BRISTOL — Some Bristol businesses struggled through the heavy winter as a couple empty storefronts on Main Street reflect.
Five Main Street businesses closed this year and two operations moved — Bristol Physical Therapy set up shop on North Street and the Pathways program of the Mount Abraham Union High School, which had a Main Street storefront, moved back into the school — leaving a total of seven vacancies on Bristol’s main drag.
“We had more (stores closed on Main Street) than anybody can remember at any point in time,” said Carol Wells, a selectboard member and executive director of the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership. “The recession hit some businesses really hard.”
But as summer sets in and spirits begin to rise, so too is the Main Street business scene. As many as four new businesses are projected to open there in the next two months:
• Recycled Reading of Vermont will hold its grand opening this Saturday, June 11, starting at 9 a.m.
• ND’s Tavern, situated in the old Dan’s Place location, is shooting to open on June 15.
• Painter Reed Prescott is aiming to unveil a new home improvement showcase called Verde Mountain by the end of the month.
• Bristol resident Todd Warnock is in the planning stages of founding an outdoor gear shop.
Virginia natives Melissa and David Hernandez decided to leave their home state and make a life change.
“We’d had enough of being down there and just fell in love with Vermont, so we quit our jobs and moved up here,” Melissa Hernandez said.
With a strong love for books and a substantial background working in the book-selling industry — she has been a supervisor for Barnes and Noble and an assistant manager for a Virginia book chain — Hernandez decided to follow her heart and open a book shop in Vermont. Initially searching for a space up North, Hernandez decided that Bristol was an ideal location when she and her husband drove through the town one picturesque autumn day.
“We visited here a year ago in the fall and it was just so incredibly beautiful,” said Hernandez. “As soon as we came into town we just loved how it felt with the shops, restaurants and great friendly people.”
Now Hernandez is set to open her own bookstore, Recycled Reading of Vermont, located at 25A Main St. next to Art on Main. The 800-square-foot space will have a wide range of used books and spotlight a large selection of children and young adult literature. Additionally, the store will trade CDs and DVDs.
Complimentary coffee and tea will be available in the reading section, where customers can lounge on couches and chairs with the convenience of free wireless Internet.
“I’d like to have a shop where people can come and browse through a large selection of books and spend some time and enjoy themselves,” said Hernandez, who will run the shop by herself at the beginning.
For the past several weeks, Hernandez has accepted trade-ins for store credit, and she will have more than 1,200 books when the store opens.
“Everybody who has stopped by has been extremely enthusiastic, so that’s been very encouraging,” said Hernandez. “I really appreciate everybody’s eagerness to have this store open.
When Wells approached Lincoln resident Reed Prescott about painting in a vacant Main Street space during Bristol’s Maple Fest in March, he obliged. Little did he realize how much he would enjoy painting in the middle of Bristol.
“It just grew from there,” said Prescott. “I could see more traffic, people were coming in to check out my work, I had the ability to give art lessons, and I thought I’ve got to figure out a way to stay on Main Street.”
Enjoying the spotlight that Main Street shined on his business, Prescott figured other local artisans, craftsmen and specialists would enjoy a similar boost. Since he didn’t need much room to paint, he decided to fill a storefront with a showroom for local “home improvement” businesses. In the space previously occupied by Bristol Cliffs Music Center at 19 Main St., he’s working hard to open a new store he’s calling “Verde Mountain.”
The way that Verde Mountain will work is that each business involved will put down an annual payment on the space so their products or services can be illuminated on Main Street. Customers looking for home products and services ranging from interior design and landscape work to hand-woven rugs and a Reed Prescott original painting will be able to find them there.
“The concept is that when you walk in here, it’ll feel like walking into a house except that everything will be done by local businesses,” said Prescott. He explained that extended portfolios for each business will be provided in digital, scrolling picture frames next to tangible examples of their work.
Prescott, who is still searching for tenants, aims to eventually have 18-20 businesses in the showroom, but will open with as few as 12. So far, Prescott said that he already has the commitment of six businesses other than his own:
• Stilwell Design, an architectural design firm in Lincoln.
• Stark Mountain Woodworking, a high-end woodworking company in New Haven that specializes in everything from cabinetry to furniture to kitchen renovations.
• DP Decorative Painting of Bristol.
• Thomas Builders and Design, a construction company in Lincoln that focuses on custom projects.
• McLaughlin Hardwood Flooring of Bristol.
• Goss Works, a technology and electronics specialist.
Additionally, Prescott is looking for a frame maker, a landscaper, an interior designer, a rug maker and any other businesses related to home improvement.
Prescott hopes that he will share the duties of working the showroom with two other business owners. He plans on painting in the showroom and assisting customers as they come in. Some products will be available for purchase in the showroom, but all of the money will go directly to their respective maker. For certain other products and services contact information will be on hand and referral won’t cost the buyer or seller a thing.
“I think his concept is unique,” said 19 Main St. landlord Tom Wells. “I’m impressed with it. I think he can provide great exposure and showroom space for good local businesses and through that synergy help them all be successful.”
“It’s an exciting time in Bristol,” added Prescott. “The town is on an upswing.”
Nina Badger and David Bannister, proprietors of ND’s said in an article in the May 30 edition of the Independent that they will keep the overall layout of the tavern similar to Dan’s Place, though they are giving the bar a facelift and revamping some of the kitchen equipment.
Warnock said on Friday that the outdoor gear shop he is planning for Main Street is coming along, but he wasn’t able to provide details at this point.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].