Tag Archives: Mount Snow Chamber of Commerce

Winter 2013 • SO Vermont Arts & Living

7 Feb

Wilmington Strong

Posted on Sep 27, 2013

By Katherine P. Cox

Out of the Rubble: Wilmington Two Years After Irene

Wilmington

Raging waters tear through Wilmington as Tropical Storm Irene moves through the region in 2011

Unless you were there, just by looking around, it’s hard to fathom that barely two years ago the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Irene unleashed devastating floodwaters that raged through Wilmington, ravaged downtown, and left no business untouched.

But many were there. That’s why, today, the town is just a bit more cheered by its abundant flowers and plants delighting from planters and window boxes throughout town, and why merchants so warmly welcome visitors into the storefronts they’ve rescued — and revitalized — from the ruins.

Wilmington6

Two years later, Wilmington continues to rebuild itself and its community economy with the help of efforts like the Wilmington Fund VT.

Their stories, and the efforts of so many affected on Aug. 28, 2011, are a testament to the resiliency of the townspeople and the fierce community spirit that some say have made Wilmington even better than before.

The Fashion Plate consignment shop cleans out after the flood

The Fashion Plate consignment shop cleans out after the flood

Long before the ground was dry the volunteers came by the hundreds, said Al Wurzberger, who owns the 1836 Country Store on West Main Street. His wife, Sue, owns the historic Norton House, a quilt and fabric store, next door.

The floodwaters had reached halfway up the buildings. “Everything was lost; half a million dollars lost, at least,” Al Wurzberger said.

“They [the volunteers] were tall, they were short, they were skinny, they were fat, they were young, they were old. They were black, they were white, they were Catholics, agnostics, and atheists. And they argued and debated with each other as they gutted and rebuilt the Norton House and the 1836 Country Store. If it weren’t for the volunteers, none of us could have survived,” he said.

Dot's Restaurant, damage severely in the flood, but expected to reopen this fall.

Dot’s Restaurant, damage severely in the flood, but expected to reopen this fall.

Ann Manwaring, a Wilmington resident of more than 40 years and a state representative for the past seven, agrees: “The volunteers that showed up were just extraordinary. They started showing up in droves.”

Everyone recalls how the Chamber of Commerce set to work matching volunteers with the many businesses that needed help digging out, cleaning off, stacking debris, rescuing what they could. Livelihoods were washed out; traditions flooded out.

Streep

Meryl Streep and Tamara Kilmurray. Photo copyright Carolyn L. Bates.

Every business was affected. Some 40 businesses and 100 employees were out of jobs; some 20 apartments were damaged, leaving many homeless, Manwaring says.

Beyond the army of volunteers, Manwaring lauds Mount Snow, which provided temporary housing to some of those left homeless following the flood.

As vital as that army of volunteers was to the cleanup effort, Dan and Tamara Kilmurray, who have owned a home in Wilmington for 10 years, and have vacationed in the area for 30, knew more had to be done — that more aid would be needed in the months and years to come.

“The damage was extreme,” Dan Killmurray said.

Many people had no flood insurance, and Irene had come on the heels of the recession, compounding the misery for many facing downtown’s already-boarded-up buildings. And so the Kilmurrays felt the town needed economic stimulus.

Wilmington Fund VT goes to work

Organizing a board of directors, they established the Wilmington Fund VT (www.thewilmingtonfundvt.org), aimed at supporting Wilmington’s recovery by raising funds to help repair damaged buildings and to promote commerce and business.

Wilmington5Their tools: grants, low interest loans, real estate ownership, other investment opportunities, and partnerships with like-minded entities. Their goal was to promote job growth and economic opportunity for area residents.

Phone calls, letters and fund-raisers — including a Joan Osborne concert and a private dinner with Meryl Streep — have enough capital to allow the Wilmington Fund VT to provide grants, help attract new businesses to town, and help build a new municipal parking lot.

