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The Wilmington Fund VT • Video Link

16 Aug

Please check out the video produced for The Wilmington Fund VT!

On August 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused flooding the tore through Wilmington, Vermont. The devastation was staggering. But Wilmington’s community sprung into action. Before long, the Wilmington Fund VT was born. Its mission: support recovery and future development in the historic downtown. Watch the video to learn more about Wilmington Fund VT’s efforts and its plans for the future.

Thanks to Ann Manwaring for shepherding this project through to completion.  Video production by Mondo Mediaworks          mondomediaworks.com

Thank you!

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Vermont B/A: Wilmington Pulls Together to bring its Historic Downtown Back to Life

17 Mar

Although there is not a digital copy available, if you see the current issue of Vermont B/A (formerly Builder Architect), there is a very nice article on The Wilmington Fund VT with photos by Carolyn Bates & Barker Willard including the two below.

Irene at Work, photo by Barker Willard

Irene at Work, photo by Barker Willard

Wilmington One Year Later, photo by Carolyn Bates

Wilmington One Year Later, photo by Carolyn Bates

 

Cracker Barrel Winter/Spring 2013 A part of Irene’s aftermath: The Wilmington Fund VT

9 Mar

One Part of Irene’s Economic Aftermath:  The Wilmington Fund VT

Two months ago Hurricane Sandy slammed through the Northeast.  Those of us in the Deerfield Valley had a true understanding of damage that can be left behind.  Our thoughts and prayers were with everyone harmed by the climactic event.

Nearly a year and a half ago (28 August 2011), Tropical Storm Irene ravaged many Vermont towns, including Wilmington.  By January, The Wilmington Fund VT was established and hard at work.

Founding:

Tamara and Dan Kilmurray, longtime Wimington second homeowners felt the losses and destruction of Wilmington’s village viscerally.  Throughout the clean up process in which they physically contributed, they discussed what could be done on a long term basis.  Dan communicated with Deborah Emmet Pike, another second home owner who had introduced him to the valley over three decades ago.  Deborah put Dan in touch with local business owner Julie Lineberger as someone who could assist him in gathering a group of people to create a long term difference.

By February 2012 the full Board was established including Dan as President, State House Representative Ann Manwaring as Vice President, financial planner Bruce Mullen as Treasurer and Julie as Secretary of the Board.  Rounding out the group were Tamara Kilmurray, Deborah Emmet Pike, attorney Robert Fisher, business owner John Gannon and innkeeper John Pilcher who, reluctantly, resigned from the Board in November.

Recently the Board created an Advisory Council to assist in with the mission through brainstorming fundraising ideas, acting as ambassadors to The Wilmington Fund VT.  This group includes Mount Snow Partner Dick Deutsch, West Dover second homeowner Bob Kaufman, Halifax second homeowner Walter Jones, local active volunteer Alice Greenspan, and Wilmington second homeowner Sophie Ackert who raised a significant amount of money for The Wilmington Fund VT through her Bat Mitzvah project.

Grant Process

The primary mission of The Wilmington Fund VT is to contribute to the the economic vitality in the area by encouraging established pre-Irene businesses to reopen, help new businesses launch and create jobs in Wilmington’s historic village center.  This includes shrinking the number of empty storefronts in the village.  Steadily, albeit slowly, we are advancing towards these goals.

In order to accomplish the above goals, The Wilmington Fund VT established parameters and protocols for grant applications and approval.  Each project is evaluated on its own particular set of circumstances by our general requirements that include submission of a complete business plan to establish, or reestablish, a business in the Village.  Part of the requirement is that any submission must include a substantial financial investment on the part of the applicant business owner.

Once a letter requesting funds accompanied by a completed business plan is submitted, a small group of our Board vets the project through interview and other due diligence measures.  When approved by the small group, the project is brought to the full Board of Directors for discussion.

So far, the Wilmington Fund VT invested $145,000 in the approval and distribution of  and distribution six grants.  The recipient business owners are on target to invest in excess of $1 million in their respective projects.  This multiplier effect is a key requirement for any grant application and approval of The Wilmington Fund VT.

Progress

The grants distributed include five businesses and an infrastructural project to support all village businesses.  The businesses that either opened, or are in the process of reopening, are well funded and have solid articulated business plans.  The Wilmington Fund VT is highly confident of their success and believe that a total of 30 local jobs will be created.

