine food in downtown Great Barrington. The management team recognizes the popular gathering place Allium has become and wanted to give as much notice as possible. Working with their staff members to find new jobs and taking time to properly say goodbye, is of great importance as they close this chapter.

"Regretfully, and after sincere thought and consideration, we’ve decided to set our sights on new goals," proprietor and founder Nancy Thomas said. "This journey would not have been possible without the support of our community. The people of Great Barrington welcomed us with open hearts, and for that we will be forever grateful."

One of the earliest companies in the Berkshires to source locally grown and produced foods, Mezze Restaurant Group purchases from 50 regional farms and food producers. As a farm-to-table advocate with a commitment to supporting the local economy, parent company Mezze Restaurant Group decided to close Allium to allow them to pursue what’s next. "We've come to realize we need to focus our efforts on other endeavors and open up the possibility to present new, exciting ideas in the food space," said co-owner Bo Peabody. "We're excited to offer Allium fans opportunities to join us again with pop-up events and food experiences in future."

Mezze Bistro + Bar in Williamstown and Mezze Catering + Events will continue operating in the region.

 

Career training

Free training opportunities are being offered for career changers, underemployed and unemployed Berkshire residents who want to participate in training that could lead to jobs in advanced manufacturing. Training is free to participants who are interested in obtaining employment in manufacturing, but those who are interested must attend one of these informational sessions:

MassHire Berkshire Career Center at 160 North Street in Pittsfield: Jan. 2 at 1 p.m., Jan. 8 at 11:30 a.m., Jan. 11 at 2 p.m., Jan. 15 at 11:30 a.m., Jan. 16 at 2 p.m. and Jan. 23 at 1 p.m.

McAnn Technical School at 60 Hodges Cross Road in North Adams: Jan. 3 at 3:30 p.m., Jan. 7 at 3:30 p.m., Jan. 9 at 3:30 p.m. and Jan. 15 at 3:30 p.m.



Training is funded by the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, administered locally by the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board, and is in collaboration with MassHire Berkshire Career Center, Berkshire Community College, McCann Technical School, Pittsfield Public Schools and area manufacturing companies.

 

Bank acquisition

Berkshire Hills Bancorp has signed a definitive merger agreement under which Berkshire will acquire SIFI and its subsidiary, Savings Institute Bank and Trust Company in an all-stock transaction valued at $180 million based on Berkshire's stock price as of the close of business on December 10, 2018.

Berkshire's total assets will increase to $13.6 billion including the $1.6 billion in acquired SIFI assets.  SIFI reported $1.3 billion in loans and $1.3 billion in deposits as of September 30, 2018.   This merger agreement increases Berkshire's market presence with 18 branches in Eastern Connecticut and five branches in Rhode Island, adding to Berkshire's existing nine Connecticut branches.

"We're pleased to welcome Savings Institute's customers and employees to the Berkshire family," said Richard M. Marotta, CEO of Berkshire.  "This transaction is a natural fit and brings with it a stable, longstanding deposit base with leading market position.  The Savings Institute franchise strengthens our Northeast presence, as we gain scale in Connecticut and enter into attractive Rhode Island markets.  Savings Institute is a well-established and trusted financial institution with deep client and community relationships. We look forward to expanding those relationships with the depth and breadth of our products and services.  This partnership will produce attractive returns for both our existing shareholders and the new shareholders from SIFI joining us in this transaction."

 

Feline boarding

Berkshire Humane Society's Purradise, its satellite feline adoption center located in Great Barrington, now offers feline boarding services. In addition to Purradise's cozy condos, visiting felines will have access to a large sunroom at least three times per day where they can run, play, and lounge on cat towers and beds while enjoying the outdoor view through the window-enclosed space.

"This is a service we have wanted to provide for a very long time," said Erin Starsja, Feline Manager for BHS. "We understand there is a need in the community. People want to know that their cats are well-cared for – especially if they have special needs – so that they don't have to worry when they are traveling. Plus, this service allows us to put more income toward our programs and services that help homeless animals and people in our community. BHS, like many non-profits today, is struggling. We hope this service meets a consumer need while supporting our shelter at the same time."

Purradise staff is compassionate, friendly, and trained in feline care and behavior. Their years of experience in animal sheltering provides ample knowledge to anticipate and accommodate a cat's wants and needs. Staff are trained in administering medications, special dietary needs, and other requirements a cat may have. For information about booking, vaccine requirements, pricing, and add-on services, contact Purradise at 413-717-4244.

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Let's Reverse the Rural Physician Shortage

By Lia Spiliotes

Across the nation, unequal access to health care raises urgent, pressing problems for individual and community health. For rural and underserved communities, the most urgent challenge for patients is our shrinking supply of primary care physicians.

Data show that by 2030, the United States will face a primary care physician shortfall as high as 49,300. Only 25 percent of medical school graduates enter the primary care field; many head straight to higher-paid medical specialties.

In rural regions, this looming physician shortage is already hurting patients. A new poll by Harvard, NPR, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that one-quarter of those surveyed had trouble accessing health care recently.

Viewed in a national context, the doctor shortage issue will be most dire for Texans. The other extreme is here in Massachusetts, which has the apparent luxury of a projected surplus of primary care doctors. However, regardless of the area of the country, rural regions — such as ours, in the Berkshires — face persistent challenges in attracting and keeping primary care doctors.

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