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Pittsfield Nonprofit Aims to Reopen King Kone
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:25PM / Tuesday, July 09, 2024
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The nonprofit that purchased the King Kone building on Fenn Street is seeking to reopen it as a worker cooperative.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A nonprofit is trying to reopen King Kone as a workers' cooperative.

Roots & Dreams and Mustard Seeds of Pittsfield is leading the effort after receiving a grant to acquire the beloved business that closed shop last year. A fundraiser with merchandise has been launched to support costs associated with the reopening.

There are already a handful of employees on board.

"Six wonderful local Pittsfield residents committed to this project, joined the co-op business program, to work towards this goal. Our not-for-profit currently works with groups in seven different sectors of co-op businesses — catering, child care, construction, cleaning, artisans, farming, and restaurant (King Kone,)" the fundraiser reads.

"Members of these co-ops are a part of marginalized communities and struggle with all the issues that accompany poverty. In almost all cases they do not even have the upfront money for the co-op buy-in, and must utilize a percentage of their weekly checks for that, as it's an important part of creating their capital funds."

In 2023, the nonprofit was allocated $179,000 to purchase the soft-serve ice cream shop at 133 Fenn St. and convert it into a worker cooperative. It owns a series of storefronts ranging from 117 to 129 Fenn St.

Roots & Dreams and Mustard Seeds will also expand its current arts programming through the creation of a community art gallery and exhibition space in the adjacent retail space in the same building.

The Barbarotta family closed the shop's order and pickup windows for the last time at the end of the 2023 season as they prepared to sell.  

"We applied during the winter months for a grant that would cover that initial $6,000 for King Kone's industrial cleaning and supplier costs to re-open, as the former owner let us know she would use past year profits to pay that, and our group was starting off without any funds and did not have access to buy-in amounts," the group reported.

To fill a funding gap, they are selling T-shirts and sweat shirts with a gorilla holding an ice cream cone with "King Cone" in blue letters designed by an artist co-op member, ranging from $25 to $38.  Gift cards are also available.

"Last month we heard back that the funder has some unexpected changes since our winter conversation, and could only designate a very small amount towards our need," the nonprofit wrote.

"We are reaching out to our community in hopes that you might be moved to proudly wear this awesome T-shirt designed by one of our artist co-op members, pre-purchase a King Kone ice-cream membership, or donate directly."

The workers and hopeful worker-owners are ready to jump in and serve the community, the nonprofit reported.

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