North Star Bowl – REOPENED. The center for local activity offering both bowling and informal food is owned by Steve Butler and Bev Lemaire.  Over 75% of this structure was destroyed in the storm.  Although not technically in Wilmington’s Village Center, we felt this business to be a significant contributor to the economic vitality of the area.

• Dot’s Restaurant – REOPENING SOON.  The iconic breakfast to dinner restaurant is owned by Patty and John Reagan.  http://www.rebuilddots.com

Note:  Funding and elbow grease from many individuals and many groups, most notably the Friends of the Valley, is what enabled both North Star and Dot’s to even think of reopening.  The Wilmington Fund VT was but one aspect of the reestablishment of these businesses.

Beyond Imagination – OPENED. A beautifully designed women’s clothing and household furnishings boutique is owned by Melinda and Bill Coombs.  http://www.beyondimagination.com

Chapman’s InTown Antiques – OPENED. Diane and Len Chapman have been running an antique business on their Medburyville property just outside of town for many years.  Along with neighbors JoAnn and David Manning, they decided to open a store in the village.  With assistance from The Wilmington Fund VT, the team of four renovated a storm ravaged building and are offering both antiques and local Vermont crafts.

Restaurant in the historic Parmelee & Howe Building – OPENING SOON. The Wilmington Fund VT purchased and began renovating this anchor building on the corner of Routes 9 & 100.  Mid-way through we were approached by a local individual with a vision and an interest in purchasing the property.  Acknowledging the ample investment and undertaking by the purchaser, as a demonstration of support the accepted negotiated price was less than our investment. The Wilmington Fund VT is pleased to have accomplished its goal with the sale of the Historic Parmelee & Howe building and look forward to its success.

• Village Walkway – PARTIALLY COMPLETED.  Led by the Long Term Recovery Parking and Green space Committee of Carolyn Palmer, Lilias Hart and Sue Spengler, the project links a new parking lot with Main Street with a soon to be lit walkway.

Future Challenges:

Because of these early successes, morale in the village is recovering and the ambiance greatly improved.  The robust Village Stroll Committee is working diligently to create various events to entice people downtown.  In addition, the increase in tourist traffic this fall was very encouraging.

However, there remain numerous damaged and empty buildings requiring a great deal of work.  The scope of these future projects is larger than our accomplishments to date, and 80 or so jobs still need to be restored.  The Board is exploring various options, including the establishment of a revolving loan fund, to stimulate economic growth in the village.

The Wilmington Fund VT has been prudent stewards of donated capital.  Close to 100% of fund donations go to economic vitality efforts with a minimal amount used for insurance and accounting fees.  All Board Members work voluntarily, truly a tireless effort by a talented group of individuals.

To continue our work, The Wilmington Fund VT is in a constant mode of fundraising.  We are also establishing two annual fundraisers.  The Summer Event of 2012 was extremely successful.  This included an art show curated by Mary Wright of Gallery Wright, a Pig Roast Dinner at the home of the Kilmurrays, and a Memorial Hall concert produced with great support of Dale Doucette.  Plans for the 13 July 2013 Summer Event are in currently in the works.

The Wilmington Fund VT is also in the midst of working with Mount Snow to create an annual Winter Event.

The long term success of our cause will ultimately be determined by continued strong governance, solid decision making and, of course, successful fundraising.  All are invited to keep on top of our progress through http://www.TheWilmingtonFundVT.org

Two Thank Yous from Beyond Imagination

10 Oct
When waters run deep. . .hearts open wide!  May the memories of Irene renew your faith in humanity.  (Card and artwork by Melinda Coombs)
We could not have done this without your generosity of time and money.  Thank-you from the bottom of our hearts.  Bill & Melinda Coombs
“BEYOND IMAGINATION”
10.4.12 Deerfield Valley News
Words cannot express thanks
To the Editor:Words cannot express how filled with gratitude I am for all the support in the opening of my new boutique Beyond Imagintation. The success is due to so many people,

The Wilmington Fund VT, without whom this would not have come to fruition. Ed Erhard for the renovations to his building, Bob Hall and his crew for all their hard work, Bill for his long hours of everything, Suzanne and Sara for all they did in help making the opening happen so quickly, Gretchen Havreluk for the help with the business plan and support, Manyu for teaching me so well, Meg Streeter for planting the seed, and friends and family for your help and support.

I feel blessed to be in such a supportive community and to be part of the rebirth of Wilmington. I look forward to seeing you all at Beyond Imagination.

