PITTSFIELD – Spring is coming and the bears of the Berkshires are making an appearance, including The Spot‘s Bear Butter.
“We started making our own almond butter when we opened in Pittsfield in 2018,” owner Jonathan Vella said. “I was trying to make protein balls, an almond butter snack, and they would break. I created a poor excuse for almond butter, tweaked it a bit and came up with Bear Butter.”
Although even Bear Butter didn’t hold up in the power balls, Vella said he started giving out samples and started eating it himself with a spoon. “I asked, ‘Why not jar it?” He developed a name and a logo — and Bear Butter was born.
“I gave out samples and built it up,” Vella said. “At first, it took me an hour to do eight to 16 jars. Now, I can do a 100 an hour,” thanks to updated equipment. “Now I have all the pieces we need.”
When asked why an Eagle editor thought Bear Butter tasted like rocky road, Vella said, not wanting to divulge the ingredients, “Well, that’s a new one on me, but Bear Butter’s unique flavor hits people differently.”
He said it was great in ice cream, which is available at The Spot, on apple slices and other fruit, oatmeal and granola, toast, in smoothies — and, of course, on a spoon.
“We’ve been held up by COVID,” Vella said. “You have to taste it. Sampling is a big part of sales. I feel good about business opening up in the next month.” He added he is doing samplings for corporations like Big Y, and occasionally at events and farmers markets.
His future goal is to see distribution spread across the state and to other states.
“I can handle 1,000 jars a week [at the present location] and can maintain 1,000 jars a week. I’ll look for another location if that number rises,” Vella said. “I’d be happy if it got to 1,000, for sure.” He added he plans to be “going out and about” more and is looking for more bulk sales.
Vella said in addition to The Spot, Bear Butter is available at 29 Big Y stores, but in the Berkshires it’s only available at the Great Barrington store. In addition, it can be found at Loeb’s Foodtown and Spirited in Lenox, Dottie’s Coffee Lounge in Pittsfield, Lanesborough Local in Lanesborough and Wild Oats in Williamstown — and online. The price ranges from $12.95 to $14.95 per jar.
Vella grew up in Williamstown and graduated from Mount Greylock Regional High School. After earning a degree in landscape contracting from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, he “did landscaping, traveled around and landed in Pittsfield in 2018,” opening The Spot on Tyler Street.
“I enjoyed smoothies and acai bowls and, coming back, realized the area didn’t have a juice bar,” he said. “I eventually went for it and opened The Spot.”
The Spot specializes in smoothies. “One of our most popular has chocolate, coffee, almond butter, cacao and banana,” Vella said. Another, the buzz bowl, has almond butter, strawberries, banana, cacao and bee pollen. The Spot also features four cold-pressed juices, made fresh every morning.
The Spot is open for eat-in customers and delivery through DoorDash. “Most of our business is grab-and-go,” Vella said.