Tony Dobrowolski | Out of the Pages: The survivors are often overlooked

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PITTSFIELD — There's an unfortunate tendency in the news business to overlook certain details when a big announcement takes place.

Here's an example: Lost in the all hubbub surrounding the Barrington Stage Company's announcement that its headquarters is moving to 122 North St. was almost no information about what's happening to the firm that formerly occupied that space, BBE Office Interiors.

BSC is an economic driver for the city of Pittsfield, and generates a tremendous amount of foot traffic in the downtown North Street corridor. The nonprofit performing arts company has worked hard to receive that recognition. Tuesday's news conference — which included two musical numbers, one by Broadway songstress Annie Golden — was a celebration of that fact.

But BBE has also been a fixture in downtown Pittsfield — the company's roots on North Street date back 66 years. It represents a part of downtown Pittsfield that is often overlooked when topics like market-rate housing and historic tax credits begin to dominate the conversation.

That's not right. It's a shame, really, when you consider that BBE was one of the handful of businesses that had managed to survive on North Street despite the incredible amount of changes that have taken place there over the years. It hasn't been easy.

So, in case you don't know, BBE has also changed locations. After selling 122 North St. to Barrington Stage, owner Robert Proskin has moved BBE to 1595 East St. The firm is no longer located in downtown Pittsfield, but it's all for the better, owner Robert Proskin said.

Like Barrington Stage, Proskin was running an operation that did business in different locations throughout the city.

"It was a win-win for both Barrington Stage and BBE," Proskin said of the move. "I'd been looking for awhile to see it I could consolidate everything under one roof."

In addition to its two theaters, Barrington Stage had several functions of its business — offices, costumes, props, rehearsal spots — spread out all over Pittsfield.

BBE Office Supplies had its showroom in the building it sold to Barrington Stage on North Street, and a warehouse on Dalton Avenue.

Proskin's new location, previously occupied by Protech Armored Systems, gave him enough room to combine both operations at the same spot.

Protech is still in Pittsfield, but only in its facility on Commercial Street. Protech vacated its East Street plant last year when its parent company, Safariland LLC, moved the 40 jobs that were housed in that space to another company facility in Jacksonville, Fla.

BBE, which stands for Berkshire Business Equipment, was founded in 1950 by William Pomerantz. Originally located in a small 500 square-foot storage area on Fenn Street, BBE moved to an 8,000 square foot space at 415 North St. that contained both show rooms and storage areas.

Proskin moved the business to 122 North St., which has 28,000 square feet, when he bought that structure in 1998. In the mid-1990s, he worked a consultant who suggested he change the businesses' name to BBE-Office Interiors. It better reflects the types of products that BBE carries, Proskin said.

Barrington Stage's move to North Street was somewhat surprising, but so was BBE's move to East Street, at least to some of the businesses' regular customers.

After Proskin posted the news on BBE Office Interiors Facebook page the comments have ranged from the supportive "this is big news" and "congratulations" — to the incredulous.

Here's a sample: "I'm shocked"; "What's going on ????"; "What????"

I know change comes hard to Pittsfield, but really? Life goes on. Businesses move. Proskin has taken it all in stride.

"When we moved from 415 North Street we had the same kind of reaction," he said .

He believes his customers will be pleased with the new location when they sees the amount of free parking on East Street.

"The nice part about it is that we have parking right at the door," he said.

Parking is harder to find in downtown Pittsfield than almost anywhere else in the city, and Barrington Stage's decision to move its headquarters to 122 North St. would seem to exacerbate that problem.

But Barrington Stage has found a way to alleviate that possible headache. An amendment to an existing parking lot easement granted to Berkshire Technology Partners LLC will allow BSC to use more than the nine spaces allotted in the permanent easement "from time-to-time," according to documents filed at the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds in Pittsfield.

Berkshire Technology Partners owns the buildings at 116 North St. and 1 Fenn St. that are adjacent to BSC's new headquarters.

Plenty of parking for both BSC and BBE in their new locations. Sounds like a win-win.

Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com.


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