Friday January 18, 2013

What's it like to be a tourist in Bennington? As the Banner's new editor and someone who's lived here for a total of about 48 hours, I can tell you it's been an enjoyable experience. Every restaurant, coffee shop, boutique, hotel, bookstore, etc. is new. Every stranger a potential friend.

It's a whole world of possibility.

My initial impression of Bennington -- and one that holds today -- is that the town's business district looks promising. That opinion met with some skepticism from a few of the folks I met during my interview for this position in early November.

"You mean our downtown?" one new acquaintance asked incredulously.

Yes, I do.

I come here from an old steel, pie and car-parts factory town that had its heyday several decades back and in recent years experienced a steep decline only to now be in the midst of a slow renaissance.

My basis of comparision of the two towns was the number of empty storefronts: Pottstown, Pa. (population about 22,500) had a fair number; Bennington (population roughly 15,700, according to the 2010 census) seems to have a lot fewer.

Pottstown has a vital daily newspaper with a varied and talented staff (The Mercury -- daily circulation about 20,000). Bennington has a wonderful daily newspaper with an -- from my experience watching them tackle the drug sweep Wednesday -- extremely talented and competent staff (Bennington Banner -- circulation just under 7,000).


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Bennington looks really good to me.

At some point, and I'm not sure when exactly this will happen -- perhaps when I stop getting lost when trying navigate the area -- I'll make the transition from tourist to full-time resident.

But for the time being, I'm enjoying discovering the town in bits and pieces, treating myself to really good pizza at Ramunto's, sampling a fine dark roast coffee from South Street Cafe, enjoying a fish dinner at Madison's Brewing Co. and doing my food shopping at Hannaford -- where I was delighted to discover you can buy wine and beer in the grocery store!! (Pennsylvania has a rather restrictive liquor law).

So far I haven't seen much, but I look forward to making myself acquainted with this community and its businesses and vice versa.

I'm excited to be here, to join this community and help to bring the news to you everyday via The Banner.

Whether you have a concern, simply would like to say hello or would like to suggest a story for the Banner, feel free to reach out to me by phone (802-447-7567, ext. 110), email: mkaras@benningtonbanner.com, or Twitter: @bannereditor.

I look forward to meeting you.

-- Michelle Karas