Blog :: 11-2017

Shop Local this Small Business Saturday in Western Massachusetts

Living in Western Massachusetts, we are surrounded by tons of small, locally-owned businesses. It is easy to regularly shop local and support small businesses. However, this Saturday, November 25, is a particularly special time to visit these stores, since it is Small Business Saturday, a national shopping holiday. You can finish all of your holiday shopping, while supporting our local economy.

Here a few stores that I highly recommend for Small Business Saturday:

Wilson’s Department Store: Wilson’s has been a fixture on Main Street in downtown Greenfield for over 125 years. It is one of few family-owned department stores left in the country and boasts 4 floors of name-brand merchandise.

Greenfield Farmers Cooperative Exchange: Located on High Street in Greenfield, the Greenfield Farmers Cooperative Exchange sells thousands of products for the home, farm, garden, pets, and more. Over 800 farmers comprise the co-op, which is almost 100 years old!

Shelburne Farm & Garden: Shelburne Farm & Garden is another great store for finding home, garden, and pet supplies. It is located on the Mohawk Trail/Route 2, close to the village of Shelburne Falls. Check out their end of fall specials and other deals for the holiday season.

The Outlet Store: The Outlet Store on Chapman Street in Greenfield is the go-to spot for work shirts, boots, Carhartt brand clothing, and other heavy duty outdoor and work attire. It’s a small store with friendly staff who will help you find anything you’re looking for. Plus, the prices are very reasonable.

Salmon Falls Gallery: Up on the hill, overlooking Shelburne Falls and the Deerfield River, Salmon Falls Gallery represents over 100 local artists. Owned by local glassblower, Josh Simpson, the gallery has rotating exhibits, so there is always something new to see. You will be sure to find something special for a loved one or yourself, since there is such a wide range of art; woodwork, jewelry, paintings, ceramics, and more.

Shelburne Arts Co-op: The Shelburne Arts Co-op is another great source of fine crafts and art in Shelburne Falls. The Co-op has been owned and operated by local artists since 1998, who are ready to help you find something special.

To find more local small businesses in the area, type in your location on the Shop Small Map. Happy shopping!

Moonlight Magic Kicks Off the Holiday Season in Shelburne Falls This Friday!

Thanksgiving is this Thursday! While I am looking forward to spending time with family and reflecting on what I am grateful for, in the back of my mind I am thinking about Moonlight Magic. Moonlight Magic is the annual holiday kick-off event in Shelburne Falls. Every year on Black Friday, which this year is November 24th, from 4-9 pm, the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association closes off Bridge Street and the Iron Bridge to host this magical event.

Vendors will line the streets, selling crafts, candles, maple and other farm products, wreaths, and other delightful things perfect for gifting for the holidays. Barberic Farm will be selling their delicious frozen meat pies, jams, jellies, pickles, plus their handmade wool and leather products. Shelburne Farm & Garden will also have a booth, selling birding supplies, pet toys, hats, and gloves. You could get all your holiday shopping done without having to even look at a mall!

School groups and other non-profits will also set up to fundraise for their special projects. Colrain Central School will be raffling off gift baskets, and Hawlemont Elementary School will sell baked goods and offer cookie decoration as a fundraiser for their Nature’s Classroom trip. Of course, don’t forget to look for the Salvation Army kettle to make a donation.

While you’re shopping around, there will be a bunch of performances, both indoors and out. Keep your ears open for roaming performers, Welcome Yule, a group of carolers, and Tom Crean, banjoist. At 5:15 pm, be sure to be outside to watch the Parade of Lights come down Conway Street to Bridge Street. Wave to Santa Claus and his crew, plus a special horse drawn wagon courtesy of Greenfield Savings Bank. Then, pay Santa and Mrs. Claus a visit at the Mason’s Lodge on Main Street. Some other acts you won’t want to miss include Ageless Waves of Rhythm, the Senior Center’s drumming group, who will perform in Greenfield Savings Bank, and Celtic Heels, Irish step-dancing group.

My favorite part of Moonlight Magic are the beautiful lights and decorations throughout the village of Shelburne Falls. Luminaria line the streets and christmas lights and garlands drape overhead, making this cozy village even more serene.

For more information and specific event details, go to shelburnefalls.com.

 

Colrain Artists Open Their Doors This Weekend!

Colrain, Massachusetts is a beautiful town in northern Franklin County, just below the Vermont line. The town draws many artists who seek inspiration from its natural beauty. There are so many artists, in fact that each year they all come together to host Crafts of Colrain Open Studio Tour. Grab a map and a friend and take a tour around Colrain this Saturday and Sunday, November 11-12.

