Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to our customers, staff, furniture makers, shippers and friends! We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support during this very challenging year at Vermont Woods Studios. We wish you all the best of health and happiness in the coming year. Check back often in 2013 to see the latest progress at Stonehurst, our future fine furniture showroom and nature center. Your encouragement and support are what make this step towards achieving our green mission possible!
Act 250, Water and Building Permits Good to Go
Woohoo! After 5 months of working through engineering and architectural plans for our sustainable Vermont furniture showplace, we have finally been approved by the state of Vermont to begin renovations at Stonehurst. YAY! It’s really not so easy renovating an historic property for commercial use in Vermont but we think it’s worth the trouble.
Vermont requires three permits for this kind of endeavor: a detailed environmental assessment called the Act 250 permit, a water and wastewater permit and a building permit. Together with supporting documentation, the three permits create a stack of paper about a foot high, requiring an army of expert consultants to complete them. And we’re not done. There are many caveats and contingencies that will have to be satisfied as we progress. Ken and I never imagined this extreme when we purchased the building. It was our architect, Jeremy Coleman who walked us through the maze of bureaucracy and red tape and patiently explained the codes and our compliance options.
Vermont’s Complex Building Regulations
At first we were in disbelief at the overwhelming extent of requirements and expense to comply with Vermont’s complex codes. There are several government agencies to deal with and get approval from. Sometimes they are at odds with each other. But as we finally get to a point where our plans have been approved and renovations can begin I guess we are beginning to see some method to the madness.
Stonehurst is Worth the Trouble
After all Vermont is a very special place for nature lovers and we want it to always stay that way. Detailed environmental and building regulations help to ensure that. Like many Vermont businesses, Vermont Woods Studios is built on a green mission. Ours is forest conservation and environmental preservation, so (in spite of the high cost of regulations) I can’t imagine finding a more suitable home for it than Stonehurst in Vernon, Vermont.
Stay tuned for more updates on our sustainable furniture showroom over the next couple months and plan to visit us for an open house in the early summer. Till then keep updated by subscribing to this blog or visiting our Facebook.
See you at the Grand Opening (TBA)!
ADA Compliance: Lift vs Ramp
When expanding, small retail businesses in Vermont often consider historically significant spaces such as downtown buildings or old farmhouses. ADA compliance is a major factor in determining the feasibility of such a move. Entrepreneurs should seek the advice of an architect or other professional during the earliest stages of planning.
Because many small businesses in Vermont are starting to consider expansion these days, I thought I’d share some of our experience with ADA Compliance at Stonehurst, our future Fine Furniture Gallery. In working with Jeremy Coleman + Company Architects and Bob Furlone of American Construction we’ve explored several alternatives to accommodating customers with disabilities. At first I began to call Jeremy Coleman “Dr. No”. He nixed every idea I had on layout and flow, because they weren’t ADA compliant. The codes aren’t intuitively obvious for a newcomer, but eventually I caught on.
The main challenge we have is that our 200 year old farmhouse sits 2 feet lower than the adjacent horse barn. Our plan is to connect the two buildings and transform them into a furniture showroom. But how will a person in a wheelchair be able to go from one building to the next?
We thought about a ramp, but there’s not enough room (a ramp cannot have more than 1″ rise in height per foot of length so that’s 24′ of ramp). Then we considered a 2′ high elevator lift, but it took up too much floor space and added $30,000 to our cost. Finally our builder, Bob Furlone suggested lowering the floor in the horse barn. It’s going to involve some excavating but we all feel it’s the best way to go.
We’re excited that soon we’ll be better able to accommodate the customers who contact us looking for customized furniture designed for wheelchair access. We’ve modified our dining tables many times by increasing the table height so a wheelchair can fit under the apron. Now those customers can come see us in person and enjoy the view of Vermont’s Green Mountain Forest while shopping comfortably from their wheelchair.
Stonehurst is still in the planning stages, while we wait for our Act 250 and other permits to be approved by the state of Vermont. After that happens, we’ll have a ground breaking ceremony and start digging. Stay tuned for more progress reports or follow us on Facebook for updates.
