PITTSFIELD — Two food-related businesses that had rented space in the former Shire City Herbals warehouse on Commercial Street are going in separate directions now that the building has been sold.
Berkshire Organics, a home food delivery service, is closing at the end of this week, while Hosta Hill, which manufactures and sells fermented vegetable products, is moving out of the Berkshires.
The sale of the 22,000-square foot warehouse at a foreclosure auction Wednesday is not related to Berkshire Organics' decision to close, according to Shaun Opperman, who has owned Berkshire Organics with his wife, Amanda, since 2018. He said said the decision is due to personal and professional reasons. The business will close after all of this week's orders have been delivered, according to Berkshire Organics' website. The company is a local food hub that connects consumers with regional farmers through a home delivery grocery service. The Oppermans purchased the business from founders Brian and Aleisha Gibbons, who had operated it out of a storefront on Dalton Division Road.
Hosta Hill, which is moving to a co-packing facility in Hudson, N.Y. that will manufacture and distribute its products, decided to leave the area when the building went up for sale, according to Maddie Elling, who co-owns the business with Abe Hunrichs.
Berkshire Organics may not be closing for good. In an email to The Eagle, Shaun Opperman said that he is working with possible buyers who could keep the business going as he steps away from it.
"I have three prospective buyers I'm working with now who may help us continue to serve this amazing community of customers and farmers as I take a step back," Shaun Opperman wrote in an email.
Hosta Hill is currently in the process of moving.
"We've been consolidating everything and slowly moving out and will put the finishing touches on that in February to complete the process," Elling said.
In a message posted on Berkshire Organics website, Shaun Opperman said a "handful of reasons" have led him to close the business, which he said has "struggled financially in the post-pandemic era from a persistent decline in weekly orders." A handful of reasons contributed to the decision to close, he said, but "the sudden urgency" is due to funding that his business received from a three-year grant being cut.
"Upon being awarded a three-year grant we invested heavily into the business and its infrastructure. Our grant funding was just cut 11 months into the project, which forces us to stop to prevent negative impact on the multitude of farmers with whom we work," Shaun Opperman said.
In a follow-up email to The Eagle, Shaun Opperman expanded on the personal reasons that led him to close Berkshire Organics. He said that he had been thinking about taking a step back from Berkshire Organics for over a year to focus on his family — the Oppermans have three children — and "maybe also my personal health, which took a hit working all hours throughout the pandemic."
"Operating this small business is demanding more than my capacity to give right now," Shaun Opperman said on Berkshire Organics' website. "If I may be completely honest, I’m exhausted, and have sacrificed my personal health to fuel the vitality of Berkshire Organics. For my family, and self, this is the opportunity I need to take a step back."
In a telephone interview, Elling said Hosta Hill had been preparing to move to another location since Shire City Herbals closed in July. Originally based in West Stockbridge, Hosta Hill began operations in 2012, and had moved into the warehouse four years ago.
"It allowed us to grow," Elling said, referring to the move to Pittsfield.
"We got the word back in the summer that Shire City was going to be going out of business and that the building would be going up for sale in the fall," she said. "Fall time is when we do the bulk of our processing. So that's the time of year that we were building up our inventory. It was a challenge in that way not knowing where we might move, and building up that inventory. It was definitely not an ideal situation."
When asked if Hosta Hill might re-consider staying in the Berkshires if the warehouse's new owners would be interested in taking them on, Elling said, "at this point we're making the change. The timing just really wouldn't work for us. It was sort of push comes to shove with the building going up for sale. It had us re-evaluate, and we've been needing to do that for awhile."