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Jazu Stine and Luke Marion pose by a sign promising 'III,' the third version of Red Apple Butchers in Crawford Square.

Red Apple Butchers Taking Second Slice at North Street

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Red Apple Butchers is hoping absence has made the heart grow fonder for its prime cuts and specialty sandwiches.
 
Nearly 18 months after it shuttering his location in the rear of Crawford Square, Jazu Stine expects to open on Tuesday in the very same spot to serve breakfast sandwiches and lunch, and fresh meats. 
 
But this time he won't be alone — the butcher shop is being supported by a team that includes Otto's Luke Marion. Call it "collaborative capitalism."
 
"We're working in tandem to create kind of a few different ideas. And then we also got Berkshire Organics involved," Stine said on Friday, as Marion chopped potatoes. "To be fair, he did warn me this was going to happen a long time ago, but I didn't really believe him."
 
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 in 2013 out on Dalton Division Road and Stine 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.
 
He was ready to take a big step in fall 2017 with help from the U.S. Small Business Administration and support from city officials to open on North Street. But four months later, his customer base had disintegrated. 
 
"I don't think people were ready to really go out of their way to go to the butcher shop, you know, I think we've kind of lost touch with that people do," Stine said. "So what I heard people saying was, 'we like your stuff, we'd love you to be back. But this doesn't work for us.'"
 
But, one thing he heard over and over was that people were still interested in delivery, which had been a large part of his business. 
 
So a third part of the team will be Berkshire Organics, which Red Apple Butchers had opened next to in the beginning. Stine said the produce supplier's new focus on delivery systems rather than brick and mortar can work for both operations, including aiding Berkshire Organics in developing ready-to-prepare meals. 
 
It was Marion who was sure that Red Apple Butcher would return. 
 
"My first and foremost, like, my main goal in this, I want to get Red Apple back up and running," he said. "Because it's a great spot, and Jazu has a great family, great people. And that's what you do."
 
The location had been occupied by Bigg Daddy's Philly Steak House for the past year, but owner Xavier Jones closed in late August, stating a lack of customers. 
 
Landlord Steve Oakes, who bought the building in 2015, approached Marion to see if he was interested in doing something in there. He'd been waiting for the spot to open and noted that all the RAB equipment was stored in the basement of the building — it just had to be moved upstairs. 
 
"I approached [Stine], I said, I have this concept for lunch, the menu," he said. "It would be kind of a backbone for the operation, but it turns out it's not a backbone, it's more of a real thing."
 
Stine, who had been gone back to work in local restaurants, was willing to try. 
 
"I think we're in an amazing place to have a landlord who's got our back and says, 'You know what, go ahead, try again.' I believe in this. That's, that's pretty amazing thing," he said. 
 
So what is the connection between Otto's and Red Apple Butchers? The two men laughed that they didn't see a bitter fight over breakfast sandwiches across Park Square. Rather, the two friends — three dads total, they said, with Berkshire Organics — see complementary businesses that can support each other. 
 
"We have a half-pound burger at Otto's. ... We have ridiculous burgers," Marion said. "Here, it's a quarter pound burger. It's grass fed beef. So it's immediately going to taste different than an Otto's burger."
 
Stine and Marion said their eateries will be offering "completely different experiences" in sandwich ingredients and how they're prepared. Plus, said Stine, he'll be open Monday through Friday so Otto's is "still going to crush breakfast all weekend long."
 
"It's not really just even two businesses, now there are three that are kind of all working together to support a common goal," Marion said. 
 
Stine agreed it's a bit complicated to explain to people how the three businesses aren't just looking at the bottom line but at how they can be stronger together.
 
"I think when people start to hear about this and realize, like, wait a minute, this isn't just the same thing," he said. "And there's now a story behind it. And I think people are going to struggle to just understand that it's pretty simple."
 
Red Apple Butchers is located at 137 North St.; hours are 7 to 5, Monday through Friday. See the menu here. 

Tags: deli,   North Street,   reopening,   restaurants,   

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Pittsfield Continues Tax Classification Hearing Over Free Cash

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Mayor Linda Tyer says she wants to focus on building reserves. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday continued the tax classification hearing after clashing with the mayor over how much free cash should be used to offset the tax rate.
 
At the end of a nearly three-hour meeting, councilors and Mayor Linda Tyer were at a stalemate with the majority of the council unsatisfied with Tyer's $750,000 compromise.
 
"We are taking this out of the pockets of our taxpayers and putting it into the city coffers," Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers said. "I know that's how it works but at this moment we can afford to give some of that savings back."
 
The original proposal was a residential tax rate of $19.99 per $1,000 valuation and a commercial rate of $39.96 per $1,000 valuation, which holds the residential rate to a 57 cent increase and the commercial rate to a 2 cent increase.
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