Easthampton, MA

River Valley Coop Finds Space for Second Location!

It has been an exciting journey to watch the River Valley Market  grow and change since it's doors opened in 2008. Ih has become my go-to local supermarket. They have fresh, local produce, responsibly sourced dairy, eggs, meat, fish and poultry. There is a large bulk section, with convenient containers available to purchase for liquid bulk items. There is a well-culled wine and beer section, frozen foods, snacks, cleaning and pet supplies and even skin care, supplements and make up. As a member/owner, I feel thankful for this wonderful cooperative market and local organization. The River Valley Market is on my list of 100 reasons why I love living in Northampton and the Pioneer Valley! I'm happy to share the following article from MassLive.com - The River Valley Market is opening a second location in Easthampton!!

River Valley Co-op chooses Easthampton car dealer site for 2nd store

EASTHAMPTON -- River Valley Co-Op has plans to build a second grocery store at the former Fedor Pontiac Oldsmobile site at 228 Northampton St. in Northampton. ( Republican File)(Bob Stern)

By Jim Kinney

jkinney@repub.com

EASTHAMPTON -- River Valley Co-op has identified the former Fedor Pontiac Oldsmobile property on Route 10 as the best spot for its second location.

The grocery cooperative announced Monday that it has an option agreement to purchase the property at 228 Northampton St. from the Fedor family. The price was not disclosed.

The dealership is vacant, having closed in 2010 when General Motors downsized its dealer network and ended the Pontiac brand during the automaker's post-recession bankruptcy. Oldsmobile went out of production in 2004.

Easthampton mayor, buying bar with her brother, also to rent out three apartments

The State Ethics Commission said Mayor Nicole LaChapelle may not use her position to benefit her business in any way. 

River Valley Co-Op opened its 17,000-square-foot store at 330 North King St. in Northampton in 2008. But with more than 9,500 member-owners and many more regular customers, that facility is getting too busy and congested, said Andrea Stanley, River Valley Co-op board president.

"The growth of our store has been faster than people expected," Stanley said. "We didn't imagine the store would be as busy as it is. There is no way to expand at that location. Where do you go next?"

General Manager Rochelle Prunty said the co-op already has hundreds of members in Easthampton.

"We were looking for a spot that would be close enough to our current store to kind of help support our current community. But far enough away to get a little closer to some of our co-op owners and shoppers who are further away," she said.

The co-op looked at a number of possible locations. 

"We have people who come from all over," Prunty said. "Maybe ultimately we'll have a store closer to everybody."

Easthampton already has the independently owned Big E's Supermarket downtown and there is a Big Y in Southampton. Puza's Pure Food Market is also in Southampton.

Neither Stanley, Prunty nor a news release from the co-op said how much the Fedor property will sell for. But Stanely said the co-op hopes to raise $2.5 million in member loans for the project.

Those new loans would be added to an equal number of expiring member loans that are coming due and that the co-op hopes members renew for a grand total goal of about $5 million. The interest rate the co-op would pay on those loans is not set yet, Stanley said.

Prunty said the co-op has not determined all the project costs yet. Startup and construction costs for 330 North King St. totaled $10 million in 2008. The co-op spent another $1.5 million on a renovation in 2014 and 2015.

Stanley said she expects fact finding to planning to last all of this year, with groundbreaking in 2019. She hopes the new store could open that year.

River Valley plans to build new at the site, creating a store that would be about the same size as the current Northampton store. That is 11,000 square feet of sales space with additional prep areas and an office mezzanine. It would have 150 customer parking spaces compared with 92 at the Northampton location. 

The co-op expects the Easthampton store will employ 100 people. The 150 or so Northampton store employees are over 95 percent full-time with benefits and are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459.

Becoming a River Valley Co-op member-owner costs a $150 minimum equity investment. That investment is not an annual fee. Member-owners get discounts, coupons and can share in a patronage rebate if the co-op makes a profit. 

River Valley Co-op plans to work with Wright Builders, Thomas Douglas Architects, Berkshire Design, NCG Development Co-op and the city.

 

Eastworks Holiday Pop-Up Store in it's Sixth Year!