One fund-raiser last summer was dedicated to help Dot’s Restaurant recover. This popular gathering place had been severely damaged. Not to worry: an outdoor barbecue and concert netted $26,000, Kilmurray said.

“We’re doing a lot of work to help support the economic vitality of Wilmington,” Kilmurray said, “but there are still a lot of unoccupied buildings. Our biggest problem: we don’t have enough people looking for grants that want to start a business in the village.”

According to Kilmurray, the grant process requires that applicants have a business plan, a well-thought-out proposal, and startup capital.

Although the Kilmurrays were the driving force behind the Wilmington Fund VT, they’re quick to note it’s not just a one-, two-, or nine-person effort, considering the number of people serving on the Fund’s board:

Many have donated time and money, they said, and the organization is all volunteer.

“Every penny of donated money has gone into the fund to build the economy of the town. We do all the events ourselves and review the grants ourselves,” Tamara Kilmurray said.

Julie Lineberger, who, with her husband, architect Joseph Cincotta of the architecture firm LineSync in Wilmington, serves on the board of directors of the Wilmington Fund VT.

She attributes part of the success of high-end fund-raisers such as the Streep dinner to the fact that “the community is larger than we thought it was, and the second-home owners really stepped up,” she said, noting that the appeal came from “a combination of Meryl Streep and helping our community heal.”

Lineberger points to a renewed Main Street, and names all of its success stories, businesses returned and just starting out: Bartleby’s Books, the 1836 Country Store, the Norton House, the Incurable Romantic, Jim McGrath Gallery, Chapman’s In-Town Antiques, and more.

“It’s a start,” says Lineberger, who envisions an economically viable historic district that provides full-time jobs year-round. “Through the Wilmington Fund [VT], we hope to inspire others to establish or re-establish business in the village. It takes vision, inspiration, a lot of hard work, and some capital. We need someone who’s willing to take a chance,” she says.

On her wish list: a bike shop, a camera shop, and a bakery.

Like many others in Wilmington, she describes herself as hopeful: “I see people trying. I see people working together.”

Beyond Imagination imagines

Melinda Coombs is one of the beneficiaries of the Wilmington Fund VT. She opened Beyond Imagination, a clothing and home goods store on North Main Street last September, partially at the urging of the Kilmurrays and others who felt a boutique was needed in town after Manyu’s, a clothing store here, was wiped out by the flood.

Coombs had worked at Manyu’s, and has a personal stake in the vitality of Wilmington. She’s from Wilmington, as are her grandparents, parents, child, and grandchildren.

“It was not an option to just move,” she says.

Coombs says she was encouraged by other businesses that had been damaged and had come back:

“It made me realize that the more businesses there are, the better it is for everybody. And it may be an incentive for others.”

The support from the Wilmington Fund VT was important, she said. “I feel confident that eventually the town will be better than before. There’s a new energy in town.”

In-Town Antiques sets up shop

Len and Diane Chapman, longtime residents of Wilmington, also decided to invest in downtown, with partners David and Joann Manning and assistance from the Wilmington Fund VT.

“We had an antiques shop in a big barn [outside of town] and we were only doing weekends. The four of us got together and said, ‘Why don’t we open something in town?’” Len Chapman recalls.

Chapman’s In-Town Antiques opened on West Main Street last October. In addition to providing a more visible location for their antiques business, the Chapmans said they wanted to help the town.

Len Chapman has lived in Wilmington for 40 years.

“The town has been good to me. I wanted to return the favor. I have great friends and neighbors here,” he said.

Moving downtown has been worth the investment, he reports, and it has helped the antiques shop that’s still in the barn a few miles away.

Rescuing Bartleby’s

Bartleby’s Books, like its neighbors on West Main Street, suffered heavy damage from the flood.

“Bartleby’s had about four feet of water flow through the main floor of the store,” said owner Lisa Sullivan. “We lost 90 percent of our inventory and all of our shelving. The building sustained damage to its electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems, as well as windows, façade, and drywall.”

