GREAT BARRINGTON – Six months after opening its second location in Great Barrington, ExtraSpecialTeas plans to enhance this space by creating an adjacent outdoor space to be used for dining and events.
ExtraSpecialTeas, which employs adults with special needs, recently received a $10,160 grant from MassDevelopment to build this space just outside the nonprofit’s new location on the site of the Old Housie Market on the corner of Pleasant and Main streets in Housatonic.
The area should be up and running by the end of the summer, said Cherri Sanes, who founded ExtraSpecialTeas with her husband, Scott, six years ago. The association’s original store is located in the center of Great Barrington.
ExtraSpecialTeas intends to use the new area for outdoor dining and live entertainment, Sanes said. Having outdoor spaces to host events is also a plus as COVID still lingers in the Berkshires.
“With COVID, everyone is hoping it’s over, but it’s still there,” Sanes said. “The more outdoor spaces that can be created in communities, the safer everyone will be.
“There aren’t a lot of restaurants there in Housatonic or in the outdoor areas, so we wanted to create something enjoyable for the community.”
Sanes said the nonprofit plans to hold a small dance event both in the new space and in a park across from the new store in the fall. An event in memory of a late artist who once operated an art studio in Housatonic will take place in December.
“We hope to hold musical events there,” she said.
ExtraSpecialTeas’ new store had a soft opening in January and a grand opening in April. The former Housie Market, which closed in 2018, was a community center for the village of Housatonic, and the site has helped the business find more jobs for adults with special needs than the fair of tea empowers and employs as waiters, baristas, artisans alike. , content providers and administrators. The Sanes employ adults with special needs who are too old to qualify for federal and state student education programs, which expire at age 22.
Although the Department of Developmental Services offers adult education programs for young adults with special needs over the age of 22, many who fall into this category face an uncertain future after leaving the programs. for students. The Sanes have direct experience of this problem; their now adult son, Jache, has autism. Cherri, from Texas, and Scott, from Chicago, first came to the Berkshires to place their son in an autism program at the Options Institute in Sheffield.
They founded ExtraSpecialTeas to provide young adults with special needs with a place where they can succeed in mainstream life.
The couple said the most important part of opening a second location was to give the couple the ability to provide more jobs for people in the Berkshires who have special needs. ExtraSpecialTeas currently employs 10 people at Housatonic and now has a total of 30 employees.
“We hope to hire a few more in the coming weeks,” Cherri said.
The Housatonic location has a commercial kitchen, which the other store in Great Barrington lacks, allowing meals to be served there. It also contains enough space for employees to create their own types of teas.
“We now have five teas that we are developing in this space,” she said.
ExtraSpecialTeas was one of 14 organizations across the state that recently received a combined $420,162 in grants through MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program to build outdoor community spaces, public art exhibits, cultural events and other place-making projects. ExtraSpecialTeas was the only Berkshire-based recipient on the list.
“Community spaces, public art exhibits and cultural events are at the heart of placemaking, and cities and towns across Massachusetts recognize the positive impact these projects have on supporting local economies and improving quality of life,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera.