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Belltower Records is trying to keep its music community together through social media and online offerings.

Belltower Records Doors May Be Shut But The Music Is Still On

Staff ReportsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Belltower Records is keeping the record store experience alive despite the sudden closure because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"People love to connect over records and their love of music. Music can ease a lot of anxiety or discomfort over day-to-day life and in that way it serves an emotional purpose," owners Andrea Belair and Wes Nelson said in a joint email. "With this sudden retreat into isolation, we think it's important to not overlook how this will affect people emotionally. ‘Music is the healing force of the universe.’ "
The record store closed in the Norad Mill on March 16 as concerns over the novel coronavirus continued to ramp up.
"We decided to close out of concern for public health surrounding the COVID-19 crisis since we did not want to contribute to the spread of the virus through exposing customers through contact with it," they wrote.
Belair and Nelson have always sold music online but saw an opportunity to expand while the brick and mortar operation is closed.. They have increased their offerings on both Discogs and Etsy, where they sell music posters. 
"Now we have just been listing lots more on both of those platforms," they said.
They have also expanded on social media posts on Facebook and Instagram allowing sales directly through those platforms.
"Posters have been going up a lot lately since we have had lots in storage, and we will start with the most desirable ones first," they said. "We also will specifically promote records that we really like."
Like at the record store, it is first come, first served with these records and posters. The two said they have only taken offers on more expensive or rare items.
Belltower Records serves as a hub for collectors and music obsesses with live shows and other events. Also going to the record store is an important ritual for many.
Belair and Nelson understand this and have tried to keep the music community together during these weeks of social isolation.
"Although there are many regular customers who are not on social media so we haven't stayed connected with everyone," they said. "The 'Belltower Records Community' is simply part of a larger musical community that remains in touch with or without a pandemic."
They said, for example, some friends of theirs, who run a music venue in Kingston, N.Y., called Tubby's, hosted a live stream performance of the band Parashi, another friend of Belltower Records who once performed in the shop.
"We consider these performers and venues to all be part of this community, we're just a small part, and will probably look into some more innovative ways we can stay connected with people as this pandemic progresses," they said.
The two added how important it is to support local business in any way during these times.
"Local businesses everywhere are struggling, and they will be the ones hardest hit during a time like this. Huge corporations and banks have the reserves in place and they will continue to function at some level with what they have (and also with massive government bailouts), but there isn't much help coming for everyday working people, as we've seen," they said. "Workers, small-business people, teachers, etc. make this country function, provide it with what character it has left, and now is an utterly crucial moment where they have to stick together, support one another, and fight."
And for your listening pleasure, Andrea and Wes have three recommendations to help get you through these hard weeks. 
Jah Woosh: "Dreadlocks Affair" (nice and toasty mid-70s reggae)
Huevos II: "III" (lackadaisical pop from Western MA, one of the best indie records so far this year)
Cindy Lee: "What's Tonight To Eternity" (hazy, lonely, pretty dream-pop; probably the most suitable one here for isolation)
"People like all sorts of different things, and what they want to hear in order to comfort them can vary greatly," they said. "However, it's spring, so we've been playing some 'spring-y' stuff ourselves. If there's a comments section, comment with what you've been listening to!"

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Crane Stationery Leaving North Adams for New York

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Crane Stationery is pulling up stakes after more than 200 years making paper in the Berkshires. 
In a statement released Friday afternoon, company officials said they had made the "difficult decision" to shift operations to parent company Mohawk Fine Papers in Cohoes, N.Y.
The news isn't a surprise: Crane announced a month ago it would be laying off nearly its entire workforce of more than 200 by June 19.
"For almost 220 years, Crane has made its home in the Berkshires. It's an indelible part of our history and our culture, and an enormous point of pride," said Thomas O'Connor, CEO of Mohawk in a statement. "We recognize that our departure will be felt by the North Adams community, but at the heart of this decision is our commitment to ensuring that the extraordinary heritage of the Crane brand lives on. 
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