NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- One week after his bottle redemption center burned, Bennington Beverage Outlet owner Denis Noel says he hopes to have it rebuilt and operating by the end of the year.
An outbuilding behind the liquor store on Northside Drive caught fire during the evening on Nov. 9. Firefighters responded and extinguished the flames before it could spread. Their efforts prevented further impact on the business, Noel said, which "would have been a disaster times 10."
"I am so pleased, and so proud of our fire department. They did an awesome job," Noel said.
Town officials have inspected the burned structure, where bottles were collected and sorted, and determined that it is a total loss, according to Noel. "Basically, we've been denied any kind of occupancy in there right now. We've taken out everything of value," he said.
Noel said he is working with Wills Insurance to determine when and how to begin rebuilding. That is expected to be finalized soon.
"My goal is to reopen as quickly as possible, so to keep the same footprint. We may change the layout, but we're going to keep the same footprint. It's just going to make it quicker and easier," he said.
Town officials have signed off on beginning the rebuilding process. "We've been given some flexibility with the town. We still have to file a permit, but they've pretty much given me a certification that we can start the process and the first process would be the demolition of it," Noel said.
"It would be conceivable that we could do it in four weeks," Noel said. "I would hope that by the first of the year, for sure.
"I understand there's a need out there, and I really, really feel bad, but be patient with us. Right now we physically can't take it. We can't handle the volume that we were doing," he added.
The new building will likely have some "enhancements," he said, including an express window for smaller returns, and a larger, covered space for waiting customers.
Noel purchased the business 10 years ago and built the bottle redemption building five years ago, after the redemption business grew quickly. The business now receives about 10,000 bottles a day, according to Noel.
"The original redemption was done out of the back storage room and our business had grown to the point where we need more storage space. The redemption business grew to the point that we were just so maxed out every week that we decided to invest in the building and enlarge," he said.
Customers receive a 20 percent cash back "bonus" on returned bottles. "That will definitely continue. We have no plans to discontinue that at all. If anything, we may sweeten the pot for a grand opening special or something," Noel said.