Panache to close its doors next month


BENNINGTON >> Panache, a fixture on Main Street known for its vibrant window displays and eclectic inventory, will close its doors next month after 31 years in business.

In an interview with the Banner, Nancy Woltman, owner of the women's clothing store at 530 Main St., sent much thanks to the many people that she's worked with. She noted that she's seen economic ups-and-downs over the past three decades, and spoke about the importance of supporting local businesses. Woltman says she's considering future options for herself, including setting up an online store. She said she also wants to help recruit new businesses to Bennington.

"I'm retiring Panache," Woltman said at the business on Friday afternoon. "But I'm not retiring myself."

Panache developed a dedicated following for an eclectic mix of items, from both year-round residents, second home owners and visitors passing through town.

"That's the beauty of having a business downtown," Woltman said. "You get to know the community. You get to know the tourists who come back every year and stop in."

"We would send postcards out to our customer base," she continued. "Even people who are from New Jersey bring their postcard to redeem the coupon when they come back through."

Panache will remain open until the end of September. A store-wide sale started on Friday and includes the entire inventory, as well as the fixtures. And new items for the fall will also be marked down when they are soon put out on the sales floor, Woltman said.

Woltman, who owns the two-story building, said she already has another tenant for the first floor space. She declined to say whom the tenant is, but did say an announcement would be made soon.

Woltman and two partners opened the store in August of 1985. One partner had seen a shop in San Francisco that offered a mix of different merchandise to accommodate different needs and tastes. It was a new concept, Woltman said. The store's name comes from the French word for "plume" and cannotes flamboyance. It's inventory eventually grew to include and children's clothing and used clothing, as well as gifts, Yankee candles, furniture, kitchen items, home decor, toiletries and more.

Panache has been at Canopy Shoppe Building at 530 Main St., its fourth location, for about 10 years. It started at 465 Main St., now home to the Bennington Bookshop, Village Chocolate Shoppe, and the Here We Grow children's consignment shop; It then moved to 430 Main St. (now Evans' News) and after that, 457 Main St. (now the Gamers' Grotto). As the business prospered, Woltman said, she and her son Kris bought the building at 465 Main St.

Woltman also owned a store similar to Panache in Rhode Island for 15 years. Her only regret, she said, was not setting up shop in a downtown.

"You didn't feel like you were in a community," Woltman said. She spoke highly of the fellow shopkeepers on Main Street in Bennington. Woltman, who is a founding member of the Better Bennington Corp., said she was pleased to see how that organization has grown over the years.

"I've seen it have ups and downs," Woltman said. "I've been very fortunate to go with ups and downs and have a good career."

Her employees have been key to her business.

"One thing I learned way back is that people working for you contribute to the store in a lot of different ways, depending on what their talents are," Woltman said.

Kimalie Wassick has worked with Woltman for 28 years. Wassick, a graphic artist, remembers Woltman asking her to create a window display for Christmas. Wassick would become an integral part of the business, buying inventory, designing displays and helping customers.

"She was the best person to work for," said Wassick, who said she would continue work as an artist. "There was never a day in those 28 years where I said I didn't want to go to work. I absolutely loved my job."

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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