LEE -- A veteran antiques dealer wants to open a downtown consignment shop, succeeding the one that closed last month after 40 years on Main Street.

Michele LeClair, of Pittsfield, expects her business, Finders Keepers, to occupy the storefront of the former Upstairs Basement in time for the summer tourist season.

"I'm aiming for June 1," she said. "This will be my first bricks-and-mortar business."

After 25 years of buying and selling antiques, primarily online and at antiques shows, LeClair plans to establish a highly visible store at 53 Main St. in the Consolati building. Aside from carrying an inventory of "quality items at a fair price," the local businesswoman has lined up 12 other consignment vendors she expects will rent part of the 3,000 square feet of prime downtown retail space.

LeClair will be able to access the storefront when renovation is completed by the building's owner, Berkshire Housing Development Corp.

"We're working on the sprinkler system and other code-related items," said BHDC Executive Director Elton Ogden. "We'll paint [the space] and make sure it's ready to go."

BHDC is currently renovating the 16 apartments of the upper two floors as part of the agency's $2.7 million affordable housing rehabilitation of the mixed use building. There are two other businesses on the first floor, which will remain commercial retail space.

LeClair says she and her mother, Patricia Hickey, are collectively spending $20,000 to start up Finders Keepers. The personal investment, coupled with the vendors' rent, will allow the store to open debt-free, LeClair said.

Lee's latest shopkeeper-in-waiting has looked to establish a store on Main Street for about a year. Once word got out Upstairs Basement was closing, she immediately began lobbying BHDC for the space.

"I think Lee is the place to be," she said. "There's a lot of foot traffic on Main Street, even in the dead of winter."

LeClair realizes she must appeal to both residents and visitors if her business is to be profitable year-round.

"My first marketing campaign will be local," she said.

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