Some of her close friends, as well as customers and people they’d never met, showed up to pitch in with repairs to the building.

“So many people helped! We renovated with an eye for flood mitigation and reopened three months after the flood,” she explains.

And like her neighbors, she is optimistic about the future of the town.

Meanwhile, folks have come together to forge a path for the future in ways that they had not considered previously.

Wilmington Works

The town recently attained downtown designation status and formed a downtown organization named Wilmington Works, essentially a subcommittee of the Wilmington Fund VT and composed of 11 members representing downtown businesses, local government, and the Chamber of Commerce.

This new organization will help organize and drive activities critical to making downtown Wilmington a vibrant and vital place, Sullivan predicts.

Ann Coleman innovated — artfully

Artist Ann Coleman arguably was the most dramatically affected by the storm, and her plans for a new gallery may be among the most innovative — and symbolic — of the future of Wilmington.

In her art gallery on West Main Street, she showcased her own paintings and prints in addition to the work of other artists and artisans. She and her husband were finishing up renovations to the space when Irene hit.

When the rains stopped, she went downtown to see the damage. At the barricades downtown, a policewoman told her, “Prepare yourself. It’s not good.”

“I looked down and saw an empty hole where the gallery had been,” Coleman said. “I was expecting that I got flooded. I didn’t expect it would be gone.”

Ann Coleman Gallery was swept down the flooded Deerfield River, taking with it original paintings spanning 33 years of work, over 400 prints, and the works of the other artists.

Coleman set up temporary digs at various sites in the aftermath, and last February reopened her gallery in a storefront on North Main Street.

She’s contemplating building a new place where her previous gallery sat, of course. If the plans go through, the new building will float, too — it’s designed to — but it will float in place.

That’s thanks to Wilmington architect Joseph Cincotta, who’s designed a structure that works with floods, like a boat dock. The building is anchored on heavy metal piers, and when the waters rise the electricity snaps off, plumbing stops up, and the structure, untroubled, bobs.

’People came together…’

Fellow artist Jim McGrath watched the storm from his nearby apartment, and painted the rain and the water rising against the buildings: another kind of landscape.

He had recently closed his gallery, but had stored some 50 original paintings and his tools and paint brushes in the basement of the Parmalee and Howe building at the center of town.

The basement and first floor of the brick building were flooded, and McGrath lost all his work.

That said, what he talks about today is not loss, but praise for his fellow townspeople:

“People came together. Everyone came out of the woodwork to help. Everyone — locals and second-home owners — got on the same page. That was something to see.”

Today he has a gallery again, on West Main Street, and is among the many businesses along the street that are back in operation. He says he’s optimistic: Better things are in store for Wilmington.

“There’s a sense that with a couple of nudges in the right direction, we’ll have something going again,” he adds.

From Nantucket to Wilmington, with coffee

Things are already moving in that direction. Dot’s Restaurant has reopened; a sign on the historic Parmalee and Howe Building promises a new restaurant and bar; and a coffee shop — Folly Foods — has opened at 33 West Main St.

Peter Wallace, who owns Folly Foods with his wife, Kathleen, describes the place as a coffee bar, juice bar, and dairy bar.

Restaurateurs on Nantucket for more than 30 years, the Wallaces sold their restaurant on the island and have become year-round Wilmington residents.

Fresh-baked goods, ice cream and some retail food — such as local honey — are also offered at Folly’s Foods.

Wallace says he hopes to fill the void left when a former coffee shop closed after the storm.

“We’re really excited about it,” he said, explaining that he and his wife, like so many others, were inspired by the many stores that were damaged by the flood and have rebounded.

“We wanted to join the community and bring it back to life. We want to encourage the future of Wilmington by helping it become the vibrant, cool place that it is,” he said.