Many thanks,

Melinda Coombs

Wilmington

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – Words cannot express thanks

BEYOND IMAGINATION • 10.4.12 Deerfield Valley News

10 Oct
New boutique owner says experience, support reasons behind venture     by Rachel Olstein Kaplan
Melinda Coombs is ready to welcome customers to her new business venture, Beyond Imagination.

Melinda Coombs is ready to welcome customers to her new business venture, Beyond Imagination.

WILMINGTON- On Friday, September 21, the streets of Wilmington came alive for the Vermont Wine and Harvest Festival Village Stroll. Residents and visitors strolled among the shops, tasting soup, wine and cheese, and enjoying the warm September evening. One of the main attractions of the evening was the grand opening of Beyond Imagination – the new clothing and home boutique that held its unofficial opening on the eve of the Village Stroll.

The boutique, at 6 North Main Street, was again bustling Friday for its official grand opening event. The store sells women’s clothing and jewelry as well as paintings and interior design services. Owner Melinda Coombs, of Whitingham, is an artist, designer, and seamstress who brings with her years of retail experience from working at Manyu’s Boutique as well as expertise in running a successful interior design business from her home. Coombs was inspired to open Beyond Imagination after witnessing the outpouring of support after Tropical Storm Irene; she hopes that the boutique will play a key role in revitalizing the community.

Explaining her motivation, Coombs said, “I’m doing this to help the town. The more shops, the more alive we are, the more people will come. I’m doing this for everybody; I really believe it will help all the businesses in town. I believe that the town of Wilmington can be even better than it was before.”

Until last summer, Coombs had worked for 16 years at Manyu’s, the well-known boutique in Wilmington, which stood in the Parmelee & Howe building before closing last year in the aftermath of the hurricane. Beyond Imagination will help fill the absence that many felt when Manyu’s closed, but the new store has a particular flare inspired by Coombs’ personal touch. In addition to clothing and accessories, for sale and on display at the shop are many of Coombs’ handmade jewelry and paintings.

Wilmington resident Julie Lineberger had frequently shopped at Manyu’s. She’s very excited about the opening of the new store. “It’s a little bit different and that’s good. (Coombs) offers home design services and has skill with making slipcovers, shades, and drapery. She has an entire homegoods section and original art work that Manyu didn’t have. It’s Melinda’s own shop.”

Suzanne Strattner, of Jacksonville, works full time at the boutique. When she heard that Melinda was opening the store, she called immediately to inquire about a position. Strattner describes Beyond Imagination as beautiful, spacious, and welcoming to all. “We even provide cushy chairs for gentlemen so they can relax while the ladies are shopping.”

According to Strattner, “There is not another store like this in town. There aren’t other stores that have such a wide range of clothing and fashion. From cozy sweaters to comfy jeans to the little black dress that every girl needs. We have it all, and in a wide range of sizes with price points for everyone.”

Coombs first thought of opening the store when she was approached by members of the Wilmington Fund VT in the spring of 2012. While hesitant at first, she quickly realized that her experience had prepared her for the venture. “I realized it was something that I definitely could do. That the town would benefit and I would benefit in the end. I missed Manyu’s as much as everybody else.”

The journey since spring has been challenging and Coombs has had to persevere to make the store a reality. The Parmelee & Howe building, where Coombs originally planned to open, was sold in mid-June. Coombs was forced to return merchandise she had purchased and scrambled to find a new location for the boutique. She eventually found retail space on North Main Street right next door to Manyu’s’ original location. While the owner renovated the building which had suffered major damages in Tropical Storm Irene, Coombs worked on her business plan and putting together finances for the endeavor.

Finding the resources to support the new business was a challenge. In addition to investing personally in Beyond Imagination, Coombs received a low-interest loan from Vermont Economic Development Authority and a generous grant from the Wilmington Fund VT.

The Wilmington Fund was set up in the fall of 2011 to help support Wilmington’s recovery and promote commerce and business activity. The board of directors is confident in Coombs’ abilities. According to Dan Kilmurray, the fund president, “She had been a manager at Manyu’s. She is a real talent and I am highly confident that she is going to be very, very successful.”

Lineberger, the fund secretary, described Coombs as a fantastic choice, adding, “I knew that she was Manyu’s right-hand person for so long. She has a very good design sense and I knew she would carry on the quality and caliber of Manyu’s, which is what we need. To draw people from surrounding areas, you need to have that same caliber of shop. She is doing something a little different but is striving for that same level of excellence.”

