Employees raising money to save Avery’s General Store in Charlemont

  • Elizabeth Van Iderstine checks out items purchased by Julie Shippee, of Rowe, at Avery’s General Store in Charlemont on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Avery’s General Store at 127 Main St. in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Well-stocked shelves at Avery’s General Store in Charlemont. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2020 3:27:06 PM

CHARLEMONT — More than $35,000 has been raised so far to keep the legacy of Avery’s General Store alive.

Employees of Avery’s, including Kenneth Hall, hope to raise $150,000 through GoFundMe.com, an online fundraising site, to take over daily operations and management of the 127 Main St. store, which has been part of the Charlemont community for more than 150 years.

“(The store) is so vital to the community because of the number of people in town who don’t drive or have a hard time getting out of town,” said Hall, who has been an Avery’s employee for 34 years.

People can shop in Greenfield, he added, but that’s almost a 25-mile drive.

Jim and Barbara Sinclair bought the store from the Avery family in 2016, seeing it as an opportunity to continue the Avery’s tradition in town. In 2019, ready for retirement, they sold the business name and the building to real estate investor David Kong. The Sinclairs rent the property and continue to run the store.

About two months ago, Hall and four other Avery’s employees formed a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to prepare themselves for being able to lease the store space from Kong. The idea was to keep Avery’s up and running as an employee-owned business.

But when negotiations between Kong and the Sinclairs reached an impasse earlier this month, the Sinclairs decided to sell the store’s inventory, according to the GoFundMe page.

This means that for the LLC to be successful in continuing the store’s legacy in town, it would have to buy the inventory from the Sinclairs, in addition to buying the business name from the building owner, Kong.

“It requires the LLC to come to an agreement with me as it relates to inventory, and with Mr. Kong in terms of the lease agreement,” Jim Sinclair explained.

So Hall, a Charlemont resident, started a GoFundMe campaign last Thursday night as a “last ditch effort” to save the store. The campaign, he said, seemed to be “the best way” to save it.

As of 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the page, at bit.ly/2WGoQd8, had generated 186 donations for a total of $35,229.

The financial goal would also help to fund startup costs, including payroll, after the LLC takes over the daily management of the store.

“It’s our hope to keep the store here, to keep it convenient for everybody,” he said.

Sinclair said he thinks the LLC’s efforts are a great opportunity for employees to take full ownership of the store and continue the Avery’s legacy.

“That’s always been our goal,” he said. “When we purchased the property it was our goal to continue that legacy.”

The store, which first opened its doors to the community in 1861, has become an institution in Charlemont. In its early years, the store sold mostly dry goods, cloth and non-perishables. It also sold oxen yokes and farming tools, and eventually opened a meat counter. Now, it sells almost everything.

The LLC can only use the money raised if the financial goal on the page is reached. In the case that the target isn’t met, the money will be returned to the individuals who donated it.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

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