Air conditioning failures cause further closures at Ashfield convenience store

  • With code compliance issues persisting at Neighbors Convenience Store at 244 Main St. in Ashfield, Health Agent Claudia Sarti is recommending the business get a new air conditioning unit that could help it prevent further closures. STAFF FILE PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer
Published: 9/21/2023 3:37:58 PM
Modified: 9/21/2023 3:37:18 PM

ASHFIELD — With code compliance issues persisting at Neighbors Convenience Store, Health Agent Claudia Sarti is recommending the business get a new air conditioning unit that could help it prevent further closures.

After Neighbors Convenience Store was shut down by the Board of Health for multiple weeks in July following the discovery of 42 code violations, including an illegal apartment, it was closed again during the weekend of Sept. 9 due to air conditioner malfunctions that led to the coolers not being held at proper temperatures.

“I’m of the opinion that the air conditioning units up in the attic space should be replaced with new units or we’re going to be responding to the same problem again and again,” Sarti wrote in an email to the Board of Health. “Which is very taxing for the town to have to continue to address, and is a source of significant frustration for the residents.”

During this Sept. 9 closure, the food in the freezers fully defrosted and then refroze, which Sarti wrote, “goes against all food safety rules. The store was instructed to clear all the items out of the freezer and other affected coolers. A second closure was required after Police Chief Beth Bezio tipped off a member of the Board of Health while visiting Town Hall.

Following the most recent closures, Board of Health Chair Evelyn Resh wrote a letter to the Selectboard, stating the situation at Neighbors is “particularly concerning as food safety is being compromised ... and could lead to serious illness.”

“Additionally, when I went by the store early yesterday morning, both doors were open with no screens, allowing for birds and flying insects to get into the store and then drop excrement on products,” Resh’s letter continues. “Suffice to say that these are serious violations of health codes that cannot be ignored and must be fixed appropriately for safe food sales.”

Still, Board of Health members commended Neighbors owner Sawkat Wally during their meeting this week, saying he made major upgrades to get the 244 Main St. building up to code after the first shutdown in mid-July over 10 sanitary code violations, 14 food code violations and 18 fire code violations. Sarti said Wally plans to follow her recommendation to replace the air conditioning unit, which is currently being fixed with duct tape when it malfunctions.

“From what I’ve been told by other town officials,” Town Administrator Paul McLatchy III wrote in a statement, “the store owner is trying very hard to work with town officials and be in compliance with health/safety codes.”

With the seasons changing and the weather getting cooler, Sarti said the store will likely not run into issues with the air conditioning unit again until next summer. Extreme heat causes air conditioners to overwork and break.

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or


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