Customers, employees, and investors alike are excited about the business and many see it as a symbol of hope and revival in Wilmington. Strattner says, “When I first moved here, Wilmington was a real destination place. A walking town with cute little shops. People would come here and spend their whole day here, have lunch. It’s really great to be part of the rebirth of Wilmington. It needs to come back after the devastation from the flood.”

Coombs, who was nervous before embarking on the endeavor, added, “After being open for only three days, I am feeling a lot more confident. Most people are walking out of the store with a bag.”

By all indications, Beyond Imagination is on track to be a success. As Carol Grant, a longtime customer of Coombs’ interior design business assures, “Melinda always succeeds ‘Beyond MY Imagination!’.​​​​​​​​​​”

Visit Beyond Imagination at 6 North Main Street in Wilmington or online at http://www.beyondimaginationvt.com.

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – New boutique owner says experience support reasons behind venture

New Stores Bring Hope To Town Hit By Flood And Recession – VPR Broadcast

28 Sep

Friday, 09/28/12 5:50pm

Nancy Eve Cohen

VPR/Nancy Eve Cohen
Beyond Imagination is one of two new businesses that just opened in downtown Wilmington.

When the flood hit Wilmington a year ago the local economy was already on its knees. But just this month, with the help of a local non-profit two new businesses are opening in the downtown and a once flood-damaged building was sold.

The wail of a skill saw is annoying in some places, but in Wilmington it’s like a beautiful aria. Dots, the iconic restaurant which Irene destroyed in the center of town, is getting rebuilt.

“You can see the foundation’s being poured. They’re starting to do the framing of it right now.” said Julie Lineberger from the Wilmington Fund VT.

The Fund has raised nearly $600,000 to invest in downtown businesses like Dots.

“You need the village to be economically vital and vibrant “in order to have people to come here and spend money here,” said Lineberger,

The Fund bought, fixed up and just sold a historic brick building that hugs the corner of Wilmington’s main intersection. The new owner plans to open a restaurant. The Fund also gave a grant to Beyond Imagination, a clothing boutique which is having its grand opening tonight.   Melinda Coombs is launching this store, despite the slow economy, for several reasons.

“To help the town as well as start a new business for myself, ” said Coombs. “But the main one is that I grew up in this town.”

So has her son and her granddaughter. But Coombs lost her job at another store a year ago after the downtown was nearly destroyed  by Irene.

“It’s like losing your home,” said Coombs tearing up. “The thought that you might have to go out of the area to live because the economy might not recover. The thought of that just isn’t an option for me. I love living here.”

Lenny Chapman is opening another new store in the village of Wilmington called Chapman’s In Town Antiques. He shows off a cake box from the early 1800s.

“They used to make cakes and put them in here and keep them so the mice wouldn’t get at them”

Chapman says he believes the economy is coming back. He has another antique business in a barn just down the road.

“We had a good summer out at the barn,” Chapman said. “That’s one of the reasons why we would try to open here.”

But some business owners who have been downtown a long time have a different view, such as Meg Streeter who has been a realtor here for nearly three decades. She’s also a member of Wilmington’s select-board.

“It’s really tough here, I feel.” said Streeter. “The recession has never ended here. It has never ended in the Mount Snow area.”

Eileen Ranslow, whose been selling carpet and tiling at the Wilmington Home Center for 42 years says she’s holding on, but just barely.

“The economy for the last 2 ½ years, 3 years has been non- existent” recalled Ranslow. “And then we had Irene pass through. That pretty well flattened us, We’re still doing business, but it has been very, very tough.”

The official numbers bear that out, but they also show a ray of light. Economist Richard Heaps of Northern Economic Consulting says before the flood the number of businesses in Wilmington fell by 16 percent. But he says in the past year there’s been a little shift in the right direction.

“Couple more businesses opened up, but the total employment fell and wages grew a little.  So there was a hint that Wilmington was beginning to see a turn.,” said Heaps. “And now, the recent news of a couple of businesses coming in is building on that. It’s not much, but it’s beginning to show that they’re turning the corner.”

Melinda Coombs is hoping for a domino effect as new businesses like hers attract more customers to the entire town.

“If word gets out that ‘Gosh, there are a lot of really nice shops in Wilmington. Maybe we’ll go there from Bennington or Brattleboro or other places,’ it’s just going to help everybody!”

No one here is predicting a quick turn around, but they’re planting seeds hoping a better economy will eventually take root.

www.beyondimaginationvt.com