Atkins satellite store in North Amherst to close

  • An aerial view of the Atkins Farms Country Market in North Amherst’s Mill District. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/9/2019 7:41:17 PM

AMHERST — A satellite store for Atkins Farms Country Market that opened in the Mill District in North Amherst in August 2015 will close by the time its five-year lease expires next summer.

“Our feeling right now is we should put all our focus and energy on the original location,” Atkins owner and treasurer Kelly Lannon said in a phone interview Monday from the flagship store at 1150 West St. “It was a great opportunity, and we certainly enjoyed the time we had up there.”

Lannon said the 18 full- and part-time employees have been alerted to the decision and will be first in line to fill openings at the main store.

The decision to not renew the deal for using the 113 Cowls Road site — a renovated 4,200-square-foot barn known as the Cow Palace — comes even as significant ongoing residential and commercial development is occurring near the store, including the $47.5 million mixed-use North Square at the Mill District project. Across the street at 68 Cowls Road is the Trolley Barn, which features Jake’s at the Mill restaurant and The Lift hair salon.

Lannon said even though the Mill District will have more businesses and residents in the coming months, that didn’t factor into her company’s decision to depart the site.

“It will be a beautiful community with good opportunities there,” Lannon said, adding that the satellite store has been a “fantastic location” to supplement the original site in South Amherst opened by Howard Atkins in 1962.

W.D. Cowls President Cinda Jones said having Atkins commit to leasing the restored barn, renovated by Integrity Development and Construction, served to invigorate the section of North Amherst between Montague and Sunderland roads that was once home to the company’s sawmill and lumber operations.

“We’re so grateful that Atkins has been our partner over the past five years,” Jones said.

Jones said she understands that even though there will be many new potential customers living within walking distance of the store, Atkins owners had to make a decision that was best for their company.

“Despite how the timing may look to others, a business can only be expected to run in its current state based on its own needs, its own bottom line,” Jones said.

She added that, eventually, the vacant building could be ideal for another grocer, possibly with a beer and wine license, and that Atkins learned that prepared meals, salads and fresh local food are in high demand for many commuters.

“We have no doubt we will satisfy local demand for fresh local retail food options before August 2020 when Atkins’ lease is up,” Jones said.

Next steps

Lannon said Atkins plans to stay open and continue business as usual on Cowls Road through the end of its lease, though they might be willing to leave early if Jones finds a new tenant.

The store has been able to sell everything the flagship has with the exception of beer, wine and fresh seafood, Lannon said. Three times a day, Atkins vans bring new products from the flagship to stock the shelves at the satellite store, which also ensures that customers can order specialty cakes or cuts of beef.

The satellite store has always featured the well-known favorites, from the line of ready-made “Savory Suppers” to the store’s famous pies and cider doughnuts, as well as a salad bar and a full deli offering meats and cheeses, lasagna, chicken salad, tuna salad and chicken parmesan.

The opening of a second Atkins store began in the early 1990s after discussions of finding a way to connect better to residents in Franklin County and many who commuted to the University of Massachusetts from points north of Amherst center.

In 2006, Atkins looked into opening a second market in South Deerfield, and in 2011 Jones first made public appeals to bring Atkins to the North Amherst neighborhood. That was followed in 2014 by an online petition to gauge the interest in the community in having a second Atkins store.

When complete, North Square will feature 130 apartments and 22,500 square feet of commercial space.

Jones said she aims to fill that space one-third with restaurants, at least a third retail and the final third with experiential services like yoga and paint-your-own pottery. The vision, she said, is to have a destination restaurant, a fitness club, a children’s book store, a flower and gift shop, and a vintage clothing store.

At 85 Cowls Road, where about half the apartments are already occupied, the commercial space will be opening next spring after her company took site control this week, Jones said.

“We’re going to start building out a general store with a cafe and community artist gallery,” Jones said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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