Part of our feasibility study to see if the Skyline property on Vermont's Hogback Mountain would work for Vermont Woods Studios is anaylzing the possibility of co-locating a cafe or wine bar with the furniture showroom. It's not a real natural combination, is it (furniture and food)?
But two factors keep pointing to the pairing of these functions at Skyline:
- The Skyline location, on top of Hogback Mountain, with it's 100 mile view of the Green Mountain Forest offers what I've been looking for to raise awareness about where your wood furniture comes from. After all, you can buy imported wood furniture anywhere but it's probably going to be made from illegally harvested trees, clear-cut from the world's rapidly disappearing tropical rainforests. Our customers are interested in acquiring heirloom quality, Vermont-made furniture that's crafted from natural, solid, wood that's been sustainably harvested from beautiful, well-managed American forests (more about green, environmental concerns here).
- The other factor is that: How could you operate ANYTHING at Skyline without inviting people to come up and enjoy the view? It would be kinda like that commercial for Ally bank where the guy asks 2 little girls if they'd like a pony. He shows a real pony to one of the girls but only gives her a little figurine instead. The announcer says something like: "even kids know it's wrong to hold out on somebody." That's how I'd feel having a business at Skyline that didn't offer people a place to relax and enjoy the view with a cup of tea or a glass of wine.
So now we're trying to figure out how to strategically pair a Vermont-made furniture showroom with a cafe or wine bar. Allocating space is the conundrum of the day. 60% furniture — 40% cafe? Additional seasonal seating outside? I guess the answers will reveal themselves as we do our research.
Got ideas? Suggestions? Interested in running an upscale cafe at Skyline? Contact us on Facebook and jump into the conversation. We'll be looking for local help as we navigate through the feasibility study and (hopefully) beyond.
Remember this photo? Well, I mentioned in the summer that Ken and I were looking to purchase a property that Vermont Woods Studios Furniture could call home.
This week we signed an offer to purchase the old Skyline Restaurant property on Route 9 in Marlboro, Vermont (across from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum and Giftshop). It's just a first step and there are many hurdles to be jumped before a sale can happen but even so, we're pretty excited about it. And nervous.
We looked at dozens of properties throughout southern Vermont (courtesy of Suzanne King at Masiello Real Estate) and liked this one best because of its beautiful location in the foothills of the Green Mountain National Forest. We wanted a place where we could welcome customers and let them experience the link between Vermont's handmade wood furniture and the forest where it comes from.
So today starts our journey to take Vermont Woods Studios to the next level. We'll keep you posted as to how things go. We were lucky enough to persuade Brattleboro's best architect (J Coleman and Co) and engineer (Stevens and Associates PC) to help us out by doing some initial feasibility studies to see if the (distressed) Skyline property and existing building are up to the task of renovation and re-birth. We'll be immersed in that assessment for probably the next couple months. We'll be asking your opinion as we go– either through the comment link below or on our Facebook or preferably over a glass of wine in our kitchen.
We're looking to make this a green project that produces a showroom worthy of the elegant handmade furniture inside and the incredible natural beauty of the Green Mountains outside. Check back in now and then and give us your thoughts and advice.
By Shannon Albritton
This is the second installment from our newest Vermont Woods Studios staff member, Shannon Albritton. She recently moved to Marlboro, Vermont from New Hope, PA and is sharing her adventures as she lives through the after-effects of Hurricane Irene.
On Thursday evening I attended my first Vermont town meeting. We arrived early and helped set up folding chairs in a semi-circle, “So we can all see each other”, suggested a volunteer.
More than 200 Marlboro residents filled the school gymnasium. We looked tired but seemed in generally positive spirits. We greeted each other and exchanged our tales of woes and Vermont-made miracles. We listened intently to our town leaders and emergency management officials as they laid out the next steps and protocols for moving forward in our little town, where 80% of our roads had been destroyed. A local farm brought pizza for all to share. The rate at which we devoured every last piece of this delicious, hot, homemade treat told me I wasn’t the only one who had forgotten to eat that day.
Following the meeting, I met Josh Stilts, reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer. He expressed his concern for the people still stranded down off Auger Hole Rd. I confirmed his concerns and told him my husband and I had hiked in earlier that day to check on friends. I offered to escort Josh down the mountain the next day via a logging road behind my home. Josh eagerly accepted my invitation and we parted ways.
