Click photo to enlarge
Owner Scott Cole prepares a batch of pecan pies for today’s reopening of the Monterey General Store, which has been closed since April 2011.
Wednesday September 19, 2012

MONTEREY

The simple pleasure of walking downtown to pick up a paper, a coffee and a sandwich has eluded the people of Monterey for the better part of two years.

Today, residents rejoice as the 225-year-old Monterey General Store once again opens it doors, promising everything from simple sundries to gourmet baked goods -- seven days a week and just around the corner.

"We're going to be waiting on the steps of the store for the moment it opens," Franny Hoberman, who works next door in the town library, said Tuesday.

Indeed, word that the market -- long delayed by permitting issues -- would finally open spread fast, and on the shop's Facebook page anticipation had been building to a breaking point.

"Our long national nightmare will soon be over!" wrote one fan.

"Yahoo," "hooray," and a string of other exclamations typed out in all capital letters followed an official announcement.

While residents fantasized about not having to drive 15 minutes into Great Barrington to pick up a forgotten stick of butter, the shop's new proprietor, Scott Cole, spent Tuesday darting around his
remodeled store receiving final shipments, fielding phone calls, and, in between, making
pecan tarts.

His vision for the space is twofold: A place for year-round residents to congregate and pick up staples like milk, eggs, bread and meat. At the same time, he hopes to cater to the town's many summer residents by offering high-end, gourmet food products like imported cheese.

"The product lines are really going to run the gamut," Cole said.

"People very much relied on this place as a resource and destination, but the second-home owners were underserved by it." Cole bought the downtown property in February for $275,000. The store closed in April 2011 after sales slowed and the former owner could no longer afford to make his mortgage payments.

One of several county general stores to fall on hard times during the recession, the Monterey General Store had been known as one of the longest, continuously running in the country.

Cole said that, though general stores have become increasingly rare, he believes he can make the enterprise work by offering the right mix of products alongside a gourmet cafe.

He comes into the project with experience. For years, Cole ran the successful Caffe Pomo d'Oro in West Stockbridge, a restaurant he closed when he decided to buy the Monterey store.

Cole has made extensive renovations to the space, installing a modern kitchen. He'd initially planned to open by June, but ran into permitting problems as he worked to bring the historic structure up to code.

"I'm very relieved to have that behind me," he said. "It was not a pleasant process and it was not a quick process, obviously."

Monterey residents, who described the Main Road store's closure as leaving a major void in the heart of the town, said they expect the finished product to be worth the wait.

"I think everybody is thrilled -- it adds to the sense of community, having a busy store downtown," said Mon terey resident Cara Carroll.

"And having to drive into Great Barrington because you ran out of something -- it's a real drag."

To reach Ned Oliver:
noliver@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter:BE_@NedOliver