Pownal businesses along Route 7 prepare to transition
POWNAL -- Business along Route 7 will soon look different, with several local stores preparing to transition. One will close its doors for good, and others will soon change hands or rebuild. MOVING ON
The Studio Club Artworks at 3301 Route 7 has been selling handmade crafts and gourmet Vermont foods for over seven years, but Pat Kane and her husband Gabe Palmer will soon spend their last foliage season as business owners in Vermont.
Despite business being very good the first year, Kane said, "It was probably bad timing on our part, the economy started to go down right after."
Primarily photographers, Kane and Palmer renovated the 10,000 sq. ft building, filling additional space with camera and studio equipment.
"We were looking for someplace that was big enough to house a photo gallery," said Kane. They found it, but day-to-day operations at the store kept them from their original vision. "We ended up being too busy."
The pair first moved to the area from Connecticut, where they will likely return to pursue their art.
"We've had a lot of customers who are sorry to lose the resource," said Kane, who noted the building has not been listed for sale as yet, in part because there are no comparable listings on the market.
Any remaining inventory will likely be transported to another store in Connecticut where it will be sold.
REBUILDING AFTER FIRE
Down the road, the Mahican Moccasin Shop is being rebuilt after it was destroyed in a fire last year.
Charles Gray, 81, watched it burn down on his 80th birthday after faulty wiring ignited within the wall, according to Gray, who has operated his moccasin local crafts and leather-goods store at its 2970 Route 7 location since 1960.
"I'm trying to keep it local, we've used all Vermont materials and local folks to do the work," said Gray, of the timber-frame structure.
Near half the size of the previous store, the new building stands one floor rather than two. Gray said he will keep the smaller building adjacent as a place to store additional inventory. Previously he has rented it to as many as five local businesses including a seamstress and an embroidery shop.
On Tuesday, Charles McMorrow and George Gazaille set up an outdoor awning, although the inside of the building remains vacant, with the exception of some stacked items that were salvaged from the fire.
Gazaille, who, along with McMorrow referred to himself as a ‘volunteer,' first noticed the fire that started in an upstairs apartment last June 21.
"If it wasn't for his alertness, who knows," said Gray, who at one time taught machine technology at Sprague Electric.
Since going through the rebuilding process, Gray said he thinks town zoning should be more receptive to small businesses. Although conceding that times change, Gray remembered building his store originally, when no permits were required.
"I can see the town wanting to upgrade its environment and wanting to promote a nice image, but they should make it easier for people to come here," said Gray, with the goal of a Columbus Day weekend re-opening in mind.
As of Wednesday, Gray said all work had been shut down after "the fire marshall served [him] with a stop-work order" early in the morning, due to not receiving the full details of the building plan.
According to Pownal Valley Fire Chief Joel Howard, no such stop-work order was issued. Neither does the Town of Pownal employee a building inspector to monitor those type of problems. "If it didn't come from me I don't know who it would have came from," said Howard.
Gray said he is looking forward to getting back to work as soon as possible.
HISTORY IN POWNAL, CHANGING HANDS
Next door, also waiting for permits but less hurried, the Village Market will soon take on a more "energetic" manager.
Lin Buck has owned the Market for the past 28 years, since purchasing the 3000 Route 7 location from original owners the Gardners in 1985; she will remain owner of the building but lease the store to current employee Jess Egan.
The present convenience store and bottle redemption services will remain, with Egan planning to expand the deli by offering custom-made sandwiches.
"Remodeling will happen eventually, but not right away," said Buck. "We're both very excited to see the changes." Buck plans to semi-retire, while offering income tax preparation services as a part-time business out of the same location but from a separate entrance.
"Even with all the changes - the new competition and the economy, the store has remained in business here," said Buck, referencing newcomers Quality Convenience, Stewart's, the Dollar General and Takoda's Discount Variety.
"It is so ingrained into Pownal history, our customers remain loyal."
At the Pownal Select Board meeting Thursday night, board members approved Egan's application for a first class liquor and tobacco license.
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