Williamstown Group to Purchase Store at Five Corners

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A non-profit hopes to raise more than a million dollars by the end of January to purchase the historic Store at Five Corners. 
 
The newly minted The Store at Five Corners Stewardship Association says it has finalized a purchase-and-sale agreement for the property at the intersection of Routes 43 and 7 with a closing date set for late January.
 
"I'm thrilled that we've been able to work so collaboratively with the owner, Franklin Lewis, to achieve this result and pave the way to reviving the store and keep it thriving for many years to come," said the association's President Karen Charbonneau, a Williamstown resident. 
 
The store has been closed since July 2020 and has had several owners over the past two decades. The property dates to 1770 when it opened as a tavern.
 
The community group says it has "a solid base of funds already committed and widespread support for this initiative," and that it was confident it could raise the $1.2 million to $1.5 million to cover the purchase price, make any repairs and create an endowment to maintain it. 
 
The nonprofit South Williamstown Community Association will be acting as fiscal sponsor until the new group completes the process of becoming its own 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are considered tax-deductible charitable donations. 
 
The association said an email survey of residents in October had an 85 percent return, with most giving the store a high rating for its importance to themselves and the community and that it remain independent. 
 
According to a press release, the survey comments stressed not only the convenience of being able to pick up milk and other staples, wine and specialty foods, and to enjoy the cafe, but also the pleasure of having the Store as a place to visit and a community hub. Many spoke of meeting friends there for coffee or lunch, bringing guests, children, and grandchildren there for treats, and shopping for last-minute house gifts.
 
Many also noted its importance as a "gateway" for tourists into the town. 
 
Survey respondents mentioned the Store's importance for tourism, as a "gateway" to Williamstown. Survey questions and sampled comments can be seen here. https://storeatfivecorners.org/survey-results/
 
"Based on the immediate outpouring of support, and commitment of substantial funds from numerous community members — even before we've launched any formal fundraising efforts — we decided to go ahead and commit to purchasing the Store," Charbonneau said. "We certainly have a lot of work ahead of us to meet our $1.2-1.5 million goal, but this is an important effort that we're sure people in the Berkshires and beyond will embrace."
 
The association is also currently seeking a business operator interested in leasing the building to run as a cafe and general store, with offerings to include groceries, coffee, prepared foods, bakery items and more. It is anticipated to be ready to reopen for business in late spring or early summer.
 
To donate, volunteer, or learn more, go to storeatfivecorners.org or email info@storeatfivecorners.org.
 

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Williamstown Releases Findings of Investigations into Police Department

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A pair of concurrent investigations into the Williamstown Police Department found "credible testimony about … racially charged incidents in the Department" but raise issues about the credibility of the self-described whistle-blower who brought those incidents to light.
 
In the aftermath of the August 2020 release of a federal discrimination lawsuit against the town by then-Sgt. Scott McGowan, the Select Board promised to order an independent investigation into what the lawsuit characterized as "an atmosphere in which racial harassment and hostility to persons of color are tolerated and perpetrated at the highest level" and "a blind eye to sexual assault and sex discrimination" at in the department.
 
On Aug. 10 of last year, Boston attorney Judy A. Levenson submitted the results of her probe that began in February. Four days earlier, on Aug. 6, private investigator Paul J. L'Italien gave the town the results of his five-month investigation into McGowan after the sergeant was the subject of a March 1, 2021, letter of no confidence signed by full-time members of the police force.
 
Levenson had asked Pembroke's L'Italien, a licensed PI and retired law enforcement officer with more than 27 years of experience, to look into the allegations against McGowan in the letter of no confidence.
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