Thomas Moody and Erica Shrader at a recent Pittsfield Farmers Market.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — City native Erica Shrader is hoping to inject some new energy into downtown Pittsfield with "mind-blowing" food.
Shrader opened UpStreet Smoke in June with her partner, co-operator and pitmaster Thomas Moody.
Moody brings his Southern roots into the recipes and Shrader adds a Caribbean twist. Her mother was from Bermuda and her grandmother from Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Although she grew up in Pittsfield, she left the area for 30 years to live in Washington, D.C. Upon her return, she noticed that there were not many places to get the kind of great food she was used to having.
"I was spoiled with different types of food … Tommy actually relocated and came back here, too, and it was a halt. It was really troublesome trying to find really good food," Shrader said.
"People cook it in their homes, of course, but to actually go out and just have mind-blowing food was a challenge."
Shrader recollected how when she was a teenager, North Street, also referred to as "upstreet" by locals, was buzzing with activity.
The street was very active with lots of businesses and food establishments, especially on Thursday when General Electric workers were paid.
"We would always circulate and hang around North Street. If you were going to meet your friends and hang out you went upstreet," she said.
With the establishment of her popup and catering company, she hopes there is a resurgence of that atmosphere.
"It's just the whole cookout experience. And the cookout experience is always reminiscent of good times with your family," Shrader said, adding that not many people have gone to a cookout and have had a terrible experience.
"It's always a good experience. So, hopefully we're bringing some of that back, the resurgence of when Pittsfield had a good time. When we had things going on and the resurgence of upstreet," Shrader said.
Since its establishment UpStreet Smoke is going strong and has been embraced by the community, she said, and during the Saturday farmers market there is a long line of people waiting for them to open.
Every weekend and some evenings, she and Moody take their smoker to events or farmers markets to sell smoked pork rib, smoked pulled pork, yardbird (smoked chicken) and other Southern fare.
Since its launch, UpStreet Smoke has made appearances at the Juneteenth celebration and Shakespeare in the Park among other locations.
This winter, the popup hopes to collaborate with local breweries to offer a tailgate menu for those that don't have food on site.
The average cost of a meal is between $16 to $20 a person but there are also individual menu choices that are cheaper.
They also offer catering services for corporate events, weddings, and other functions. The cost of the catering services varies based on type of services and the number of people.
For catering, UpStreet offers a dropoff and a full experience service. During the full experience service, Shrader and Moody will attend the event with the smoker and cook the meals in front of attendees.
By day Shrader works as an information technology manager and by nights and on weekends she runs the company alongside Moody. Being able to work in these different fields allows her to recharge her social battery, she said, while also pursuing her love of IT.
"I think we're going to do the popup full time but with the culture of Pittsfield, I don't ever see us doing a 9 to 5 brick and mortar," she said.
"I see us doing something more like 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., or late nights, and brunches and try to bring that element back to the city."
Shrader plans hopes to get a mobile trailer and "a monster smoker" in the future. If she ever chooses to open a brick-and-mortar establishment it will not be a typical restaurant.
She sees it similar to Philadelphia's Food Hall, where small businesses can collaborate and sell a range of foods in an open outdoor space with indoor seating options.
To book UpStreet Smoke for catering, call 413-344-6090. Follow them on Instagram to stay up to date on the next popup location.
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Merrill Road Bank Robbed
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police are seeking a suspect who held up a bank on Wednesday evening.
The robber entered the NBT Bank at 609 Merrill Road shortly before 5 p.m., displayed a firearm and demanded cash. He left with an undisclosed amount of cash and fled. No injuries were reported.
The suspect is believed to be a white man.
Anyone who can provide information or observed any suspicious activity in the area is asked to contact Detective Neil Goodrich at 413-448-9700, Ext. 554. Information can also be provided anonymously via the Tip Line at 413-448-9706, or by texting PITTIP and your message to TIP411 (847411).
Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren, Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick and at-Large Councilor Karen Kalinowsky spoke against the proposal that would increase the average homeowner's bill by 8.75 percent.
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The event, sponsored by MountainOne and organized by the Berkshire Running Center, helped more than 400 participants work up an appetite and helped raise money and generate non-perishable food donations for local food pantries.
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