Monday October 15, 2012

LEE -- In just 10 days, Viv aldi's Pizzeria off Park Street has quickly developed a following in Lee and the surrounding communities.

Owner Ibraham Turan says he isn't surprised it's been almost non-stop customers since his second restaurant debuted on Columbus Day weekend. Turan cites the popularity of the Vivaldi's he and his two brothers opened four years ago in the Coltsville section of Pittsfield as the reason for expanding into South County.

"I had a lot of customers from Stockbridge and Lee who wanted to know when I was going to open up here," he said

Turan admits, being the new eatery in town, people have stopped in out of curiosity to check out the menu and see what what was formerly Jill's Country Kitchen Restaurant looks like.

Nevertheless, the Turkish immigrant has noticed plenty of repeat customers.

"I see one customer two and three times a day," he said.

A second Vivaldi's is one of five new, relocated or expansion businesses to open in recent months along the heart of the town's Route 20 corridor. Since early summer, a craft beer store, a lawn equipment sales and service shop, a consignment boutique and a southern California-style cafe have also opened from near Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike to the north end of Main Street.

While the small commercial ventures vary, the owners agree locating along Lee's beaten path was a key reason for wanting to do business in the town's center.

Josh Cohen said he opened Trader Moe's, the craft beer store, on Main Street on July 4 in an effort to further capture the tourists, as well as locals, who stop at his bar, Moe's Tavern, on nearby Railroad Street.

"That Mass Pike is gold to me," he said. "[Tourists] come to my bar and now to the store on there way through."

Cohen also wanted to capitalize on Lee's revitalized downtown.

"Trader Moe's is another reason for people to stop in town and walk around," he said. "As the street traffic goes, so goes the store."

In need of more space, Deidre Scapin relocated her Re-Wear Consignment Bou tique in Sheffield, to 190 Housatonic St., next to Dunkin' Donuts. Scapin said business has increased since re-opening in early Sep tember, in part, to being located on the main drag.

"I tripled sales from Sep tember a year ago," Scapin said. "Yes, I have more inventory, but I have also generated a lot of new customers and still have my regulars."

For Chuck Hebler, opening Baja Charlie's on West Center Street, not far from the iconic Joe's Diner, was a no-brainer. The Lee resident had a restaurant in Lenox for 12 years and briefly owned an eatery in the Springfield area before returning to do business in the Berkshires.

Hebler decided opening a cafe that serves authentic southern California and Mex ican dishes would be a good fit for Lee's expanding dining experience.

"We get a lot of people who stop on their way to do some shopping," Hebler said. "In the two weeks I have been open we've had a lot of repeat business -- one customer has been in six times."

As for All Seasons Power Equipment, it opened two months ago to fill a void when the family-run Lee Power Equipment closed in July after more than 30 years on Main Street. All Seasons Owner Hugh Page and his small staff sell and service lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other landscape equipment.

Located on Route 20 next to the East Lee Package Store, All Seasons has gradually picked up where Lee Power left off, according to Page.

"We don't have everything people want yet, but I'm learning what they need," he said. "But we are getting faster and faster on our turnaround with repairs."

Meanwhile, Terri DiGrigoli looks forward to joining the Route 20 commercial corridor by Thanksgiving. The owner of Meow & Growl pet supply store on West Park Street is preparing to move into the former Lee Power Equipment storefront in the heart of the downtown business district.

DiGrigoli says her store has done well in its first 14 months, but expects business to boom on Main Street.

"It will be a lot different with more foot traffic and municipal parking [nearby]," she noted. "I'll also have more stock as I'll have more room, 1,800 square feet compared to 1,200 square feet."

The five new businesses and one on the move in Lee doesn't surprise Hebler, a community the native of Los Angeles says is easy to embrace.

"The scenic part is very calming he said. "It's just a cool town."

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.