Karen Gosselin, owner of the Spring Street Market and Café, has a vision for her venue. “I want to be that spot,” she said. “I want to be a place where the students come and hang out because they want to, and not because they have to.” The market, which opened in June, seeks to provide Williamstown residents with an eclectic mix of goods (and goodies). As its name suggests, the shop serves typical café fare in addition to stocking the provisions that one can usually only find in a supermarket, a convenience that Spring St. has lacked since the shutterring of Ephporium last year.
A self-described “foodie” whose interest in the grocery business extends back to her high school days as an employee at Price Chopper, Gosselin said that her new store is “exactly what I’ve always wanted to do.” From 2007-10, Gosselin was the acting manager of Ephporium, and at the end of her tenure there, she moved to Bennington, Vt., where she started a successful catering company called “Yum.”
But despite this success in Bennington, she wanted to return to Williamstown. “I love the energy during the school year,” she said, “And I love it in the summer, with the theater people. It’s such a vibrant, fun place.” When the Vietnamese restaurant Saigon’s space became available, Gosselin jumped at the chance. Along with her husband Ben, she moved back to Williamstown in May and began renting the space from the College. After five weeks of renovations, the market opened its doors.
The shop is open from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sunday and is closed on Monday. On weekdays, breakfast-goers can munch on a breakfast sandwich while enjoying some Mocha Joe’s coffee. On the weekends, the shop has a full breakfast menu. Lunch options include various soups, salads of all types and sandwiches. The café also serves a multitude of baked desserts, including Peanut Butter Ordeals, a sandwich of oatmeal-peanut-butter cookies with a peanut butter center, and Lindsey Bars, a gluten-free invention of Gosselin’s niece, Lindsey, with a popcorn crust, chocolate, coconut and cranberries.
The “biggest struggle” with the business, Gosselin said, is the pricing and the staffing. “My prices are competitive with grocery stores,” she said, although she admitted that they can’t be quite as low, given the distinct disadvantage of her small market. Big chains can order goods in bulk, which is cheaper, and so can offer correspondingly lower prices to consumers. Gosselin stocks smaller amounts of goods, and so generally her business is forced to pay a higher per-unit price than larger stores. Nonetheless, she said, “I’m doing the best I can to do to keep prices doable.” Gosselin also tries to buy local products, like vegetables and skyr yogurt, as much as possible.
Another challenge in pricing is that, although the market’s stocks may be smaller in volume, Gosselin doesn’t want them to be limited in variety. “You try to have a little bit of everything,” she explained, in order to satisfy both the customer who wants Cheez-Its and the one who wants organic crackers. “I think about what I would like, or what I think [students] would like, or what you would need.” She always encourages people to ask her if they can’t find something on her shelves. “I love to try to get stuff for people,” she said.
Staffing, Gosselin said, is going well. Although she lost five high school seniors at the end of the summer, she has since hired several College students, who will work alongside Gosselin’s niece, Lindsey and other local students. “I think it’s a really good working environment,” Gosselin said. “It’s fun … it’s a multitasking job.” Employees clean, restock shelves, cash, do prep work for cooking and even do a little baking. Along with her husband, who cooks all the breakfast items, Gosselin does much of the cooking and baking. “If I could bake and bake all day,” she said, “I’d be happy.”
Over the summer, the café’s main clientele were professors, along with attendees of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, including Justin Long – whom Gosselin described as a “super nice guy” who would often hang out with the employees while he waited for his food – and Chita Rivera, whom Gosselin said loved her scones. With the start of classes last week, College students have begun to flock as well, and the store has begun to settle into a rhythm. Looking forward, Gosselin expresses nothing but enthusiasm, “I want to be here as long as possible,” she said. “I like it here. I love it. It feels like a very good fit.”