Shop owner Charles Gray at the Mahican Moccasin Outlet, 2970 Vt. Route 7.
Shop owner Charles Gray at the Mahican Moccasin Outlet, 2970 Vt. Route 7. (Tom Momberg)

POWNAL -- After Charles Gray's two-story moccasin store burned down in June 2012, he was unsure what was next. Gray said that insurance covered only a third the value of the property that was lost, and could only rebuild at a fraction of the original operation size.

"I was vacillated as far as rebuilding or not," Gray said. "My age was one factor and just about all of my kids have left here. But I went to a lawyer and he said that property in Pownal has not been getting the return on investment."

Gray said his lawyer suggested he rebuild as small as he could because it might be easier to sell a reestablished business after a few years. He said the build was delayed after running into zoning complications.

Gray established his business on hand-made moccasins with his own equipment and workshop, most of which was damaged or destroyed in the fire. He had a soft opening over the last couple months to sell some of the hand-made products that remained, but is expanding his sales to other products since he cannot operate his old equipment.

The Mahican Moccasin Outlet, 2970 Vt. Route 7, now stands on half of its original footprint with the help of the Jamaica Cottage Shops and a community action state agency, Bennington Rutland Opportunity Council, for resources and guidance.

Gray is selling a full line of Minnetonka Moccasins, which he hopes to phase out for American-made moccasins. Gray has made displays to sell Vermont novelties, as well as products made by local carpenters, rug and jewelry makers.

Gray said that it may take him several years to reestablish a clientele and be fully operational. He said that the tourists coming through Pownal have changed a lot over the years, but he's happy with the number of locals coming to support his business.

"I was shocked at how much the traffic has changed," Gray said. "Right now it's like I started a new business: I lost my customer base because of the amount of time that it took me to get through the permitting process."

Gray said he hopes Pownal can do more to aid tourism and the commercial areas in the future.

"The town can compliment tourism, but we need a group of people to work together with the same objective in mind," he said.

The store is open Friday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Gray said his hours will be limited for now because his wife needs attention for medical issues. He said he may expand his hours of operation as his business grows.

Gray claims to offer the largest variety of moccasins in the Rensselaer-Berkshire-Bennington County area.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtobanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg