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Start it up: Plenty of new businesses were up and running in 2012

  • <br/>Brian Meunier, the head baker at Tart Baking Company on Main street Northampton takes meat pies out of the oven Monday morning. <br/><br/><br/><br/>


    Brian Meunier, the head baker at Tart Baking Company on Main street Northampton takes meat pies out of the oven Monday morning.



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  • Brian Meunier, the head baker at Tart Baking Co. in Northampton, makes  pain de campagne, or French country bread. Tart Baking opened this fall in the Main Street space formerly occupied by Bakery Normand, whose owners decided to retire and close the business.

    Brian Meunier, the head baker at Tart Baking Co. in Northampton, makes pain de campagne, or French country bread. Tart Baking opened this fall in the Main Street space formerly occupied by Bakery Normand, whose owners decided to retire and close the business. Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/>Brian Meunier, the head baker at Tart Baking Company on Main street Northampton takes meat pies out of the oven Monday morning. <br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • Brian Meunier, the head baker at Tart Baking Co. in Northampton, makes  pain de campagne, or French country bread. Tart Baking opened this fall in the Main Street space formerly occupied by Bakery Normand, whose owners decided to retire and close the business.

The economy may still be skittish, but a look at the Gazette’s local business coverage in 2012 shows a healthy dose of optimism, too. Entrepreneurship in Hampshire County is alive and well, as a sampling of our business stories demonstrates:

After four years in Northampton’s Thornes Marketplace, jeweler Rebekah Brooks announced she was opening a second shop, in Cambridge.

World Eye Books of Greenfield launched a satellite store in Florence.

Connecticut Valley Biological Supply in Southampton opened a retail outlet, a spin-off of its mail-order business — founded in the 1940s — supplying everything from skeletons to microscope slides to schools and colleges.

Pinch, a Northampton craft and gift shop, celebrated its 25th anniversary. Northampton Rental marked 30 years.

And the coffee and tea purveyor that started out on Green Street in 1974 as the Coffee Gallery, then became Cooks Shop Here on King Street, has moved to Gleason Plaza and been renamed the Tea Trekker by owners Bob and Mary Lou Heiss.

Other landmark businesses changed hands but kept things local. In Northampton, Don Muller Gallery, Essentials and The Mercantile were all sold to longtime employees.

When Bakery Normand’s owners decided it was time to end their run, another independent bakery, Tart Baking Co., was soon turning out pastries in the very same Main Street space. The void left when Country Comfort closed following the death of owner Eva Trager was eased when longtime men’s clothier J. Rich moved into its Main Street location.

Easthampton saw an influx of new enterprises. Among those mentioned on the Gazette’s business pages were two fitness clubs, a hair salon, several furniture and antiques stores, a wine bar, a gift shop, an Indian restaurant and a pet supply store known as Hairy’s.

We reported on a growing trend: Pioneer Valley wineries, like Black Birch Vineyard in Southampton, which specializes in hand-crafted small-batch wines, presented in elegantly designed bottles. The business of beer making also continues to grow, we noted: “Craft beers are a recession-proof product,” one local brewer told the Gazette.

Niche start-ups abounded, from a dog wash in Amherst to a green cab company in Northampton to Beehive, also in Northampton, where people can rent sewing machines by the hour.

Cupcake trucks began making the rounds of local farmers markets in 2012. A gourmet doughnut shop opened in Amherst in October. The owners of Popcorn Noir, a tiny movie theater housed in an Easthampton storefront, started a cafe next door. An indoor go-kart track was built in Hatfield.

The fastest-growing service category, though, may be tattoo parlors. This summer the Gazette reported that there are now seven in Hampshire County — “a glut of shops,” according to one person quoted in our story.

There will most certainly be some attrition among the start-ups mentioned in the Gazette’s business pages in 2012. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only half of new businesses make it past the five-year mark. But the fact that people are willing to keep trying — and the fact that some of the area’s independent retailers celebrated 20-, 30-, even 40-year anniversaries this past year — shows that a time-worn cliche still holds true. For now, America — or at least the Pioneer Valley – remains a land of opportunity.

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