Locke Stock & Barrel
Locke Larkin, the man behind Berkshire County’s oldest established gourmet food shop, Locke Stock & Barrel, laughs when asked about “the local movement,” because for him it just means that he has been around long enough to see things come full circle. A native of the Berkshires, he grew up in a household that was both producer and merchant. His family kept pigs, chickens, cows, horses, and a garden, and his father and grandfather ran Larkin's Market on Railroad Street in Great Barrington. On Sundays the family would slaughter, pluck, and gut the chickens they would sell in the store that week.
As a young man, Locke tried his hand in the globalizing world market, working in the paper mill business, but he “always had a dream about getting back” to the Berkshires. He started Locke Stock & Barrel in 1968 in the building on Rosseter Street that had housed a feed store. Larkin still uses the old wooden bins from the feed store, but his inventory has evolved considerably.
Larkin’s goal is to please his customers by selling the “best foods available.” Though he sells artisan foods from around the world, he has a special place in his heart for local products. He features local cheeses, preserves, and seasonal produce, selling them at the best price possible because he wants to both support the producers and encourage his customers to taste local products.
His success over the years is based on the relationships he has established with his customers, whom he calls "the best people in the world," and his suppliers, many of whom he has known for decades. "If you find a product somewhere else at a better price," he says, "tell me and we'll make it right by you." Larkin is proud to carry products few people in the area have, products that come recommended by old friends in the business such as Charlie Sahadi of the legendary import store in Brooklyn. Larkin relishes doing business directly with producers, some of whom are very particular. One Hawaiian honey maker interviewed Larkin for an hour before deciding that he was indeed fit to sell his exceptional honey.
Locke Stock & Barrel encourages customers to spend BerkShares. Larkin points out that if you add the 5% that you gain by buying BerkShares at the bank to the discount that Locke Stock & Barrel offers on a case of wine, then you have yourself a nice little deal. And Locke will happily point you to his favorite labels. Right now his favorites are Spanish monastrells and garnachas, priced at $10.95.
Larkin likes the way BerkShares build relationships among local businesses. He often gives them to his grandchildren for new shoes or clothes. He's never taken one back to the bank.
According to Larkin, the success of a community stems from cooperation. In the busy season there's enough business to go around, he says. When the town’s businesses cooperate, rather than compete tooth and nail, customers are more likely to have a good experience and come back. He lauds the Great Barrington retailers' willingness to recommend their competitors if they don’t have what their customer wants. “The new paradigm is, ‘We’re all in the same boat so let’s get our oars aligned.’”
Locke Stock & Barrel
265 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, MA
(413) 528 0800