Out of the Pages | Tony Dobrowolski: Items to ponder as the cold comes in

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PITTSFIELD — Now that the holidays are over, the real winter weather is beginning to set in. The cold snap at the end of last week reminded me again of living in Canada where winter is often a time to be endured rather than savored.

Here are some notes and anecdotes on happenings in the Berkshire business community to read and ponder while you try and stay warm.

- In case you missed the announcement on The Eagle's business page Thursday, the new Chili's Bar & Grill in Pittsfield is scheduled to officially open Jan. 21. I've never been to Chili's so I'm not qualified to comment on the cuisine. But it's nice to see another restaurant at the Berkshire Crossing shopping center in the space that used to be occupied by Country Buffet, which left Pittsfield abruptly three years ago.

National chains don't often establish deep roots in the community, but Chili's is off to a good start having already joined 1Berkshire, which includes the former Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. We can't predict what will happen in the future — our crystal ball is currently covered with snow. But joining the county's leading economic development organization before even opening is a good sign that Chili's is here for the long haul.

- The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams quietly moved its Pittsfield campus from the Conte Federal Building to 1Berkshire's administrative building on Allen Street last fall, and the college plans to officially dedicate the new site Feb. 12 with a grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony. 1Berkshire's headquarters, formerly Pittsfield's historic fire house building, now includes numerous agencies and institutions including the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board, the Berkshire Film & Media Commission, and the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in addition to 1Berkshire and MCLA. The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority also frequently holds meetings there.

Berkshire Bank donated the 124-year-old historic firehouse building to 1Berkshire in 2012. 1Berkshire was formed through the merger of four county economic development agencies, the idea being to provide a single-point of entry for those interested in doing business here. Donating the former firehouse building, which became expendable after Berkshire Bank merged with Legacy Banks, was done to further streamline that process by putting all these agencies under the same roof. Judging by the number of organizations that have moved to the firehouse since then, I would say that idea has certainly paid off.

- There's no greater honor than recognition by your peers, and John Toole, the owner of L.V. Toole Insurance Agency in Lee, has received it. He was recently awarded the 2018 Henry F. Barry Jr. Pacesetter Award by the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (see business brief on D1). The award is presented annually to the MAIA member, who through their personal and professional life,. sets an example to be followed by their fellow independent agents across the state. He was nominated for the award by the MAIA's chairman, and vetted by the organization's executive committee.

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"John has been a leader in the Massachusetts independent agent community for more than 30 years," said Nick Fyntrilakis, the president and CEO of MAIA, the leading trade association for more then 1,200 state independent insurance agencies.

The Toole Agency, founded by John Toole's father, Lawrence V. Toole in 1939, is one of the oldest independent insurance agencies in Western Massachusetts. Joseph Toole, Lawrence's son, purchased the business in 1978 and helped it grow through acquisition and expansion. John joined the business in 1980 and purchased it 10 years later.

"I am honored to receive this recognition from my fellow Massachusetts agents," John Toole said. "This award represents not only the work that I have done. I recognize that without the efforts of the dedicated staff of Toole Insurance this recognition would not be possible."

- The former general manager of a long-time Berkshire County furniture business has begun a new business venture.

Donna Riley, who worked for the former Simmons Furniture of Adams, and Timothy Hamilton have established GluFREEgan, a new line of gluten-free baked goods, in Williamstown. Long-time proprietors of The House on Main Street Bed & Breakfast, the couple came up with the idea when responding to their houseguests' dietary requirements. Their products include ready-to-eat biscotti and cinnamon raisin bread, and simple-to-prepare mixes for pancakes, breads, spiced oatmeal with fruit and nuts and four types of biscotti. Their wares are available locally at Wild Oats Market in Williamstown.

Operating as Delicien Inc., the couple's company also provides custom event catering services.  Learn more at https://glufreegan.com/.

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


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