Bristol Works to celebrate success at open house

BRISTOL — Since launching in the heart of downtown in 2011, the Bristol Works business park boasts about a dozen tenants across manufacturing, healthcare and energy sectors. On Friday, the community is invited to come see for themselves during an open house on the campus, which is located at Munsill Avenue and Pine Street.

“We decided after three years or so since we bought the campus to celebrate the fact that we’re fully loaded and vibrant, and host a dozen or so happy campers,” said Bristol Works co-founder Kevin Harper.

Harper said many residents of Bristol and the five-town area may not be aware of all that Bristol Works has to offer.

“As we’ve started to think about it, it struck us to just open the doors to throw a little party to educate the neighborhood,” Harper said. “I think it would be a mistake to not report out to the community, so they can see this redevelopment project for themselves.”

The campus hosts the Bristol Bakery, Bristol Internal Medicine, Red Clover Dentistry, the Mountain Health Center, Vermont Farm Table, Marble Works Pharmacy, the Counseling Service of Addison County, Aeolus Labs and Aqua Vitea, as well as the offices for the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union and the Bristol Police Department.

In total, about 75 to 100 people work on the campus, which sits on six acres and boasts 47,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space.

The idea for Bristol Works came about after Autumn Harp, a cosmetics manufacturer, left the site for Essex Junction in 2009. It had been the town’s largest employer.

“The goal was to bring light manufacturing jobs back to the area,” explained Harper, who co-founded Autumn Harp and sold it before it relocated. He noted that the jobs Bristol Works has created have good pay and benefits.

Reviving manufacturing in Bristol wasn’t a novel idea — the site on which the campus sits has hosted industry since the late 19th century. But Harper’s vision for a series of small manufacturers didn’t exactly pan out. Instead, Bristol Works now hosts businesses in several different fields, creating a diversified economy for Bristol, so the town is no longer reliant on one company for its economic health.

Harper said that the close proximity and shared resources help build a sense of community and collaboration among the tenants.

“We share bathrooms, entryways and loading docks,” Harper said. “As companies grow, we can provide more on the benefits side of things.”

Harper lauded the campus as a place where residents can park and then complete all of their errands and attend medical appointments. Bristol Works is also close to Main Street and the Shaw’s grocery store.

“Bristol Works is the core center of the universe,” Harper said. 

Dr. Patrick Rowe, the dentist at Red Clover, said he feels fortunate to be located in the Bristol Works.

“There’s a huge benefit to us to being next door to two physicians’ practices and a pharmacy, having this concentration of health services in one place,” he said.

Rowe said he likes being able to build relationships with the other medical professionals in Bristol.

“When you’re calling next door about a patient, it makes it so much easier when you know the doctor personally,” he said.  “Any time you have a co-location of health services, you see a benefit.”

Martha Halnon, executive director of the Mountain Health Center, also praised the diversity of the businesses housed in Bristol Works.

“I think it’s great, the collection of entities (Harper) is getting in here,” Halnon said. “There are more options that are happening over time.”

Halnon said she like likes the shared spaces the campus provides.

“It’s a nice collection, where people can get together,” Halnon said. “We go out and share a common space, and sometimes the bakery leaves us goodies.”

Mountain Health Center sees between 700 and 1,000 patients every month, and Halnon said that number has grown since the facility was designed a federally qualified health center, which allows Mountain Health to receive federal grants and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements. Halnon added that the open house will be a good opportunity to spread the word about the center’s services.

“We’re definitely growing, and are definitely trying to get the word about who we are and what we do,” she said. “We want to show some of that to folks who come by.”

In the future, Harper said he hopes to build cottages on the open space left on the property to house senior citizens, providing a place for retirees who don’t want to move away from their hometowns.

“People who grew up in Bristol don’t want to go to Middlebury or Shelburne to find their final homes,” Harper reasoned. “In the next year or two we’ll move into the housing component in earnest.”

Harper also said he hopes Bristol works will become an official bus stop, so residents in the five towns without reliable transportation can access the shops and services on the campus.

Despite being a business hub in Bristol, Harper said be believes the campus fits well in the mostly residential neighborhood.

“It feels pretty good over here, from a space usage and neighborhood perspective,” Harper said. “I feel an obligation to invite the neighbors to investigate with their own eyes and their own two feet.”

“There’s rarely a day there aren’t 100 cars there,” Harper said. “It’s a hopping place.”

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