One of the drawbacks of new development is the potential for temporary slumps for retail businesses affected by construction, although the promise of an uptick once the project is complete provides some light at the end of the tunnel.
Tunnel City Coffee, which has served the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts for more than 25 years, has been dealing with this ebb and flow in the historically quiet, rural region thanks to various new and growing cultural attractions, as well as other development projects expected to run into the next decade.
The company, which was founded in 1992, has opened two of its three cafes within the past two years, and last month relocated its green storage and roasting production into a larger, 3,000-square-foot space inside the historic Norad Mill building in North Adams that is itself being redeveloped.
Tunnel City Coffee Owner and Head Roaster Paul Lovegreen told Daily Coffee News they plan on opening one more small retail outlet before an expected quiet period that will last roughly the next two years, after which it may come time to consider an upgrade in capacity from the company’s Diedrich IR12.
“The area’s going through a growth spurt. There’s a lot of construction, and unfortunately construction is hurting business a little bit. So we’re going to have a little bit of a downtown for the next year or two, but the end result is going to be fantastic,” said Lovegreen, citing a recent near doubling in size by the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art as well as growth by the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown Theatre Festival and multiple increasingly popular annual and biannual music festivals as drivers of the boom.
To sate the coffee thirsts of cultured visitors, students and longtime locals alike, Lovegreen depends mostly on greens that come by way of Cafe Imports, with occasional dabbling in more limited options through Coffee Shrub. Within a range of offerings and roast levels, Tunnel City continues to offer darker, early-90s-style blends and roasts that are favored by many of the company’s longtime drinkers.
“In ’92, Starbucks wasn’t even on the East Coast yet,” said Lovegreen, who also enthusiastically offers lighter, fruit-forward single-origin options the roaster happens to prefer himself. “We were so new, cappuccino and latte weren’t even household words.”
Lovegreen and his team are happy to cater to all kinds of coffee tastes at Tunnel City’s flagship location in Williamstown where the company’s full variety of roasting styles is on offer, as well as at the new cafe, called Uptown Tunnel, inside the Williams College bookstore, where strictly light-roasted, single-origin coffees are prepared either by Kalita Wave for pourover or La Marzocco Strada for espresso.
Tunnel City works a Strada espresso machine on all of its coffee counters, the fourth of which will be installed at a kiosk located in the Prow gallery within Mass MoCa this summer. After that, Lovegreen said the plan is simply to nurture the existing the cafes as well as Tunnel City’s online retail business while construction on three major hotels unfolds, including one that’s right across the street from the company’s flagship location. That project according to Lovegreen also involves a $20 million infrastructure project that redirects culverts to prevent flooding in the downtown area.
Said Lovegreen, “In the end, it will be for the better.”