Food: Crafts on Crafts

The large central retail space at 30 Crafts Ave. in downtown Northampton was, for decades, the destination of professors copying syllabi, job-seekers refining their resumes and yoga teachers, musicians and people with lost pets churning out flyers to hang on the city’s poles and bulletin boards.

Paradise Copies, the institution responsible for those particular customers, has since moved down the block to a larger space on Conz Street that affords it more operating room and more available customer parking. This left the old building’s identity wobbling for a couple of years as it remained empty, briefly serving as a Pilates, yoga and aerobics studio called The Fix.

Now, after some extensive interior work and a clearly well-thought-out period of preparation, the corner space has established a firm new footing as the food, beer and wine destination Provisions… for pantry and cellar.

The new décor is rustic and immediately comfortable; brightly finished wood floors reflect the dark colors of the hundreds of bottles of red wine and the black iron racks that hold them. The bottle motif is tastefully echoed in the store’s windows—semi-darkened portals whose southern-facing light shades are cutouts in that shape, and at the right time of day cast a celestial light through the rows of sauvignon blancs, vino verdes and pinot grigios. The exposed brick of the surrounding walls retains an organic, historical feel; the walls are original albeit restored with a bit of white paint and accented with strategically placed paintings by local artists.

Co-owners Nancy Baker and Gordon Alexander manage most of the procurement of the shop’s products, which include nuts, dried mushrooms, honey, vinegars, canned fish, olives and olive oil, coffee, tea, cookies, biscotti and artisanal chocolates, Jenni’s Ice Cream (made in Columbus, Ohio from the milk of grass-fed cattle and apparently a cult favorite), and a selection of over 800 wines. Cheesemonger Mike Marois manages the approximately 90 cheeses, 30 cured/smoked meats, pates and foies gras at the cheese counter, while partner Benson Hyde handles the beer selection, which boasts between 250 and 400 microbrews and imports at any given time, and often rare craft beers. Wine and beer tastings are held weekly at Provisions Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Having firmly established its brick-and-mortar presence in the Paradise City since its opening in November of 2011, Provisions is working on its outreach. About a month or two down the road its owners hope to have established a catering service of sorts (cheese plates and beverages only, nothing hot), and it’s also currently the local drop-off for a Community Supported Agriculture-affiliated company called Cape Cod Fish Share, which delivers fresh fin fish, bay and sea scallops and even live lobsters from its sustainable, line-caught fishery in Chatham on Fridays.

In its furthest reach yet, the Provisions team is packing Marois off to the prestigious Third Annual Cheesemonger Invitational in Long Island City, N.Y. to compete with over 40 cheesemongers from around the world for the titles of most deft in the tasting, cutting and plating of cheese. Bon chance, Monsieur Marois.

Author: Tom Sturm

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