BENNINGTON -- This year, Bennington saw growth in its downtown area with the opening of several new businesses. However, it seemed that for every new business that did open, a business closed its doors as well. Here are the highlights of the local business stories of 2013.
At the start of this year, Carmody's Irish Pub closed its doors following a nearly a 14-year run as a fixture of the downtown restaurant scene. Owner T.J. Carmody cited financial woes as reason for the closure, then shortly thereafter, reopened Carmody's West, also known as Ploughman's Pub, on Route 9 in Hoosick, N.Y., five miles from the Main Street location. For a short time, the restaurant served up a wood-fired pizza and barbecue menu, until the establishment closed unexpectedly at the end of September. When interviewed shortly after the closing of Ploughman's at the beginning of October, Carmody said he has been in conversation with potential buyers who may reopen the restaurant under a new name. April saw the closure of another popular downtown establishment, Doug's on Main Street, following a hearing before the Vermont Liquor Control Board.
Bill Goggins, director of education, licensing and enforcement with the Vermont Department of Liquor Control, said in March that the hearing was the result of at least two visits to the bar in recent months by a state liquor inspector, and involved allegations of over-serving patrons, serving multiple drinks to patrons and providing free drinks.
May brought the opening of Wave, a unisex boutique at 473 Main Street that carries men's and women's clothing, bathing suits, flip-flops, and accessories for customers in their teens all the way to their late 40s. With its eye-catching window displays and bright orange and blue walls, the store saw a grand transformation both inside and out after owner Kathleen Wilkinson revamped the space -- a process which took two years to complete.
When she was interviewed by the Banner in May, just after her opening, Wilkinson said her inspiration for Wave was sparked by not only her love of fashion, but also by her strong belief in the importance of shopping local.
"My hope is that people in Bennington won't feel like they have to drive all the way to Albany to shop," she said. "If I provide the community with good quality, fashionable clothing at reasonable prices, then maybe people will decide to shop closer to home."
In June, Main Street saw the opening of Owl's Nest Upholstery, an antique shop at 353 Main Street, which sells everything from reupholstered furniture, to funky bric-a-brac, to newer house wares, like candles and handmade pillows.
In an interview with the Banner over the summer, the owner, Jean Gauthier, said her shop is unique compared to other antique shops in the area.
"I've worked hard to make my shop welcoming rather than intimidating," she said. "It's certainly not the typical antique store atmosphere. I've tried to make my items affordable so that everyone can come in and find at least one thing within their budget."
Local nurse Lisa Whitman opened a nursing apparel and accessory store at 447 Main Street at the end of August. Found inside the store is a wide selection of nursing gear, ranging from scrubs to shoes to scrub caps to lab jackets and socks. Also in stock are a variety of stethoscopes, jewelry, badge lanyards, and nurse-themed gifts, including clocks, key chains, and Christmas ornaments.
"I think it's good for the medical profession to have a place locally where they can buy good quality uniforms and equipment," Whitman said in September. "Especially since it's run by a person who has actually been in the business for a long time and knows what they need in order to do their job well."
In October, Buy Bulk, a family-owned bulk store opened at 215 North St., in the former space of Cameron's floor coverings. For a brief period, the store offered overstock grocery products, including bottled water, candy, canned goods, and gourmet products, as well as health and beauty products like shampoo and toothpaste, for up to 70 percent off mainstream retail prices. Two months after it opened, however, the store abruptly closed. The owner, Tracy Taylor of Vergennes, did not return multiple phone calls to the Banner, thus reasons for the closure remain unknown.
Also in October, local Benningtonian Ryan Hassett opened Bringing You Vermont at 514 Main St.
The store carries a full line of products made entirely in Vermont, including jellies and jams, hot sauces, herbal teas, candles, maplewood carvings and pumpkin and apple crisp mixes. Items also include handcrafted wooden games, cutting and cheese boards, children's toys, Vermont marble and organic dog-treats.
Downtown Bennington lost yet another bar when Ryan's Pub at 712 Main St. closed its doors for good on December 7, due to high overhead and low profits. The building is currently for rent and the owner of Ryan's, Rick Wheeler, and his girlfriend Amanda Realmunto, hope a new bar will open in its place.
"There's not much nightlife left in Bennington now," Realmunto said following the closing. "It's kind of sad."