Endangered: Your Local Economy

Alice Maggio at the 2nd International Conference on Complementary Currency Systems in the Hague in June 2013.

Is there an independent bookstore, a local bike shop, or an old-fashioned camera shop in your community?  If so, they need saving as urgently as the Piping Plover or Plymouth Red-Bellied Turtle.  To preserve these businesses, we need to preserve their habitat—a habitat of small, locally owned enterprises, trading with one another, welcoming customers by name, paying town taxes, providing secure jobs, donating gift certificates to benefit the Little League Team, and serving on town boards.

BerkShares local currency provides us a way to distinguish and support our Berkshire independent businesses.  Alice Maggio’s interviews for the BerkShares Business of the Month series are printed in Berkshire Trade and Commerce and aired on WSBS (both of which are also local businesses.) Her five interviews (links below) allow those at the heart of our economy to speak for themselves.

Protecting an endangered species and restoring its habitat is a task specific to each place and the culture, ecology, and human society of that place.  You will have your own approach to preserving your local economy: stories, contests, business alliances, citizen marketing, community financing.  Alice’s talk on Community Supported Industry tells about some of these, and in this video she explains how, with BerkShares, we have the potential to reclaim currency as a community economic development tool.


Lester Blumenthal claims to have lost all his marbles when he decided to make a go of the restaurant business.  But anyone who succumbs to Bessie the fiberglass cow’s beckoning glance and follows the arrows to the Route 7 Grill will see that Lester has not lost anything but instead has found a way to make a restaurant into a celebration of a region, a landscape, and a community. Read more here.


Steve and Tony Carlotta have been in business on Railroad Street since April Fools’ Day, 1972. They sell both digital and conventional cameras, film, and accessories as well as offering high-quality printing and top-notch customer service. It’s only natural that they have been accepting BerkShares at the Snap Shop since 2006. Read more here.


Steffen Root started off as an apprentice bike mechanic when Berkshire Bike & Board first opened; four years later he became the owner. Now he’s in his 18th year in the bike business, and he still just wants to make sure that you have “no reason not to get on your bike.” Read more about his business and why he participates in the BerkShares community here.


Locke Larkin, the man behind Berkshire County’s oldest-established gourmet food shop, Locke Stock & Barrel, laughs when asked about “the local movement,” because for him, it just means that he has been around long enough to see things come full circle.  A native of the Berkshires, he grew up in a household that was both producer and merchant. His family kept pigs, chickens, cows, horses, and a garden, and his father and grandfather ran Larkin’s Market on Railroad Street in Great Barrington. Read more here.

How often can you still find an independently owned bookstore, one with a used book section, a large collection of local histories, and books signed by local authors?  Less and less often, as Eric Wilska, co-owner of the Bookloft in Great Barrington, will tell you.  In the 39 years since he opened the Bookloft he says he has seen the number of independent bookstores in Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River drop from thirteen to only four.  However, it is no coincidence that the Bookloft is one of those four survivors. Read more here.