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24 April 2013 • Brattleboro Reformer Article

28 Apr

Credit union contributes $10,000 to Wilmington Fund

By CHRIS MAYS / Reformer Staff
Posted:   04/24/2013 03:00:00 AM EDT
Updated:   04/24/2013 07:47:11 AM EDT

Vermont State Employee Credit Union delivers a $10,000 Grant to Julie Lineberger on behalf of The Wilmington Fund VT for the purposes of lighting a Village Parking Lot. From left: VSECU Brattleboro Branch Manager, Tina McCosker; Julie Lineberger, Carolyn Palmer, Cliff Duncan, John Gannon, Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy, and Lilias Hart. (Chris Mays/Brattleboro Reformer)

Wednesday April 24, 2013

WILMINGTON — A downtown project is getting closer to completion after the Wilmington Fund received a $10,000 grant from a statewide credit union.

“I’d like to thank the Vermont State Employees Credit Union for working with us and making this possible,” said Wilmington Fund board member John Gannon. “It certainly took a lot of partners to bring this project together. The VSECU has helped us finance the lights that are going to go up and make this area important to revitalizing the downtown economy.”

On April 23, VSECU Brattleboro Branch Manager Tina McCosker gave the $10,000 grant to Julie Lineberger, on behalf of the Wilmington Fund board. The check was received by Lineberger in the general vicinity of where the lights will be going up in the near future.

Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy also attended the event along with Wilmington Fund board members Cliff Duncan, Carolyn Palmer and Lilias Hart.

The Wilmington Fund previously contributed $10,000 to this project, which will improve the parking lot area behind several downtown businesses. There will also be a maintained small greenspace on the property.

The parking lot was re-paved last summer but there were some finishing touches.

The Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce requested money from the Wilmington Fund when the chamber’s executive director, Adam Grinold, saw an opportunity to obtain a grant through the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services.

The funds are going towards paying for lighting and other completion work for the project. The Wilmington Fund contributed an additional $5,000 for the parking lot project last year.

The property is behind Sotheby’s International Realty and Pickwells Barn.

Riverwalk Trail runs through that parking lot and there are plans in the making to link Riverwalk with Dover’s Valley Trail.

According to TheWilmingtonFund.org, “The project is part of Wilmington’s Long-Term Community Recovery Plan resulting from the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.”

Completion of the parking lot project is expected for the summer.

The Wilmington Fund has reported receiving seven grants totaling $155,000 “to support economic revitalization of downtown Wilmington.”

The VSECU had expressed to the Wilmington Fund that it had wanted to reach out beyond central Vermont in assisting towns with revitalization efforts post Irene.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.

Wilmington receives downtown designation • 28 March story in the Deerfield Valley News

30 Mar
by Jack Deming
2 days ago | 522 views | 1 1 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print

 

WILMINGTON- After an 18-month-long application process, the VT Downtown program has given its stamp of approval, awarding Wilmington village downtown designation.

This paves the way for implementing Wilmington Works, a committee that will work to enhance the business and economic environment of the downtown. Wilmington Works will be a committee of the Wilmington Fund VT, which serves as the committee’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt financial sponsor, as required by the program. The Wilmington Selectboard has also committed funds to Wilmington Works for this, and next year’s, fiscal years, using matching grant funds.

After Tropical Storm Irene, FEMA worked with the town to establish a long-term community recovery plan, and identified approximately two dozen projects that could have positive impacts and help the town most in achieving recovery goals.

Downtown designation was chosen as a high priority by the town, and former selectboard chair Tom Consolino was named project champion. Consolino, town manager Scott Murphy, economic development specialist Gretchen Havreluk, and Wilmington Fund VT member John Gannon spent 18 months putting together the plan, and applying.

According to Murphy, Wilmington Works will provide structure and support for downtown businesses, and organize efforts to improve the town’s economy. This will be accomplished through four subcommittees that report to a board of nine to 11 volunteers. Those subcommittees will consist of organization, economic development, promotion, and design.

For business owners, Murphy says Wilmington Works will provide multiple benefits by consolidating the efforts of the many existing committees in town, which, he says, with time might evolve into parts of the subcommittees. “The one benefit they’re (business owners) going to see first and foremost is the organizational affect,” said Murphy. “Right now we have various committees that work randomly and not in conjunction with each other and this will pull them all together.”

