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BUSINESS MONDAY: Spotlight on Bear Butter—a new cafe serving fast, fresh, healthy food

The owner of The Spot in Pittsfield has brought the same menu and signature Bear Butter to Great Barrington.

“Picture a super chill coffee shop vibe, minus the coffee. Instead, think smoothies and bear butter! Come in, place your order, check out our awesome bear butter merch and artwork, and then snag a spot with your laptop to unwind in our cool new space.”
— Bear Butter website

Great Barrington — Bear Butter, a brand new eatery offering juices, smoothies, acai bowls, and other healthy snacks, opened at the former Subway location at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets in downtown Great Barrington on April 11.

This business is an offshoot of The Spot in Pittsfield, which owner and Lanesborough native Jonathan Vella launched in July 2018 at 381 Tyler Street—also in a former Subway franchise. Although initial “opening soon” signs indicated the new location would share the same name, Vella instead named it after his signature Bear Butter, a chunky spread made with almonds, cacao nibs, goji berries, golden flax seeds, hemp seeds, coconut flakes, and vanilla vegan protein.

The namesake product, ready to take home. Photo by GBGP

Vella calls the almond butter concoction “trail mix in a jar,” explaining its origins: “When I created it, I wanted to make a superfood with protein and sell it as energy bites. But originally, the almond butter did not hold its shape. This is why I decided to put it in a jar instead of trying to roll it up into little snacks. People started to love it.”

Why open a shop in the south county? “I was looking at that former Subway storefront for a while,” Vella says. “As I was traveling all over New England giving out samples of Bear Butter, which was gaining momentum, I wanted to open a store in Great Barrington and thought the location was perfect.”

Owner Jonathan Vella with wife Jenn celebrating the new sign. Photo by GBGP

Vella shares that he finally decided to take the leap last summer while vending at Berkshire Busk! in downtown GB. “I called the storefront owner for a third or fourth time, and it just happened to be good timing because one thing led to another, which led to the store opening.”

The menu is similar to The Spot, with smoothies such as the “Healthy Elvis”—a heady blend of bananas, spinach, chocolate protein, and almond butter—and the “Fill Up” made from a variety of fruits, oat milk, granola, and (yes) almond butter.

Smoothies with a sense of humor. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson

Acai bowls include the “Go-To Bowl,” a combination of granola, strawberries, raspberries, banana, and honey; the “Power Bowl” includes vegan vanilla protein, granola, bee pollen, cocoa, hemp, and pumpkin seeds.

The acai bowls on offer include the tropical Vacay Bowl (left) and the banana-topped Seed Bowl. Photos by GBGP

The menu’s snacks spotlight Bear Butter—notably, the “Bear Paw,” which features toasted noon topped with the namesake spread along with mixed fruit, chocolate ribbons, and a honey drizzle.

Vella has also unveiled his latest creation: The Foraged Mushroom Bear Butter is billed on the website as like the original but smooth and with the same protein-packed almond butter base, but with different boosts (e.g., a blend of reishi, chaga, shiitake, maitake, oyster, turkey tail, cordyceps, and lion’s mane that boosts the immune system, cognitive functioning, and overall health).

Why go here instead of a fast food chain like McDonald’s? “I think that question is pretty self-explanatory,” Vella says. “When you eat here, you are getting sustainable energy. You are what you eat. You also need to support local businesses instead of a national chain.”

The cafe is currently open from Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit for more information and to see the full menu.

One of the murals depicting Berkshire scenes inside Bear Butter. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson

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