Finding room to grow: Otto's Breakfast & Deli and Designer Consigner find room to expand next door

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STEPHANIE ZOLLSHAN — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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PITTSFIELD — A local insurance agency's decision to leave its longtime location on East Street this fall has proved to be the perfect answer for two other small businesses who had dreams of expansion.

Otto's Breakfast & Deli and Designer Consigner are poised to expand into spaces formerly occupied by the Bardwell Bowlby & Karam Insurance Agency in the building at 77-95 East St., facing Park Square.

The restaurant, located at 95 East St. on the corner of Wendell Avenue Extension, is expanding into the vacated space at 87 East St., which it abuts. The consignment shop, located at 81 East St., is expanding into 83 East St. Those two vacant spaces flank 85 East St., which contains a stairwell that leads to offices on the second floor.

Bardwell Bowlby & Karam, which also occupied 77 East St., had been located in the East Street office complex under various names since the Bardwell Shipton Agency moved there in July 1967. The space at 77 East St., which Bardwell expanded into in 1998, is still vacant.

Bardwell moved to the Cross Insurance Agency building, formerly the Colt Insurance Agency, at 101 South St. in November.

A Maine-based family owned-insurance agency made of up of wholly-owned subsidiaries in the six New England states that includes three outlets in the Berkshires, Cross purchased both Bardwell and Colt in 2016, merged them, and moved them to Colt's former office.

Otto's and Designer Consigner both took advantage of that move to expand within their existing structure, which was purchased by Berkshire real estate entrepreneur Steve Oakes in 2014. Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Oakes also owns two other buildings in downtown Pittsfield.

Otto's owners Luke and Lindsey Marion and Designer Consigner's Amy Kotski said their businesses plan to have their new expanded spaces open by April. The Marions, who are spending $250,000 to renovate 87 East St., plan to close the restaurant completely by mid-March, then reopen with the expanded space early the next month.

Originally located in Lee, Otto's opened a second location in Pittsfield in 2014. Marion purchased the Pittsfield eatery for $95,000 in August 2015 from Paul and Dawn Face. The Faces, who also own the Salmon Run Restaurant in Lee, closed the Lee Otto's shortly after selling the Pittsfield restaurant to Marion.

Business increased after the Marions took over.

"The place was bursting at the seams," Lindsey said. "We stopped being able to accommodate everyone who wanted to eat here because we have only 9 tables."

"It gets pretty hairy in here, especially during the summertime," Luke said.

When Oakes told the Marions that the insurance agency would be leaving, Luke found a solution to the overcrowding problem.

"Steve came in a year and a half ago ... and he was just talking to me and said, 'Bardwell's leaving, and I'm going to be rent negative for the first time since I owned the building,'" Luke recalled. "And I said, 'Well, what if I knock that wall down and take that space?' And, he was like, 'Yeah, that could work.' It's been such a slow process, but that's how it all started."

With the expansion, Otto's will triple in size from its current 1,000 square feet. The Marions can currently serve 45 patrons, but the expanded space will leave room to serve between 85 and 100.

"It's really difficult to see until we see the build-out," said Luke, referring to the exact increase in numbers.

The expanded space will have a separate entrance from the current restaurant, but the two will be connected by an archway cut into the wall between them. Otto's currently serves just breakfast and lunch, but a dinner menu will be added once the expansion is complete. The restaurant's new hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The new space will also include a bar. A new ceiling, floor and prep kitchen are also being added to the expanded space along with booths.

The Marions currently have a seasonal liquor license, but are in the process of acquiring the seven-day all alcohol restaurant license that was held by the former Casey's Billiards. The Licensing Board has approved the transfer, which is pending approval by the Alcohol Beverage and Control Commission in Boston.

At Designer Consigner, the renovation of the expanded space has yet to begin, but Kotski and Oakes said it will be ready to go by early April. Plans call for the entire wall between her current store and the expanded space to come down. Oakes is paying for the renovations, but said he has yet to determine how much the project will cost.

"I don't have enough room for what I can provide," said Kotski, who opened Designer Consignment in the space formerly occupied by the Photo Shop last April. "On the weekends, it gets pretty packed."

The expanded space will allow Kotski to add more dressing rooms, and take men's clothes on consignment, something that she has wanted to do. The store currently offers just women's clothing.

Oakes, meanwhile, is looking for a tenant for 77 East St.

"It's got visibility, and a good view of the park," he said.

Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.



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