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NORTHAMPTON Richard ‘Rich’ Cooper, whose family built and nurtured the Cooper’s Corner and State Street Fruit Store markets, announced today that he is selling the businesses to a dedicated, longtime employee who is committed to honoring the legacy.

A Florence resident, Cooper, 67, will retire this fall and sell the markets to Michael Natale, 31, a native of Florence who now lives in Easthampton. Natale has worked at State Street and Cooper’s since 2006 in various roles, steadily rising into management and most recently serving as general manager. His father, five siblings and a niece and a nephew have also worked at the popular, hometown convenience stores.

“Mike is a clone of me. He sees what I see. He knows what customer service really means, and he understands the importance of community,” said Cooper. “Mike has a great way with the employees and customers. He is enthusiastic, dedicated and has long-term commitment.”

Cooper will work part-time alongside Natale for a few months after the sale as Natale takes over full ownership.

“Mike is the ideal buyer. This choice feels right to me,” Cooper added. “It meets the obligation I feel toward employees and to the community to keep the stores locally owned and locally committed, the way we’ve been from day one. I didn’t want to sell to a chain or the highest bidder or someone from outside the community.”

Between the two stores, there are 104 employees, most of whom live locally and work part time; roughly 40 work full time.

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