Historic Cheshire building still in the running for a Dollar General site
CHESHIRE -- Dollar General remains interested in a parcel on Route 8, the site of a once-grand house that served as a tavern and store on the Albany to Boston stage coach route, as a store location.
A representative of Primax Construction Inc. -- a development company that acquires property and builds stores for Dollar General -- recently met with Cheshire's Select Board on its plan. The Eagle reported in September that Dollar General was eyeing the site.
At the corner of West Mountain Road and South Street (Route 8), the second-empire structure built in 1795 as a private residence was also a post office, the Beechwood Rest Home, and most recently apartments. Today, the vacant building's exterior shows signs of acute deterioration including a collapsing porch roof. Trespass warnings are posted throughout.
Crystal Ghassemi, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee-based Dollar General, said the Cheshire site is in the "due diligence" phase. The company is researching traffic patterns, demographics, customer convenience and the competitive landscape to see if a store will work in that location.
"We are interested in putting a store there, but we are not committed to doing so yet," she said. "Part of our due diligence is to make sure that it is a good fit with the charm and character of the community we serve, and that the community will be good for the store."
"We are extremely responsive to community concerns," Ghassemi said.
Dollar General, the "nation's largest small-box discount retailer" with more than 10,000 stores nationwide, has locations in Williamstown, Adams, and Lanesborough, with one under construction in Pittsfield. A store planned in Sheffield is currently held up in Land Court.
The Cheshire parcel is zoned for such development.
"Because that land is zoned for commercial, there is not much we can do about it," said Select Board member Carol A. Francesconi. "But we made some very strong suggestions" about using shrubbery to shield the view of the site from the roads.
Francesconi said Primax had wanted to put the main entrance on West Mountain Road, but the town denied the request because the road is too narrow to accommodate tractor-trailer traffic. The developer will be required to seek permission from the state to allow for an entrance on South Street.
Town officials had been fielding numerous phone calls from residents who oppose tearing down the structure to build a Dollar General, according to Francesconi.
"My phone rings continuously with people who don't think we should allow it, but we have to follow the law," Francesconi said. "The sad thing about all this is that there is nothing in our zoning to regulate what they build there."
Jill Balawender Reynolds, owner of Cheshire Glassworks, said she doesn't anticipate an increase in business were Dollar General to build next door.
"People that are shopping at the Dollar General aren't going to come to a little gallery and shop," she said.
According to information provided by local historian Barry Emery, Moses "Little Moses" Wolcott built the structure.
Although a man small of stature, Moses was a veteran of several battles in the Revolutionary War, including the Battle of Bennington. He died in 1837.
Francesconi spent some of her childhood in the house when her aunt, Ruth Kelson, owned it and rented units there. Kelson later transformed the building into the Beechwood Rest Home, where Francesconi would help on occasion.
"It was always full, and it was beautiful, with hardwood floors throughout," she said. "In the central room, we would gather with the residents at night and watch TV. They kept a garden out back, and there was a barn with horses."
Her aunt sold it in the 1960s, and eventually the property came into Peter Krutiak's ownership. He lived in the house, and rented out rooms, until he left the property in 2007.
Krutiak declined to comment on the building or the sale to Dollar General.
Last fall, he told The North Adams Transcript that the property had been "on and off the market for six years."
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