Around Amherst: Businesses get boost from state Winter Pivot grants

Staff Writer
Monday, February 15, 2021

AMHERST — Several local businesses recently received $500 grants, matched with an additional $500 from other sources, that could help sustain them through the remaining winter months as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Using an earmark secured in the state budget by Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and administered through the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, 18 businesses in Amherst, Hadley, Sunderland and Belchertown are getting financial support, according to an announcement from the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The Amherst Area Chamber is proud to continue to offer every possible lifeline to our businesses to keep them afloat during these difficult winter months,” said Claudia Pazmany, the chamber’s executive director.

Among those receiving funding from the first round of the Winter Pivot microgrants are ViVi Bubble Tea, South Amherst Laundry and Hakim Noah Massage, all in Amherst, and Hadley businesses including Greggory’s Pastry Shop, Peter’s Nails and Tutti Frutti. Matches were provided by the Downtown Amherst Foundation and other local businesses.

A new grant cycle begins this week for seven additional businesses.

New signs

Welcome signs, directional posts and information kiosks could be installed in and around downtown Amherst in the coming months.

Planner Ben Breger told the Town Council this week that planning for the new wayfinding system, replacing what he calls a mishmash of signs that date to the 1990s, began in 2015.

“What we’re trying to do is bring wayfinding signs to one style and keep things consistent,” Breger said.

This will include signs that welcome people to Amherst, similar to one already located in the middle of the roundabout at East Pleasant and Triangle streets, directional posts for pedestrians and vehicles, and kiosks with maps to sites, from the Emily Dickinson Museum in town center, to the Yiddish Book Center in South Amherst and Cherry Hill Golf Course in North Amherst.

Town clerk coming

Final interviews for a new town clerk in Amherst to replace Shavena Martin, who resigned in December, are taking place this week.

Until the new appointment is made, Assistant Town Clerk Susan Audette, who has been the temporary clerk since September, will remain in that role.

The Town Services and Outreach Committee will review the appointment from Town Manager Paul Bockelman, while the Town Council would vote at its Feb. 22 meeting.

Planning for new elementary school

The Massachusetts School Building Authority is expected to invite the Fort River School project into the feasibility study phase this week.

When that happens, the Elementary School Building Committee will be able to advertise and then hire an owner’s project manager, Bockelman said. Already, a subgroup has been established to develop a request for proposal.

Asparagus capital

The ongoing efforts of Hadley asparagus farmer Tom Waskiewicz to have the town designated as the asparagus capital of the world were highlighted on a recent segment of WCVB’s Chronicle program.

Waskiewicz said in an interview on the program, which explained the nicknames of various communities, that Hadley may not grow as much asparagus as other places, but its quality is renowned across the globe.

Farmer Wally Czajkowski said the town has the perfect climate and soil. “You eat our asparagus, you can taste the difference,” Czajkowski said. 

The segment can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=xmJqQLPeQ0I&authuser=0/.


TUESDAY: District 1 meeting, 6:30 p.m., via Zoom.

THURSDAY: District 3 meeting, 6:30 p.m., via Zoom.