Friday morning I waited on the grounds of Marlboro College to hear Governor Peter Shumlin speak about his plans to put us back together. As I walked into the auditorium I stopped, turned and there was the Governor right in front of me! We had just about run into each other. A bit star-struck and caught of guard I shook his hand and thanked him for doing a great job. “It’s the people of Vermont who are doing a great job” he said, as he squeezed my hand and moved forward toward the stage.
His speech told of the heroic acts of Vermonters and our resilience and tenacity. He shared that a reporter, who had covered Katrina and Joplin Missouri, had commented that he was inspired but the general positive attitude and community of the people of Vermont in the wake of that wicked-woman Irene.
Following the speech, I met Josh outside and we headed to the logging trail. I filled my backpack with frozen water bottles, granola bars and my solar shower for my friends “in the hole” and we set off to down the mountain. I’m not sure the actual distance, it feels like a one-mile on the way down and six on the way back up.
At the bottom I introduced Josh and passed my tour guide torch off to my friend Kim who led us further down into the Auger Hole. Kim informed Josh on how they were surviving and getting supplies. One man, thought to be in cardiac distress, had been carried out by several others the previous night and rushed to the hospital. They were not sure if he had survived but I was able to inform her he was in fact, OK and just severely dehydrated. “We couldn’t call for help so they carried him out”, she said. “We feel deserted down here, you’re the first people to come to check on us”. We continued our hike down the road turned riverbed once known as Auger Hole Rd. The very same road I drove every day to work when I first moved to Vermont. What now lies in its place is indescribable and pictures can barely do it justice. Picture an empty riverbed approximately 25’ deep and 30’ wide as a long as the eye can see.
A local man had grown tired of waiting for township approval and brought his equipment into the hole to construct a temporary road to free those trapped on the other side. His equipment appears like a tinker toy at the bottom of the pit. Josh snapped photos and took video interviews. “It would be pretty awesome if it wasn’t so tragic…” I said, as we stood staring awestruck down into the hole. We all nodded quietly and walked on.
Moments later Emergency Management arrived on the scene with cases of water and MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat). Will & Rory, stranded residents of the Auger Hole, loaded them on borrowed ATVs and stuffed them into backpacks. These guys were referred to, in Josh’s article the following morning, as the dynamic-duo as they buzzed over the rocky terrain to deliver supplies to the stranded homes.
Feeling better knowing that the people of Auger Hole were stocked with food, clean water and on the road to safety, Josh and I packed up and headed back up the mountain towards home. It was a long climb back up that logging trail and we had plenty of time and content for good conversation. I asked him if he had enough content for his article and he replied, “plenty!” We then walked silently for a while, reflecting on they day and absorbing it into our minds and our hearts. I disrupted our silence, “So what’s your angle going to be?” and he paused and then replied, “there are so many, but I think I will go with the survival angle, being isolated down there and how they’ve all been working together with the resources they have to help each other.” I nodded in confirmation and flashed back to Governor Shumlin’s opening comment during his speech earlier that morning, “First I just want to say, I’ve seen more acts of generosity, bravery and courage in the last four days than I’ve seen in my entire life”. Yep, I’d have to agree.
I read a quote recently from a Vermonter whose barn and porch were swept away by mean ol’ Irene, “That’s Mother Nature” he said, “And this is Vermont. We just roll with it.”
I may be a Flatlander, but if this is what Vermonters are made of, I am incredibly proud to be a Vermonter-in-Training
Josh Stilts’s article “Down in an Auger Hole” can be read online at The Brattleboro Reformer.
Recently we at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture were fortunate enough to hire Shannon Albritton to work with customers in Sales and Customer Service. Three weeks after starting her job with us, Hurricane Irene blew through and we haven't seen Shannon since. She's been able to call us periodically on her cell phone though and yesterday I asked her to share her story with us on the blog. Here is the first installment:
By Shannon Albritton
I’m not a ‘Vermonter’; in fact, most Vermonters would call me a Flatlander. My husband and I moved to Marlboro in May of this year in search of the simpler life. There was a time that I considered our previous home in Upper Bucks County, PA to be somewhat rural, until we moved to Marlboro with its mountainous terrain and mostly dirt roads. We’ve been getting the full Vermont experience here, including visits from the local black bear but nothing could have prepared me for what I’ve experienced the past 5 days since Tropical Storm Irene bared down on our simple little town.
