Thursday May 10, 2012

WEST STOCKBRIDGE -- The town's Public Market anticipates reopening next month after major repairs and renovations.

A prime outlet for groceries, beverages and other conveniences, the store and the 10 Main Street building housing it suffered extensive damage in a fire April 25 caused by faulty wiring. The blaze was snuffed out quickly by the town's fire department supported by a half dozen companies.

However, repairs are coming along.

"It's a lot of work, it's going great," said building owner Bernard Fallon on Wednesday

He has hired architect John Fulop of West Stockbridge to redesign the interior. Complete rewiring, a new ceiling and new flooring will be installed now that the building has been entirely gutted, Fallon said.

There is no total figure yet from insurers on the dollar amount of damage from the fire. "We're really looking forward to reopening in June," he said, following building inspector approval of the plans and the renovation.

The market is being sold by current owner Randy Burkhart to Timothy Walsh of Richmond, as planned before the fire. The deal is expected to close following the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission's approval of the full liquor license transfer, Walsh said.

"We're kind of in limbo now," said Burkhart as he awaits the start of the renovation project. The store will have to restock all the inventory destroyed by the fire, but he said all his vendors are being "very cooperative." His major supplier is J. Polep, the family-owned distributor based in Chicopee that serves more than 4,000 independent and chain retailers in the Northeast region.

Burkhart said he and Walsh are working together closely with an eye to revamping the store's layout according to the prospective new owner's needs.

"It doesn't sound like it will take a long time to get the work done, once we get the approval," said Burkhart.

Walsh said he plans to focus on local customers, as well as travelers and second-home owners. "We'll use a lot of local produce, meats and other things from this area," he said. "We're really into Berkshire Grown."

He emphasized customer service, "a lost art, and I want to get that back."

Walsh has owned a restaurant in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, worked for the Ritz-Carlton on South Beach in Miami, and was employed by a cruise ship based in Hawaii and a catering firm in Australia.

An Oregon native, he is married to Andrea Harrington, a local attorney and Richmond native.

Fallon's grandfather, Francis, opened the public market in 1930.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_ cfanto