Still need to do some holiday shopping? The Eastworks Holiday Shop in Easthampton will be open through December 31st. I've found lovely and affordable gifts, made by local Northampton area artisans, every time I've made time to visit this pop up store, now in it's 6th year. Conveniently located in the Eastworks Building in downtown Easthampton, it's well worth a visit, so put it on your pre-holiday to-do list!  More information in the Daily Hampshire Gazette article to follow. Happy Holidays one and all!

NORTHAMPTON — Now in its sixth year, the Eastworks Holiday Pop Up Store continues to provide the wares of local artisans to those searching for the perfect gift.

Meanwhile, a very different kind of “pop up store” has made a seemingly permanent home in Absolute Zero, selling penguin-themed merchandise — and nothing else.

Beth McElhiney founded the Eastworks Holiday Pop Up Store the year she moved to Easthampton, and into Eastworks, from Martha’s Vineyard.

“I live in the building,” said McElhiney, who said that it made running the pop up all the more convenient for her.

The store runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, although McElhiney said that she may extend its duration into the new year this time.

The shop only sells items from local craftspeople and sellers, most of which are made in Eastworks itself, although there are also vintage items for sale. All told, 26 artists are represented in the shop this year.

McElhiney said that customers are often surprised that the store is a pop up shop, given the quality of what is offered.

“People are pretty stunned,” she said.

This is not McElhiney’s first store, however. In addition to having once owned a store on Martha’s Vineyard, she operated a shop on Madison Avenue in New York City.

One of the artists represented at the shop is McElhiney herself, who makes and enamels new jewelry and resurfaces vintage metal tabletop pieces. The process that McElhiney uses not only resurfaces antique pieces with modern colors, but makes them suitable for serving food at all temperatures and dishwasher safe.

McElhiney’s only employee at the pop up, Carol Ostberg, is another artisan who sells her wares there, offering hand-painted furniture and ornaments. McElhiney’s boyfriend also helps out with big events.

McElhiney said that she intends to keep bringing back the pop up as long as she can find a space. 

“Maybe eventually,” she said, on the prospect of making the pop up a year-round affair.

Penguins and ice cream

Eric Bennett has been selling penguin-theme merchandise since 1984, thanks to a penguin-loving girlfriend and a fateful visit to Faneuil Hall shopping center.

Now Bennett, who moved his business online in 1999, has set up a small shop in Absolute Zero selling all things penguin.

“It’s one of these things where everybody’s a winner,” said Bennett.

While on a walk in September, Bennett asked Absolute Zero if he could set up the shop after he noticed that the business projects a spinning penguin onto the sidewalk at night.

“They should have penguins,” was Bennett’s opinion upon seeing the logo.

However, he noted that it took a few weeks to convince Absolute Zero of this.

“We’re an ice cream store, not a penguin store,” is what Bennett said he was initially told.

In the end, an agreement was made in which Bennett would stock shelves in the store with a variety of penguin items, including socks, plush penguins and toys. They can be purchased at the counter at Absolute Zero, which then receives a cut.

“At the end of the month, we settle up,” he said.

Bennett has two of each of 30 to 40 penguin items at the store.

“It’s like Noah’s Ark,” said Bennett.

On his website, however, Bennett offers around 500 different types of penguin-theme products. Indeed, running Penguin Gift Shop is his full-time business.

Bennett first got into the penguin business after visiting Faneuil Hall with a penguin-loving girlfriend, and getting the thought that the cutest store idea would be one dedicated to penguins. However, he decided that he wouldn’t be willing to move from New York City to Boston to do so.

Then the South Street Seaport opened in Manhattan and Bennett, fresh out of college, decided to open a penguin store there in 1985. In 1997 he set up a website to sell his products, becoming an early commercial user of the internet, and in 1999 he moved out of his space in the seaport, bringing his business entirely online.

He and his family moved to Northampton in 2009, and he said that he enjoys living in the city.

Bennett said that he likes having the shop in Absolute Zero.

“I haven’t really had a retail presence since 1999,” he said.

He also said that he wasn’t sure how the shop would shape up when he first started it, but that he has no intention of doing away with it now. Thus, even though he’s characterized it as a pop up shop, this all-penguin establishment appears to have popped itself into permanency.

Potential Pitfalls of Buying a Short Sale

Over the years, I've had a handful of homebuyers ask me about the process of purchasing a short-sale or bank-owned property. In theory, it sounds great! A Northampton area house being sold below market value - what could be better? But, the reality of of purchasing such a property can be rife with potential pitfalls.

