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Secondhand and handmade shop Savvy Hive is expanding on Main Street in North Adams

Sweeney stands outside of 53 Main Street

Jess Sweeney, who has operated the thrift store Savvy Hive out of The Berkshire Emporium, is now expanding and moving into her own space on 53 Main St. in downtown North Adams. 

NORTH ADAMS — During the earlier days of the pandemic, Jess Sweeney went from laid off, to employed in jobs in the service industry, and then laid off again amid pandemic-related turbulence.

“It was like a back and forth,” she said. She felt burned out from working in the service industry and found herself thinking: “What can I do to figure out a job that fulfills me?”

Sweeney always had been interested in secondhand clothing. “I sort of had been building a collection of my own secondhand stuff that I like was never wearing.”

So she leased a small space in the Berkshire Emporium, where she opened secondhand shop Savvy Hive last summer. “I really thought that this was going to be a temporary pop-up, and it did way better than I expected,” she said.

Now, a year later, Sweeney is expanding into her own space at 53 Main St., where she plans to open in May. She plans to sell secondhand clothing, handmade and eco-friendly items, and products made within about 100 mile radius of North Adams, including handmade kids toys and handmade and hand-designed clothing.

“I honestly sense, hopefully, a rising tide in businesses feeling interested in North Adams,” Sweeney said.

While looking for a storefront, Sweeney heard the Plant Connector had plans to expand and move to Main Street. “I was just like, oh, what a beautiful thing for like, local folks to be the ones diving into Main Street and being a part of what hopefully is some first steps of revitalizing Main Street on a small business front,” she said.

When she found a space she could afford on Main Street, she took the opportunity. “If I don’t do this now, will I be able to afford it in the future?” she wondered, worried about possible rising rents as development continues.

At the end of the month, the shop will fully move out of the Berkshire Emporium. Incubating the business there was key, Sweeney said. “Working within the Berkshire Emporium allowed me to see and work out the kinks of the retail end of things without having to take a huge risk on signing a big lease,” she said. “I don’t think I would have been able to see that I could do this if I didn’t have that kind of opportunity.”

“This is part of what I wanted to see happen with my space,” said Keith Bona, owner of the Emporium. “While I’m sad to see Savvy Hive go, I’m thrilled to see why it’s going. It was able to established and get its feet wet there and know it was successful enough to move to the next step.”

In the back of her new storefront is an office space where Sweeney plans to meet with clients for the second arm of Savvy Hive: small business consulting. After she co-founded Common Folk Artist Collective, she started doing consulting for small businesses and creatives.

“I feel committed to working with people who are like independent artists, DIY project people, community organizers, and small businesses — people who are in idea phase and want to bring their idea to reality. And small brick and mortars. Often those businesses don’t have very large budgets, so the store allows me to offer them a sliding scale that works for them.”

She helps write and review business plans and strategize how to make business changes in the pandemic. Sometimes, she acts as a sounding board for someone just developing their business.

“For lack of better terms, I feel like their business therapist,” she said. “Some people just need emotional support through developing their business, because it’s hard — especially in the first few years.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6272.

Reporter

Greta Jochem, a Report for America Corps member, joined the Eagle in 2021. Previously, she was a reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She is also a member of the investigations team.

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