Tuesday August 21, 2012

WEST STOCKBRIDGE -- After being closed almost four months since an April 24 fire, the Public Market in West Stockbridge re-opened on Monday with a new look, fresh local produce and content customers.

"It's a full renovation, with all new electrical work and everything up to code," said Tim Walsh of Richmond, who was in the process of buying the market from Randy Burkhart when the fire took place.

Despite the blaze, Walsh "stayed with the plan" to buy and run the market, which roughly amounts to 1,000 square feet of space.

The building at 8 Main St. is owned by Bernard Fallon. He facilitated repairs to the market and an upstairs apartment unit. The living space is currently vacant.

Melinda Quick and Joe Corcoran enjoy lunch outside the Public Market in West Stockbridge on Monday, the first day of business for the store since it was
Melinda Quick and Joe Corcoran enjoy lunch outside the Public Market in West Stockbridge on Monday, the first day of business for the store since it was damaged by a fire on April 24. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Architect John Fulop of West Stockbridge created a bright space, along with wider aisles for shelves and for people moving about from the coffee nook and fresh produce stands to the wine shelves at either end of the store.

The shop offers groceries, spirits and other household items at the center of town. Walsh said he hopes to soon have a full-service deli up and running, with prepare to-go style lunches and dinners. He's also planning to offer delivery service.

A staff of 10 people are now employed to help the business rebuild and grow.

Walsh, who has moved to the area with his wife Andrea Harrington, have two children, ages 1 and 6. He said he hopes Public Market can portray the atmosphere of "a family place."

"This store is like a meeting hub for the town. Yes, we want to cater to the second-home owners, but we really want to focus on the local businesses and people that take care of us year-round," Walsh said.

Peter Bartlett and Jamey Arienti are local contractors and masons who not only frequent the shop, but also supply Public Market with fresh eggs, fruits and vegetables.

The two men sat down outside on the front bench, which survived the fire, to have lunch Monday afternoon.

"It's different, but it's a good place. We're here all the time," Arienti said.

"It's nice to have it back open," said Bartlett, who grew up in the area. Pleased with the new look, he said despite the fire damage, renovations were needed to update the space, which dated back to the late-1800s.

"We try to support local. The nearest places to get groceries like these is either Great Barrington or Pittsfield. Who wants to drive all the way out there, when you can get it right here," Bartlett said.

The cause of the April fire was determined to be electrical in nature. Insurance covered the cost of the damage.

The store hours for Public Market in West Stockbridge are Monday through Friday, from 5 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.