I assisted a young couple in the process a couple of years ago. They were interested in a lovely 4 bedroom, 2 bath home with a wrap around porch, garage and private yard in Easthampton, MA - a short sale. The home was empty, we couldn't confirm that the boiler worked, and mold was growing in the basement. Ultimately, my buyers had to back out of the purchase because they needed to sign another year's lease for the apartment they were renting or risk being homeless while the unpredictable closing time frame for the purchase of the short sale unfolded before them. 

I came across this article below from Apartment Therapy  which outlines possible issues that can arise during a short sale purchase.

Thinking About Buying a Short Sale? Read This First

by Tara Mastroeni 9/15/2017

Many buyers, especially first-timers, are enthralled by the prospect of buying a short sale — and it's not hard to see why. Bottom basement sale prices make these transactions seem like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, most of the time, these too-good-to-be-true deals also come with a huge catch.

Before you commit to buying a short sale, read this first. We've outlined a few red flags that you should be aware of prior to taking the plunge. Take the time to consider each of these possibilities and decide if you're prepared to take them on, If so, you can move forward having made an informed decision. If not, then you know that focusing on traditional sales will probably be a better fit for you — one less thing to worry about!

It Could Take a Long Time to Settle

The term "short sale" is misleading. Rather than describing a transaction that can be settled quickly, it actually refers to the fact that a bank has agreed to let the sellers come up "short" on their loan in order to avoid foreclosure. In exchange for this opportunity, the sellers have agreed to give the bank the final say when it comes to accepting an offer. Before the sale can move forward, the offer must go through a lengthy approval process, which can take up to 3 to 6 months, on average.

During the approval process, the bank must first review the sellers' financials — their debts and assets — in comparison to the proposed sale price in order to decide how much of a loss they're willing to take. That documentation must be reviewed by several different departments, which often slows things down significantly. Additionally, if there is more than one loan on the property, each bank will need to make sure that the offer satisfies its needs.

You'll Need to Pay Most of the Transaction Costs

In a normal sale, buyers and sellers have a chance to negotiate who will cover the closing costs, aka the one-time fees associated with the sale that are collected at settlement. (The exact charges will vary, but they can include anything from the cost of inspections to property taxes and title insurance.) Both parties will also negotiate who is responsible for taking care of any necessary repairs on the property.

Since the bank is already taking a loss on the value of the loan in a short sale, it's unlikely that they'll be willing to assume any further costs. Most short sale contracts include a clause where the buyer agrees to take on sole financial responsibility for covering these fees, so if you decide to move forward, be sure that you have enough immediate cash on hand to account for these additional expenses.

You Could Be Held Responsible for the Sellers' Debts

When a debt goes unpaid, a lien or judgment is filed with the court system. Some will follow the individual who's responsible for the debt, while others get attached to a particular property. In a typical sale, a title company or attorney will perform a search to identify these debts and work with the seller to resolve them before settlement.

In a short sale, things may go a bit differently. Depending on the seller's financial situation, these debts may become assumed with the transfer of a deed, meaning that anyone who buys the home will automatically become responsible for their repayment.

Bottom line: Be sure to read all of the paperwork that comes with a short sale carefully before submitting an offer so that you'll be informed of the specifics of that transaction. You should always know exactly what you're agreeing to before signing any legally-binding documents.

Two More Local Events for Your Calendar! Northampton and Easthampton.

Tonight, December 9th, from 6:30 until late in the Ballroom at Eastworks in Easthampton - STRUT, "a flamboyant fashion spectacle" and a reboot of Easthampton's annual "Light Up the Arts" Holiday Party, and includes a fashion show, live performances, art installations, a dance party and silent auction. It sounds like it will be a fantastic way to ring in the holiday season! This event is an ECA (Easthampton City Arts) fundraiser.

 

East Works Sign

 

Tomorrow, December 8th from 4-9 pm. The Northampton 2016 Holiday Stroll hosted by the Downtown Northampton Association looks as if it's shaping up to be an exciting event. There will be performances, shopping, artwork to view and make, and food. Main Street will be CLOSED to cars and trucks during the event. So get your parking spot ahead of time and plan to dress warmly and be on foot. All municipal lots will be open and accessible. Check out the hot link above for full details. 


Northampton Holiday Stroll Lights