Flair and flavor: Couple draws on European, regional travel and food expertise to bring gourmet Aster + Pine Market to Amherst

Bill and Mallory Nurse, owners of Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, talk about the new store and what it offers.

Bill and Mallory Nurse, owners of Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, talk about the new store and what it offers. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Italian soda  sold at Aster +  Pine Market in Amherst owned by  Bill and Mallory Nurse.

Italian soda sold at Aster + Pine Market in Amherst owned by Bill and Mallory Nurse.

Mallory Nurse, co-owner of Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, talks about the new store and what it offers.

Mallory Nurse, co-owner of Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, talks about the new store and what it offers. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Bill and Mallory Nurse, owners of Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, talk about the new store and what it offers.

Bill and Mallory Nurse, owners of Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, talk about the new store and what it offers. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Aster + Pine Market co-owner Mallory Nurse talks about the new store and what it offers.

Aster + Pine Market co-owner Mallory Nurse talks about the new store and what it offers.

Maple syrup from a small farm in Vermont that Aster + Pine Market in Amherst sells at the store.

Maple syrup from a small farm in Vermont that Aster + Pine Market in Amherst sells at the store.

A corner of  Aster +  Pine Market in Amherst owned by Bill and Mallory Nurse, dedicated to non alcoholic mixers and drinks.

A corner of Aster + Pine Market in Amherst owned by Bill and Mallory Nurse, dedicated to non alcoholic mixers and drinks. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Bill and Mallory Nurse, owners of Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, talk about the new store and what it offers.

Bill and Mallory Nurse, owners of Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, talk about the new store and what it offers. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Some of the many items sold at Aster + Pine Market in Amherst.

Some of the many items sold at Aster + Pine Market in Amherst.

Bill Nurse discusses some of the many items sold at Aster + Pine Market in Amherst with a customer.

Bill Nurse discusses some of the many items sold at Aster + Pine Market in Amherst with a customer.

 Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, owned by Bill and Mallory Nurse.

Aster + Pine Market in Amherst, owned by Bill and Mallory Nurse. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 04-17-2024 12:44 PM

Modified: 04-17-2024 5:26 PM


AMHERST — From their own journeys in Europe and across New England and the Northeast, and their experience in the hospitality industry, a Northampton couple is creating a market featuring wines, pantry staples and fresh, local produce in downtown Amherst.

“At the base level, this is a beer and wine store that is truly unique, an extremely curated and very European-inspired market that strips down to what the community needs,” Bill Nurse says of Aster + Pine Market, which he and wife, Mallory Nurse, opened in February at 189 North Pleasant St.

Many of the items in the store have special meaning to the couple, like the maple syrup from Foxglove Farm and Forest in Vermont, where they stayed in the midst of the pandemic; and the wines they drank while in Italy, along with a number of other Italian imports, including artichokes, pickled olives and vegetable oil, handmade pasta, truffle oil butter and taralli pugliesi, a sort of Italian bagel.

“It’s nice to showcase stuff we’ve enjoyed on our travels,” Mallory Nurse said. “We can bring in stuff that’s broader and unique, and we get to share our favorite things with everybody.”

Their offerings include vegetables from area farms and even neighboring businesses. Among their wares are granola from The Humble Peach, the small bakery across North Pleasant; and others not too far away, like bread from Small Oven Bakery in Easthampton, available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and from Ground Up Grain in Holyoke.

“We always try to work with other small businesses in the area,” Bill Nurse said.

“The theme is we believe in the products we sell — all minimally produced,” Mallory Nurse said.

The couple met in Boston where Bill was a chef was 10 years, and Mallory, now a designer at Kuhn Riddle Architects, was doing design at the restaurant where Bill was working. They relocated to the Valley from Boston after having familiarity from visits to Mallory’s sister in South Hadley.

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Aster + Pine Market is located in space long used by Vici Hair Studio & Beauty Bar before that business moved to Hatfield. The block of businesses includes The Toy Box and Zanna as anchors, though the neighboring business Botanica recently closed. Their proximity to the mixed-use developments at the north end of downtown, and free customer parking in the rear, were perks of the location.

Inside, decorative lighting has been added, along with crates to hold the wines, as well as onions and potatoes at the entrance and some wallpaper to offer a vintage feel, which carries over to the general store case and the wooden stand built by Kyle Passan.

Mallory said she sees Aster + Pine as “very much information-driven,” with each wine having narratives and wine-tasting notes about foods to pair with.

“We’d like to have it more of an interactive experience,” Mallory said. “That makes it more fun for us and for them.”

This is particularly true about the wines, which Bill enjoys discussing with customers, including a recent one who was just turning 21.

“We will direct them to their preference and for what will fit the bill for them,” Bill said. “It’s all about the story and interaction with guests and bringing hospitality back to the market form.”

“We want people to come here to be able to make a really awesome dinner party,” he shared.

A small sober sip lounge is at the rear of the store, where they recently staged a mocktail hour, featuring rum and Cokes, along with a non-alcoholic gin and cucumber soda.

A sparkling wines section is in the cooler, along with Italian sodas, Italian mineral water, and tomato juice and mandarin juice from Spain.

There also is tin fish from Portugal and Spain. “We fell in love with tin fish while in Portugal,” Mallory said.

The cooler features baby arugula from Bardwell Farm in Hatfield, Just Hummus from Medford, and dairy from Vermont and upstate New York, along with sheep butter made in Greece and bacon from New Hampshire. The Nurses are talking to local farms and butchers about having a wider selection of meats, cheeses and produce.

There are gift items, too, such as soy wax candles made for the store by their friends at Boundless Good Co.

The couple came up with the name from the aster wildflower, a last pollinator for bees, and the common pines in the region. “It sounds elegant and sophisticated enough,” Bill said.

Using her designer skills, Mallory came up with the logo with the name in a circle, with an aster and pine needles in the center, a stylish visual touch that sets up what she calls the lifestyle vignette notes that accompany their offerings.

“We want people to feel welcome,” Mallory said.

“People are so excited,” Mallory said. “So many are saying, ‘Thank you for opening.’ ”

“The best is when international students come in and their eyes get wide open,” Bill said. “They don’t think Amherst could have something of this level.”

Aster + Pine is open daily except Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with sip-and-shop on Saturday afternoons. More information is at aster_pinemarket on Instagram.

An official grand opening is Saturday starting at 1 p.m., with live music and a gallery showing of black-and-white photographs, and a vendor from Boston will have a wine tasting and mini charcuterie.

“It will be another way for people to learn about the store and what we have to offer,” Bill said.

Staff Writer Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.