I’m saddened that this is the town’s official attitude toward an open discussion of ideas and effectiveness ... I believe it serves nobody.
Over the past two years, we’ve made some adjustments in our business which has impacted our relationship with the community in very positive ways. We are slowly but surely becoming the anchor store for downtown ... a destination point for tourists as well as a hub for the local arts scene.
From the only graffiti vault in the country to our affordable art classes, we’re adding value to the downtown Bennington experience that has made us the number one attraction in Bennington on Tripadvisor.com as well as according to several newspaper articles and lists.
And what support do we get? Every time there’s a state politician in town, they are paraded around to every shop but ours. I’ve called the BBC offices anonymously a dozen times over the years and asked if they could recommend a good gallery in town ... every single time, they fail to mention Fiddlehead.
Since my days as a DIC commissioner, I have been open about the need for a more effective system of downtown improvement in Bennington. As someone who was very involved in just about every downtown committee and meeting from 2000-2003, I still believe the BBC operates in a vacuum, constantly spinning its wheels in a cyclical pattern of failed workplans and redundant feasibility studies.
Upon my exit from downtown politics and committees, I made it very clear that if the BBC was left to operate in the same fashion, we’d be in the same situation a decade later ... well, here we are, Main Street is worse than ever. You can continue to operate your committees and write annual workplans, but at some point, someone with more brains and resources than I will explain to the public how the BBC is a giant tax-sucking machine of well-meaning folks who have no business attempting to revitalize a downtown.
I also find it the height of arrogance that an organization with such a checkered track record of success has systematically shut out criticism and open debate from its modus operandi. In fact, how dare you presume to have all the answers when hardworking businesses on Main Street are struggling. Shame on you! Inclusive ... ? Sure you are, until someone disagrees with you.
I’m willing to find a way to peacefully coexist. I’m hopeful that the town will find a way to better promote local business, rather than castigating one of its most prominent downtown merchants.
I’ve always been bullish on Bennington, so much so that I was willing to put my money where my mouth is and take the steps I feel are necessary for Main Street to shine again.
As some of you already know, we’re planning to purchase the Putnam Hotel and bring it back to its past glory as a boutique hotel. We’ve identified funding sources for the nearly $4 million renovation cost but have been waiting to sell our building first. After reading this letter from the BBC and an apparent snub by Stu Hurd to visit the gallery, I’m in serious doubt about pursuing this project any further and will likely pull our building off the market this week. Rather than taking an enormous risk in a town that obviously has no interest in working as a team, I will put my efforts towards cultivating my own customers in a downtown that is bypassed by both tourists and locals.
Joel Lentzner, a Bennington resident, owns Fiddlehead at Four Corners.