PITTSFIELD — The owners of two Pittsfield restaurants have opened a third business downtown. “We believe deeply in Pittsfield,” says Austin Oliver.
Oliver and Joad Bowman, co-owners of Thistle and Mirth on West Street and The Flatburger Society on McKay Street, opened Lulu’s Tiny Grocery in the Crawford Square building at the corner of North and Depot streets.
Lulu’s, a breakfast and brunch spot, is located on the ground floor near the back of the building in a space formerly used by Bigg Daddy’s Philly Steak House and more recently Red Apple Butchers, which had two towers at the location.
The space contains a large commercial kitchen and previously housed a deli and catering business. After Red Apple Butchers closed for the second time, Bowman and Oliver began using the space as a prep kitchen for Thistle and Mirth and as a curator for their two restaurants about six months ago.
“We had already been using this kitchen for some time, so we had an idea after having already put it into use,” Oliver said.
“We noticed a hole in the Pittsfield market for a bagel spot – and then everything else came together.”
The concept is proving popular. Lulu’s had 418 followers on its Facebook page at the end of June.
Lulu’s, named after Bowman’s daughter, offers breakfast and lunch sandwiches whose ingredients are subject to change. “It’s a pretty changing menu every week,” Bowman said.
The store also offers grocery items, which Oliver says will expand over time. “As we continue to grow, we will also continue to build a small specialty grocery store,” he said. “We just like the idea of offering some sort of retail.”
The company has two employees in addition to Oliver and Bowman.
Oliver and Bowman opened The Flatburger Society, named after a type of burger the restaurant serves, last summer in the space formerly occupied by Flavors of Malaysia, which closed in late 2020 due to fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus.
Bowman founded Thistle and Mirth about 10 years ago. Oliver joined as co-owner shortly before the pandemic hit the Berkshires two years ago. Originally a bar with a long list of taps, Thistle and Mirth reopened last year as a restaurant serving Ramen noodle-style dishes after expanding into adjacent space on West Street which had been vacated by the Berkshire Print Shop.
Small business owners in downtown Pittsfield are struggling. The west side of North Street between Columbus Avenue and Summer Street, which once contained a variety of small businesses, is now almost totally vacant. But where others struggled, Bowman and Oliver were able to thrive.
“I think we believe deeply in Pittsfield,” Oliver said. “I think it’s on an upward trajectory and we want to be on the rising tide.”
But what about all those businesses that have closed?
“When businesses close, it means the opportunity is there for others,” Oliver said, when asked why the partners decided to open a third business. “We see it as an opportunity, more than a disadvantage.
“I think it would have been a lot harder to do this before the pandemic,” he said. “But I think since we started right in the middle of it all…I think we have a good understanding of our ability to be successful.”
Lulu’s is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and plans to open Saturdays in the near future.