Sandy Dog Nannies of Vermont
After Hurricane Sandy tore through the Northeastern coast leaving a mess of destruction in her wake, many families had to evacuate their homes and are now living in temporary shelters until they can find a way to put their lives back together. One of the consequences that many people over look when a disaster occurs is what happens to family pets when people move into these shelters. Some shelters will take pets for a few weeks but after that, these families must find other solutions for their animals. Usually this means surrendering them to animal shelters and groups that are already filled with animals displaced by Hurricane Sandy. While local humane societies are doing a fantastic job at keeping up with the influx of abandoned pets, many people are just not willing to part with their beloved pets for good.
Luckily, there’s the Sandy Dog Nannies of Vermont! This group, founded by eight caring individuals, is working on connecting families in need with reliable, acceptable fosters in Vermont. Fosters will take pets in for up to 6-8 months while their owners look for more permanent housing. The group is currently looking for volunteers to foster animals, transport animals from NJ to VT, coordinate transport missions, respite support, perform home inspections and volunteers for general administrative work.
While I wasn’t able to convince Peggy to foster a dog here at the office (yet!), Vermont Woods Studios is currently looking for ways to get involved with the Sandy Dog Nannies. We’ve volunteered to transport dogs to Vermont and conduct home visits before dogs are placed with families. I’ll keep you posted on our progress!
Other Ways You Can Help Sandy Victims
Blood Donations: The American Red Cross is in need of blood donations after the cancellation of over 300 blood drives. A few of us here in the office will be heading into Brattleboro to give blood in a few weeks. (Check back on our blog in early December to see how it went).
Meals on Wheels: Citymeals.org delivers prepared meals to thousands of housebound elderly New Yorkers everyday. After Hurricane Sandy, there was an increased need for non-perishable meals for NY CityMeals recipients. Being volunteers for Meals on Wheels here in Vernon, this organizations’ efforts resonate closely with us. They are accepting monetary donations that are 100% dedicated to the preparation and delivery of meals.
Help by Request: AidMatrix along with the National Donations Management Network and the American Logistics Aid Network has a consolidated list available for responders to see exactly what is currently needed in problem areas.
More Help Links: The New York Times Blog is a great place to find more links and lists of exactly what is needed.
Vermonters from every corner of the Green Mountain state are putting together relief programs to assist our neighbors in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. This week Vernon and Brattleboro residents have a couple opportunities to help:
- The Brattleboro Rotary Clubs are organizing assistance for Sandy victims in New Jersey. Rotarians are accepting items to donate. They should be brought in labeled boxes of: Clothing (coats, underwear, socks, sweat pants, sweatshirts, and sweaters), blankets, towels, bedding and linens, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable food, and personal rooming supplies. You may donate items at the Estey Organ Buildings (between Building 3 & 4) at 102 and 108 Birge St.) on Monday, Nov. 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, contact Marty Cohn at 802-221-4821.
- Brattleboro Cheese has also organized a drive to collect items for delivery to New York City and New Jersey victims. Donors can drop off the following items at the Cheese Shop on 30 Main St in Brattleboro: blankets, candles, flashlights, water, food (non-perishable), lights, flashlights, batteries, diapers and wipes, gloves and masks, rubber boots, shovels, cleaning supplies and bleach, trash bags, serving dishes and utensils, anything that produces heat, winter wear (jackets, hats, gloves, warm stuff).
- Adivasi, a Flat Street store that was battered by Tropical Storm Irene, and Flat Street Rising are also organizing relief efforts. For more information call 802-258-2231.
Stay tuned for more ways to help and check out Loryn Dion’s posts for updates on Vermont’s growing relief effort.
I made a visit to our local Vernon History Museum last weekend to learn more about Stonehurst, the 200 year old farmhouse property we recently purchased as the future home for our Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom. I was lucky enough to run into Peggy Frost, Nancy and Dale Gassett and a few other volunteers who were working in the museum’s gardens. Peggy knew just where the old photos of Stonehurst were stored so we went inside the museum and spent a few hours pouring through them.
