BENNINGTON -- After four months of planning, LaFlamme's furniture will reopen its Bennington store in the former Alcaro Motor Sales dealership, 239 W. Main St., which has been vacant since 2003.
Christopher and Angela LaFlamme plan to open sometime in August, just over seven months after a fire engulfed the Northside Drive store. "We did not let the grass grow under our feet: You can't," LaFlamme said.
West Shore Management purchased the Main Street building Monday to lease it to Christopher LaFlamme. LaFlamme had crews carrying everything out of the space Tuesday to get it ready for renovation.
The LaFlammes and the town worked together to consider options for building another store. Rebuilding the Northside Drive location would have been a challenge due to new state laws on flood zones.
"My store would have been half the size that it was," LaFlamme said. "Nobody would have liked it as much as the (old) building, so I wasn't really going to be adding anything to the community Coming here allows me to be bigger, which is a good thing. But, it also allows me to take away an eyesore to the community that is the gateway to Main Street."
A closing sale at LaFlamme's Cambridge store, 2823 New York 22, will start this weekend to consolidate it with the new Bennington store that sits on an 18,000 square-foot footprint.
The former dealership and service center has had no regular upkeep over the past 11 years.
"These are things that I think had prevented this site from being redeveloped until now," said Michael Harrington, Bennington's economic and community development director. "We have been able to work hand in hand with both Angela and Christopher to mitigate the cost that's associated with that and the work that needs to be done."
The town committed up to $100,000 of revolving loan money to help with cleanup and redevelopment. LaFlamme's is also benefiting from the Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Grant program to help remediate the contamination left by the auto service station. Bennington County Regional Commission worked with the EPA to put together a corrective action plan for the site. The contamination cleanup crew is set to start work on Friday.
"From the town's perspective, anytime we are able to help a local company, move them into downtown and revitalize a property, I think that's a win," Harrington said.
The state is looking at the possibility of purchasing the old property from LaFlamme to expand the intersection of Northside Drive and Vermont Route 7A into a roundabout. However, nothing has been finalized.
The large outdoor landmark: The chair, that was rebuilt on Northside Drive in 2011, isn't going anywhere. "Everybody has been asking what's going to happen to the big chair as long as I have say, the big chair will remain where it is," LaFlamme said. "If for some reason I don't have say, it will still remain in Bennington. I will just have to find a good home for it."
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