Owners bring a lively market to an Erving landmark
If you’ve driven on Route 2 in Erving, chances are you’ve seen Flis Market. Located in a 200-year-old structure formerly called Erving House, the community-based general store serves up house-made grab-and-go lunches and dinners seven days a week, as well as meat and cheese; beer, wine and spirits; and grocery items.
Owners Jon and Liz Flis have invested heavily in the historic building (there is a photo of it dated 1825), recently securing a Healthy Food Financing Initiative grant through the U.S.D.A. to improve access to fresh, healthy foods in underserved communities. That grant allowed the two to purchase three retail coolers, expand the parking lot, and renovate an entire portion of the building where they are installing a new walk in cooler and building a commercial kitchen.
“We’re going to be able to increase our freezer space and our cooler space and hopefully be able to provide more healthy fresh food, which has been a real challenge for us, given the setup,” said Liz, who called out the help the town of Erving’s planner Mariah Kurtz provided in seeking out that federal funding.
In addition, financing from the Massachusetts Food Trust helped them purchase a retail freezer. “We were working with the inefficient kind–a reach-in freezer,” said Liz. “Everything was piled on top of each other.” The new freezer gives customers a much better customer experience, she explained.
Liz and Jon have been able to work with nearby poultry farm Diemand Farms, maker of frozen turkey potpies and one of their customers’ favorites, to stock their new retail case, as well as Bart’s ice cream, “which is awesome,” Liz said, “just being able to create visibility for other local businesses and provide frozen goods to the community in a way that we weren’t able to do.”
A program of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (FCCDC), Local Enterprise Assistance Fund, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and The Food Trust, the Massachusetts Food Trust invests in healthy food retailers who accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in areas that serve low-income customers and where there are few grocery stores. Accepting SNAP, Liz said, “was really important to us because we want our store to be a place that everybody feels welcome.”
While she noted the set up to take SNAP cards is unwieldy (she alerted U.S. Congressman James McGovern when he toured the store), she said she hopes the system can soon be integrated into point-of-sale platforms such as Square. It could be “more streamlined for customers and business owners.”
Back in 2019, Liz and Jon reached out to the FCCDC for help getting started. They worked with Amy Shapiro, then the Business Development Director and currently a consultant, to write a business plan. “Amy helped us with our business plan and guided us in a way that we didn’t realize we even needed when it came to a commercial loan for a property,” Liz said. “I mean, the first thing the bank asks is, do you have a business plan? Ours was completely fleshed out and ready to go because of the work we had done with Amy and with the FCCDC. That was really critical and helpful right out of the gate.”
And what’s coming up for Flis Market? Liz said they are looking to purchase a wood-fired pizza oven.
“One of Jon’s real passions is fire and cooking with fire.” Jon, who has a barbeque smoker, incorporates smoked barbecue into Flis Market’s prepared food and their weekly Friday Night takeout dinners. A wood fired oven will up the ante on what he can create and expand Flis Market’s food offerings, she said.
She added that returning the building to its original condition, even if it’s a little at a time, is their goal.
“We hope that this can be a landmark and that we can highlight that this was John Erving’s original house, and we hope to, over the lifetime of us owning this property, to bring this building back to its original existence,” she said.