We built it together

Monday November 12, 2012

Bob Stannard

Well, it works, but why would you be surprised? They’ve been working well for years in other countries. We also have had the benefit of having one work exceedingly well for many years here in Manchester already.

Of course, I’m talking about the new, duel roundabouts that are near completion in record time at what was once known as Malfunction Junction. It is now aptly christened "Function Junction." In a recent column I took the opportunity to commend all those who have worked so hard to do this project and to get it done on an accelerated schedule to the benefit of all.

I described how government can invest and create jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurs. I pointed out the new Garden Arts store on Highland Avenue owned and operated by Steve Burzon. Steve also went around the corner and turned a rather blasé service station into a wicked nice country store.

Steve is not the only one who sees what Manchester’s town government is doing to make Manchester a better place to do business. Those of us who live here have had the benefit of watching what can only be described as a breathtaking renovation project on Bonnet Street.

One of Manchester’s historic buildings was once home to the offices of renowned land surveyor, Byrd LaPrade. After a lifetime of providing service to this area out of this cool old building, Byrd decided it might be time to hand the building off to someone else. That someone else was local entrepreneur, Bill Drunsic.

Bill is a busy guy. He’s been involved in starting a great many projects in Manchester, not the least of which was helping his daughter, Amy Chamberlain, start up the Perfect Wife Restaurant on Routes 11/30. He also worked with the owners of the Northshire Bookstore, Ed and Barbara Morrow, to do the Spiral Press Café. Right next door he started the ice cream stand. He’s been doing all this while owning and operating a short-line railroad in Tennessee, no less.

For reasons that I’m sure his wife, Linda, has often wondered, Bill decided to purchase the old building from Byrd LaPrade and do a little remodeling. OK, a lot of remodeling. He has transformed a nice, old building into a stately, shining jewel in downtown Manchester. He didn’t just remodel this building. He brought it to level of prestige that few developers would ever have done. From the landscaping, to the new marble patio, to its new slate and copper roof this building now sparkles and practically screams to have you come inside.

And going into this building should almost be mandatory. The Manchester and the Mountains Area Chamber of Commerce was able to negotiate with Bill for its new home in the front half of the building. The Chamber used to be over next to Adams Park; not a bad location by any means, but they were outgrowing that space.

It will be a long time before they outgrow their new home with hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings with hewed beams and painted, wainscoting chair rails. The executive offices are upstairs as is the new conference room. The Manchester & the Mountains Area Chamber of Commerce has come into the 21st century with style, class and gravitas.

It’s hard to determine what the payback might be on an investment of this magnitude. In all likelihood, Mr. Drunsic will be an old man before he sees a return on his investment. Those who know Bill know that at this stage of his life it’s not about making a quick buck, but about looking down the road. It’s more about legacy than fortune.

It’s more about making your mark and leaving behind actions and deeds that will live on for generations. He didn’t have to pick the building up and move it (at great expense). He didn’t have to install a copper roof when presumably the town would have been more than happy to have him do what’s required. He didn’t have to go way beyond what would have been required. He didn’t have to hire an outstanding crew to hand make the features that make this building. He could have cut corners like we’ve seen other, less community minded developers, do.

What would possess a guy like Bill Drunsic to do this? It might be helpful to know how he thinks. He’s a tough businessman; make no mistake about that. He and I have butted heads in the past in his position as a member of the Planning Commission (where does this guy find the time?).

The other Bill Drunsic is a caring man who when asked to help a person unqualified to do so manage their finances, didn’t balk (where does he find the time?). The only regret that I can think of is that it’s too bad each and every town doesn’t have a person who cares for their town as much as Bill Drunsic. I bet they’re out there. Maybe all that is needed is for government to make the necessary infrastructure investments and get the ball rolling.

Bob Stannard lives in Manchester.


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