The Market: A Grocery Store Takes Pittsfield Back to the Future
Jim Benson, the owner of The Market, finds it depressing when people have to do their grocery shopping at Rite Aid. Until last week, if you lived or worked in downtown Pittsfield and wanted to buy a half-gallon of milk, paper towels, and a box of cereal, Rite Aid was the default option. But with the opening of The Market, an old-fashioned corner grocery with a 21st century sensibility (the cash registers are iMacs), there is now a cheerful, locally-owned place to not only buy milk and cereal but also everything from organic produce and fresh flowers to Ioka Valley Farm maple sugar and artisanal marshmallows.
Benson, who also owns Mission Bar + Tapas across the street, deputized Jazu Stine, his former executive chef, to build and manage a corner store that could be a cornerstone of the community, catering to both longtime residents as well as urban homesteaders like themselves who’ve settled in Pittsfield. “I have chosen to live in Pittsfield because I want to live in a city in the Berkshires, not a country village,” explains Benson, who grew up in the midwest. “Mission is a city kind of bar—we serve food until midnight. The market is a city grocer, and we’ll deliver. The idea is not to be upscale necessarily but to be nice.” The Market’s $3 hot dog is upscale and very nice. It’s made with grass-fed beef from Fox Hill Farm in Ancramdale, NY, and it’s served with Woodstock Farm brown mustard, Real Pickles sauerkraut on a locally-made Clover Town Baker brioche bun. You can get a side of excellent cole slaw or potato salad for $1, which makes for a satisfying, healthy lunch.
The Market is the archetypal bourgeois bodega. It carries a well-curated assortment of modern necessities: Seventh Generation paper towel, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, The New York Times, frozen organic edamame, Bob’s Red Mill grains, Peace Cereals, and Annie’s mac-and-cheese. There’s a wide selection of olive oils, vinegars, potato chips, and Koyo instant-broth organic ramen noodles ($1.29) for budget-conscious college students. (Photograph left by Jay Elling.)
While Benson and Stine care deeply about the quality of the products they sell, their larger goal is to improve quality of life in their adopted city. “That’s why we’re staying open until 8 p.m.,” says Stine. “If we closed at 5 p.m. that wouldn’t change downtown life.” Stine, who grew up in Westchester Couny and first came to the Berkshires to work for the Ferrin Gallery, built most of the store himself, spending weeks stripping paint to reveal the original checkerboard transom windows. He made shelves and counters from an old maple that once stood in front of Canyon Ranch, and he used brown kraft paper to make a decoupage floor. One of the best discoveries Stine made when he first started working on the store was that it had a gorgeous view across the street to St. Joseph’s Church and its expansive front lawn. He built a narrow counter by the windows where patrons can sit on stools and drink a coffee or eat lunch, and enjoy the view. “It will be really beautiful whet it leafs out in spring,” he says.
The Market’s graphics were designed Minc House, which is another one of the businesses being incubated by Benson from a communal office in George Whaling’s Greystone Building. The office—a graciously proportioned two-bedroom apartment with a fireplace—is where Benson often puts up bands that play at Mission and it is headquarters for the Word X Word Festival that he started last year. “What it all boils down to is there are now a bunch of creative people doing really cool stuff in Pittsfield,” he says, “and now they have someplace to shop for food.”
391 North Street, Pittsfield, MA; 413.395.9766
Monday - Saturday 8 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.