Starting over: Becket General Store to re-open in new location
"Good luck, you know," said store owner Heather Anello.
Pennies or no pennies, luck is something that Anello didn't have much of last year. After running the Becket General Store in the center of town for five years. Anello left that location last May following a dispute with the property's owner and the parties that she had leased the property from, an issue that resulted in legal action that remains in litigation.
A chef who operates her own catering business, Anello could have folded the business and gone on to something else. Instead, she decided to move her store about a tenth of a mile down Route 8 to a former home built in the 19th century that once served as a boarding house for employees of the Berkshire & Becket Silk Mill that closed following a devastating flood in 1927.
The new Becket General Store — Anello took the name with her — officially opens at 6 a.m. Friday at the new location: 3235 Main St.
"I love what I do," Anello said on Tuesday, sitting at the counter lined with pennies as the finishing touches at her new location were being performed. "I'm a chef by trade, but owning a store in the town that I grew up in it gives me an opportunity to give back to the community a little bit.
"I also cater full time on the side, so it's nice to stay in touch with something more like the store," she said. "This community really means a lot to me, my family and my friends. We're very involved. The store is where people in rural areas get all of their information."
Following the events of last spring, Anello said she was "extremely determined" to find a new location for her business. It didn't take her long.
"I literally walked the neighborhood knocking on doors," she said. "And I had previous knowledge of this place having grown up in Becket.
"Many times it came up that maybe I shouldn't be doing this," she said. "But I wasn't going to allow that to be the answer."
Through running a store that doubled as a community meeting place, Anello also knew that the owner of 3235 Main St., Larry J. Daigle, had once expressed an interest in selling the 60,984-square-foot, multilevel structure built in 1875. In September, Anello purchased the building from Daigle for $160,000, eliminating the need to deal with both a landlord and subleasing situations in her new location.
The structure was being used as a single-family home, but it already had a commercial septic system, and room for parking. Two apartments are located above the main floor. The town of Becket does not have commercial zoning, Anello said, so she was able to get started on getting her business set up in its new location right away.
"It really is a much better financial design for this kind of business," she said, referring to the property's layout.
There has been a general store in Becket at Anello's previous location since at least 1917. It's been a typical small town meeting place. A space where town residents can eat, buy groceries, and debate the issues of the day.
"It was a little like a dry bar," Anello said, referring to her old business. "It was where a lot of our elderly people and our veterans hang out. I was almost happy to be closed when the Trump-Hillary thing was happening because it gets really hot in here, really deep."
Anello's hoping to create that same ambience in her new location. The new Becket General Store has a kitchen, a deli, a bakery and a counter with 24 seats. Like the old store, it will also sell homemade products, like locally grown pickles and honey.
"We're doing a hive-to-hive share program," she said.
She has obtained a full package store license to sell beer and wine. Signs filled with colorful slogans that decked the walls at her former store are also at the new site.
Anello and her husband, Michael Spencer, who co-owns the business, have spent well over $100,000 fixing up the new location. Without her husband's support, the project "wouldn't have been possible," Anello said.
"This is most definitely the hardest thing we've ever done," she said. "We did everything ourselves."
Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at (413) 496-6224.
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