18 artisans will open their doors to showcase their art and offer live viewings of their processes. Their crafts include woodwork, fiber art, metalwork, painting, pottery, and more. One particular artist whose work I always enjoy is Ruby Rice. She creates visionary healing arts ranging from pillows to wall hangings to notecards and more. Her sanctuary and gallery has the feel of a chapel and is meant to comfort and make guests feel at home.

For more information and to download a free map and schedule, visit www.craftsofcolrain.com.

National Association of REALTORS Chief Economist speaks at Annual Convention

While the GOP tax plan will not increase GDP, the real estate market does hold the key to economic growth, according two prominent economists at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo on Friday. While the country’s GDP hit the three percent growth mark promised by President Trump during his 2016 campaign over the past two quarters, that could change if lawmakers don’t treat the industry with more care, National Association of REALTORS® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said at the Residential Economic Issues & Trends Forum. “I hope people understand that real estate drives the economy,” Yun told forum attendees. “That could come to a halt very soon if real estate is damaged.”

Lawrence Yun addresses attendees at the Residential Economic Issues & Trends Forum Friday

Ken Rosen, founder of real estate research firm Rosen Consulting Group, added that Congress can’t rely on other sectors to produce the same level of economic growth as real estate. “It’s not going to happen from manufacturing, as much as the president would like to say. It’s not going to come from coal,” he told forum attendees. “You’d think a president who comes from real estate would know that, but that’s not what his advisors are telling him.”

Rosen said the best way to support such growth would be to loosen credit standards and build more homes. Yun noted that raising inventory rates could also help keep home prices from rising too quickly. The GOP tax plan could have the same impact of depressing home price increases by reducing the impact the mortgage interest deduction has on homeowners, Yun said. But the better method to reducing price growth would be to jumpstart new-home construction: “We don’t want to tame the price increases by disincentivizing buying a home; we want to tame price increases by building more,” he said.

However, in order to maintain and expand on the current level of economic stimulus provided by the real estate sector, housing experts warn, the industry must increase affordability and access to homeownership.  Yun predicted more interest rate hikes in the coming years, which will dampen affordability. Rosen said he encourages young people, including his own son, to buy now before rates increase. Rising home prices aren’t the real threat, he added. “The risk is interest rates. Now is the time to both purchase and lock in.”

Of course, not everyone can buy in the current market. Rosen addressed other ways to open up housing to more Americans, including loosening lending restrictions and introducing more alternative loan products, such as rent-to-own options, the ability to roll student loan debt into mortgages, and allowing institutional investors to buy in on individual home purchases through shared equity products. He also suggested creating an IRA for housing funds, where buyers could put money aside before taxes to help them save for a down payment.

Finally, even those who can buy might be suffering from what Rosen calls “post-foreclosure stress syndrome.” Rosen estimated a significant portion of those who have the money to buy a home aren’t doing so “because they’re afraid.” He suggested an education program to help Americans see the benefits of buying. “If you calculate homeownership with a 15 percent to 20 percent loan, there’s no better place to be.”

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]realtors.org.

Franklin County CiderDays Coming This Weekend!

Fall in New England is such a favored time of year; the bright colors of the foliage, a chill in the air, and of course, all things apple. Every fall on the first full weekend in November, I look forward to CiderDays, a Franklin County celebration of apples. Many of the events are free and range from workshops to talks to tastings to festivals with music and more. This weekend, November 3-5 marks the 23rd Annual CiderDays.

Here are a few events happening this weekend that caught my attention:

On Friday from 6:30-8:00 pm, the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center will host “How to Taste Hard Cider.” Learn from cider educators Eric West and Nicole Leibon of Farnum Hill Ciders the thought process behind tasting and evaluating cider. Then, be guided through a tasting of various cider styles. The cost is $30/ticket and includes light hors d'oeuvre.

On Saturday, the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center will host free workshops, talks and tastings from beginner through advanced for cider makers, home orchardists and cider aficionados.

Then, on Sunday from 2:30-3:30 pm at the Deerfield Community Center in Historic Deerfield, learn how to make Spanish style cider (Sidra) from cidermakers Scott Heath (Tilted Shed, CA), Ryan Burk (Angry Orchard, NY), John Reynolds (Black Duck Cidery, NY), cidermaker/restauranteur Sam Fix (ANXO, Washington DC), and beverage director Brian Rutzen (The Northman, Chicago, IL). Join moderator Darlene Hayes for discussion and samples. Tickets are $30.

Plus, I am very excited about this year’s Cider Salon — the world's longest-running hard cider tasting. This year, the Salons will be held in a large tent in Unity Park, on the Connecticut River in Turners Falls, with more than 90 individual cider brands from across North America and Europe. There will be two sessions — 3:30 - 5:00 and 5:45 - 7:15. Tickets are $30 per session.

For more information, to purchase tickets, and to download the full schedule, visit ciderdays.org.