Murphy also noted the financial impact of the program, which opens the town up to apply for more 50-50 match grants that are easily accessible, and were not available under the town’s former status as a village. “Now that we’re a designated downtown, when we apply for other state grants, they can look at that and it will help us get extra credit points toward getting more grants.

“This would also be an asset to someone looking to move into our downtown, and will help to create a vibrant downtown.”

Part of the program’s criteria was proper mapping of the proposed downtown, and with help from the Windham Regional Commission, the town was able to create maps for the application, a process which Murphy says was easy due to Wilmington’s well-defined downtown business area. The program requires that the proposed downtown area not stretch unreasonably past the downtown businesses in any direction.

The Wilmington Works board will be composed of two members designated by the Wilmington Fund VT, two designated by the selectboard, two property owners in the district, two business owners in the district, and a member of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, as well as other community members. The majority of Wilmington Works board members must also be residents of the town. Each position will be a three-year term, and Murphy says there has already been a great deal of interest.

The program application was supported by nearly 60 signatures from downtown business and property owners alike.

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – Wilmington receives downtown designation

 

Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce & The Wilmington Fund VT win grant

27 Dec

Brattleboro Reformer Article

By Chris Mays/ Reformer Staff
Posted:   12/24/2012 03:00:00 AM EST

Monday December 24, 2012

WILMINGTON — The Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce received a grant award on Wednesday that will help complete a parking lot project in Wilmington as well gather data for economic development in the valley.

“We learned of the grant and then immediately set about finding a partner with matching dollars that could act fairly quickly,” Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold said.

The Chamber of Commerce needed a partner that could put together the money in two or three weeks before the deadline. With a shortage of time, Grinold approached the Wilmington Fund board about applying for this grant through the State of Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services.

Although, the Wilmington Fund board doesn’t usually go about projects on such short notice, its members thought the goal was worthwhile.

“They were very receptive of what we’re trying to do. We came at them from out of nowhere. This isn’t really their model of how to do things, but we explained that this is an opportunity, ‘If we have matching dollars, we can double our money.’”

The Wilmington Fund board wanted to put its money toward the completing a parking area behind the shopping district.

The board was very supportive, Grinold said, and it wanted to see the application get awarded, although the chamber is valleywide.

The Chamber of Commerce was trying to get more funding to study economic development in the Deerfield Valley. Its main job is to gather data for the entire valley.

“We’re trying to be able to provide potential businesses with some collateral information on what the demographics are.”

Grinold gave the Reformer specific examples of things a potential business owner would want to know when evaluating the business model in the valley. The list included getting traffic counts, rooms and meals receipts, tax receipts, a bed count in the valley and the ratios of second-homes to hotels to condominiums.

“Anything that we as a chamber had, went down the river with Irene. We need to rebuild that information. It’s something you need to stay on top of. The freshness of that data is very important.”

The chamber and the Wilmington Fund board worked together on filling out the grant application.

The board wanted to put $10,000 towards completing the parking lot behind the Sotheby’s International Realty and Pickwells Barn buildings, which was redone in the summer. Lighting for the lot is mostly what is left in terms of work to be done, which will be funded by this grant.

Its location has Riverwalk Trail going right through it. In the future, the Valley Trail, which starts in Dover, is slated to eventually meet the Riverwalk Trail.

The remaining $10,000, which comes from the state, is going to go towards data collection and producing a comprehensive report from that information.

The data will be helpful for gaining insight into marketing plans for businesses in the Deerfield Valley. It will be for potential businesses looking for a spot in the area, too.

A video will also be produced, “to highlight attributes of owning businesses in the valley and attracting new businesses,” Grinold said.

The ceremony was held at the State House in Montpelier. Senator Hartwell attended the event, who has been crucial to helping Vermont rebuild its economy after Irene. Lt. Gov. Phil Scott was there as well.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.