Today is Day 5 after Tropical Storm Irene graced us with her furry, sending torrential rains down the mountains of Marlboro and our neighboring towns. Once babbling innocent brooks were transformed into raging floodwaters, which decimated our dirt roads and gnawed gaping craters into the earth. Rt. 9, the main route in an out of Marlboro was literally severed and what remains are large craters scattered in it’s path. There is no viable route in or out of our little backcountry town for residents. Our only access off our mountain-town-turned-island is a moderately repaired road used for emergency access and construction traffic. Residents of Marlboro have been strongly encouraged to stay home so not to hinder the efforts of those who are working hard to come to our rescue and rebuild our roads
Our little road, just off Rt. 9 was washed away and literally cutting us off from access via our 4-wheel drive vehicles. We lost power mid-morning on Sunday and the next 4 days we ran our small generator on rationed fuel to keep the fridge running and gain limited access to the internet to try and stay posted on what was going on outside our home and, of course, check in at Vermont Woods Studios. I’ve been on the job at VWS just 3 weeks before having to call out of work! Thank goodness the people at VWS are so compassionate and they assured me not to worry and just stay safe. Whew!
I’ve watched many tragedies unfold on television and the Internet over the years. Living in PA I’ve watched the Delaware River tear through the river towns of New Hope, Frenchtown and others and drown them in her waters. Like other Americans I watched the 24-disaster coverage of hurricane Katrina but nothing could have prepared me for seeing the vast devastation of what I’ve seen here in Vermont from Irene. There’s a general look of bewilderment on our faces and as we cross paths to check on others or visit Sweetie’s Market for a few supplies. Our roads are gone, houses have been ripped off their foundations, some were evacuated and forced to leave their beloved pets behind. What once were roads now look like empty riverbeds and some have been told it could be 2-3 months before a passable road could be created.
Yesterday we visited Wilmington for supplies, it’s the closest grocery store and still accessible via Rt.9 from our home. Wilmington, my favorite charming little town, suffered a terrible blow from Irene. As I walked into town a woman in front of a church offered me apples and granola bars. I declined and thanked her for generosity. I walked down the intersection of Rt. 9/100 and just watched. Storeowners were cleaning out their flooded stores filled with layers of sand and silt. The downtown area had a beachy sort of feel to it with the streets and sidewalks covered in sand. People passed me with tear-filled eyes and looked as if they were trying to hold back from just completely breaking down. I was filled with emotion as I stood there quietly watching, it seemed like I was recalling scenes from a movie I must have once seen. These people have lost their livelihoods and most are not insured for flooding. It was surreal. I forced back my own tears while standing in the middle of this odd movie but finally broke down early this morning. I did not cry for myself but for all the others who have lost so much, for the pets left behind and for our beautiful state and the destruction it did not deserve. I have been blessed through this entire experience and reminded that blessings often come from sources and circumstances we least expect. I’ve met more of my neighbors and community members in the 5 days of the Irene aftermath than the entire 4 months I have lived in Vermont. Those who were strangers have now become friends. Our community is just a bit stronger and our people know each other just a bit better.
I saw a sign yesterday that read “Irene was tough but Vermonter’s are tougher”. I believe this is true, even as a lowly Flatlander. Our physical bridges and roads may have been destroyed but our soul and resilience remains strongly in tact. Bridges between people have been built in the face of adversity… bridges that 100 hurricane’s could never destroy.
Peggy's note: For more information on the status of Vermont, post Irene– see the Facebook page for the residents of Marlboro, VT that Shannon put together to help residents connect with each other and their family members from afar.
I guess I should say expansion plans, hopes and dreams. Well at any rate, we are once again very excited to be out-growing our space at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture and we're looking at options for the future. We love our landlord here in Vernon and we've already rented a second suite from him. But we're also starting to think that purchasing a property might be smart.
Here's Ken, waiting for me to climb onto his bike as we cruise around Vermont looking at potential places. We asked our favorite real estate agent, Suzanne King of Masiello Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate for help and she's been kind enough to show us dozens and dozens of properties, including these:
I feel horrible asking Suzanne to trek around all over tarnation with us, but as we grow our needs keep changing, so the properties we looked at 3-6 months ago are no longer adequate. We keep needing more room! Lately we've been looking at an old, historic property in Marlboro, Vermont where the Skyline Restaurant used to be. The building is dilapidated but it's on a property with a stunning view and it's right in the middle of Vermont's Green Mountain Forest. It's an interesting possibility as we work to raise awareness about forest conservation and our green mission.
Have any other ideas we should check out for our next move? Let me know and I'll keep you posted on our progress as we move forward.