Tuesday’s "big" news was something very positive for town.
LaFlamme’s Furniture will soon be reopening in Bennington after a devastating fire claimed its previous building in January.
The new LaFlamme’s will be right in town, on Main Street, in a building that formerly housed the Alcaro Auto Dealership. The 239 W. Main St. building has been vacant for more than a decade. It’s located across the street from the Dollar General, and between the Sunny Side Diner and the Hanson-Walbridge Funeral Home.
Other businesses might’ve cut their losses and left Bennington for good after January’s stroke of extremely bad luck.
But Christopher and Angela LaFlamme, owners of LaFlamme’s Furniture, wanted to remain part of the Bennington community.
"We’ve received so much love and support from the community over the past five months that it made it easy to decide to stay in Bennington," Angela LaFlamme said in a press release.
"We did not let the grass grow under our feet: You can’t," Christopher LaFlamme told the Banner about their decision to rebuild (see full story on page A1).
LaFlamme’s has continued to serve Bennington since the 50 Harwood Hill Road location was consumed in a fire on January 3. The LaFlammes made sure their Bennington employees were able to continue working after the fire. They have been selling furniture and filling orders in the area through their Cambridge, N.Y., store. The company also has locations in Granville, N.Y., and Rutland, Vt.
Even after the fire, LaFlammes’ Bennington business never went away. As Christopher LaFlamme says on the LaFlamme’s website, "LaFlamme’s did not burn down" in that fire.
The business owners chose the former Alcaro building despite some significant hurdles including contamination from the structure’s earlier uses.
Michael Harrington, Bennington’s economic and community development director, said rebuilding a business in the downtown while revitalizing a vacant property is "as good as it gets" for the town.
The town greased the wheels of this deal, acquiring the Main Street property from the owner in exchange for overdue taxes and then setting up a deal with LaFlammes Inc. to transfer the business the property in exchange for the needed environmental cleanup and renovations. The town also committed to $100,000 in revolving loan funds to facilitate the decontamination and renovations.
"The level of collaboration and teamwork that occurred among the LaFlammes, the Select Board and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources was remarkable," said Dan Monks, Bennington’s planning director, in a release. "It was clear that the primary goal for all involved was to ensure that the property be brought back to life, and it is only through the collective efforts of all involved that this property will now be redeveloped."
Christopher LaFlamme said he looks forward to renovating the now-neglected Main Street property into a suitable gateway to town. Post-renovations and site cleanup, the new Bennington store is expected to open in August.
This news not just good for the tax base, it’s good for increasing traffic to all other downtown businesses and possibly ... hopefully ... attracting more businesses.
It’s good news for Bennington.