By Chris Maza
EAST LONGMEADOW – The Board of Selectmen recently approved a significant expansion of one of the town’s newer retail establishments.
At the April 1 meeting, Rich Caudill, owner and manager of The Beer Shop located at the Heritage Village Shops on Harkness Avenue, received the go-ahead from the board to begin a project to more than double the size of the establishment from 1,000 square feet to 2,200 square feet.
“We’re growing faster than our space allows,” Caudill said. “We just want to provide a certain vibe and atmosphere that and we feel expanding an extra 1,000 or 1,200 square feet will give us that opportunity.”
After the town’s approval, he said he still needed final approval from the state.
Caudill added that with the expansion, he planned on hiring more staff.
The Beer Shop will mark its second year in operation later this year. Caudill’s business was first approved by current board Chair Paul Federici and former Selectman Enrico “Jack” Villamaino on July 10, 2012 and Caudill said business has been strong since the opening.
“The town has received us well and everything has been going good,” Caudill told the board. “We’ve pretty much pressed forward with everything we planned to do when we came in here initially. We’ve done tastings, we’ve invited the town in.”
Caudill added that the shop cut its hours in the interest of being a good neighbor.
Federici noted that there had been no complaints and Selectman Debra Boronski added that she had heard nothing but good things about the business.
Carl Perella, Caudill’s landlord at the Heritage Village Shops, commended him for bringing a unique service to the area.
“As a tenant, I think he’s done a tremendous job bringing a new concept to the town that shares single beers instead of having to buy a big bundle of beer,” he said.
Perella also vouched for Caudill’s need for more room, which is why he supports the expansion of business, which includes taking over the space recently vacated my Maureen’s Sweet Shop, which recently relocated to Center Square.
“He has over 1,000 beers and he’s really, really tight on space,” he said. “To pay the bills, he needs more volume and he’s renovating a space that was in bad condition that will now be in very good condition.”
Caudill explained that when the company opened its doors, there were less than 1,700 breweries in the U.S. and now that number is approaching the 4,000 mark.
“There’s been at least a dozen here in Western [Massachusetts], let alone New England as a whole and we just want to bring it to the people,” he said.
Perella added that the business has helped increase traffic to the plaza and contributes to what he believes is a quality mix of tenants and services.
Selectman Angela Thorpe asked if the extra room would be used as retail space or storage, to which Caudill responded that the expansion would allow for more of both.
“When you get about five people in the shop, it starts to feel crowded,” he said. “This would give them room to shop around without having to bump shoulders.”
Caudill added that the store would add more cold storage, explaining that at present, there are only five doors of cold storage.
“We look to have twice that this time around,” he said.
Randy White, who resides at 49 Harkness Ave., spoke at the hearing, stating that Caudill was “a welcome and appreciated business to the neighborhood.”
White, who had expressed concerns regarding the business when it was first proposed, reiterated some of those concerns, specifically regarding the sale of single-serve beverages such as “nips,” lottery, and large volume bottle redemptions. Caudill said the store sell no hard alcohol and said he had no intention of selling lottery tickets or tobacco.
Addressing redemption, Caudill said Massachusetts law requires the company to take back whatever they sell, with a limit of 120 bottles or cans at a time.
“There’s not going to be a huge storage of returns and the returns we’ve been getting go back to the distributors within a week,” he said. “It’s a clean environment and it works out right. There’s not a huge influx of returns.”
Perella added that if it became a problem, he would work with Caudill and the town to mitigate those issues.
The board also approved a $20,000 reserve fund transfer with which the Information Technology (IT) Department would purchase an upgrade to replace the uninterruptible battery supply (UPS) system for the town’s servers.
IT Director Ryan Quimby told the board that the servers are currently powered by electricity coming from the utility lines in the street and when there is a power outage, a transfer switch engages the generator. From there, the power goes through the UPS to continue feeding power to the necessary systems. Lately, however, the UPS has not been functioning properly, creating problems for multiple town services.
“What’s been happening for every power outage, power blip, power surge, brown out, anything, the UPS just shuts off,” Quimby said. “The whole server room goes down. Public safety goes down, the phones go down, everything goes down. When a lot of those systems go down ‘uncleanly’ like that, like our voicemail system of virtual environment, it creates a lot of problems.”
Quimby cited the most recent power outage, which occurred on March 26 as a result of strong winds,
“Town Hall still had power, but the system still shut off,” he said. “I lost power at my house and not two minutes later, the Police Department was calling because they couldn’t get into their software.”
The existing UPS is 13 years old and has been serviced several times he added.
“By the time you add up all your man hours, the $20,000 doesn’t seem that relevant when you think about all the time you’re spending and the time people are down and not doing their job,” he said.