The Original Stonehurst
The original Stonehurst farmhouse was built circa 1800 but I can only find photos going back to 1870 or so. Near as I can figure, the shot above would have been taken around the time that Stonehurst was sold by Noyes and Theresa Streeter to Lucretia Kendall for a sum of $2000.00. That was recorded on March 9, 1868.
Pine Top Ski Resort
Stonehurst had a very different life from the 1940s to the 1960s when it operated as a ski resort named Pine Top. You can see from the photo below that the house looked essentially the same through the ages. At some point it was painted red over the original white. And the horse barn-woodshed to the left of the house was converted to a dormitory for overnight skiers.
After talking with Barbara Moseley, our Vernon Town Historian, I learned that Pine Top was owned by Romey and Elsie Racine, a couple that moved to Vermont from New Jersey. “The Racines hosted vacationers and skiers in their welcoming lodge and operated a 3 run ski area with warming hut, equipment rentals and ski patrol. It was all staffed by local families.” Pine Top was set up to lodge up to 26 guests, often accommodating families of students from nearby boarding schools, Northfield Mount Hermon and Deerfield Academy.
Stonehurst Tomorrow: A Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom
Happily, Stonehurst looks pretty much the same today as it did 70 years ago when Pine Top was operating. The property was sold to Bill and Elaine Ellis after Pine Top closed and the Ellis’ transferred it to Vermont Woods Studios in August of this year. We’re now working with J Coleman + Company Architects and Bob Furlone of American Construction to transform the property into a Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom. The goal is to create a relaxing destination shopping experience for our customers who journey here from all around the Northeast and beyond.
Stonehurst, with it’s beautiful vistas and 100 acres of forested land provides a venue for us to convey our environmental mission and show people where sustainable, handmade furniture comes from. Stay tuned for progress reports and a grand opening for Stonehurst next Summer.
Hurricane Sandy: What Vermont Can Do to Help
Just over a year ago, Hurricane Irene tore through Vermont leaving much of the state flooded, damaged and powerless. Many Vermonters lost their homes, their belongings or their loved ones because of the storm. Luckily, our neighboring states pitched in and offered disaster recovery assistance on the ground, collected supplies and supported us with monetary donations. While damages from Irene can still be seen across the state, we’re much stronger thanks to the help we received from our fellow New Englanders and Northeastern states.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Vermont was luckily spared minus a few thousand power outages, which is nothing compared to the devastation found in other Northeastern states. With over 8 million without power, as much as $50 billion in damages, over 3 feet of snow, and a death toll of 80 and rising, Superstorm Sandy is the costliest Hurricane to hit the Northeastern states in history. Many coastal communities are still underwater and much of the area is in the dark.
As Vermonters, it’s time to pay it forward and help out those who helped us during dark times. Vermont Woods Studios is shocked by the photos and stories that are popping up all over the news and we’ve been scouring the web looking for opportunities to lend a hand. It’s still very early to assess what kind of assistance is needed, but here’s a list of helpful links that have some great information on what you can do.
- VT Flood Response – Part of the Vermont Community Foundation, this website started back when Irene hit to help Vermonters find necessary resources. The site is again working to help those affected by disaster, but this time they’re reaching out to our neighbors. Check out their blog for up to the minute information on volunteer opportunities and resources for those affected in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.
- Volunteermatch.org – VolunteerMatch has compiled a great list of information about assisting with Hurricane Sandy. This site also has a great database to find volunteer opportunities in your area. You can search by cause, age group or location and find a program that’s right for you.
- American Red Cross – The American Red Cross is a major hub in disaster recovery. While the money you donate is not guaranteed to go to Hurricane Sandy victims (donations go into a fund for any disaster recovery effort), the money will help someone in need.
- Food Banks in CT, NJ, and NY – Donating to a food bank is a great way to donate to victims of a storm when you are not able to physically lend a hand. Food Banks in the affected areas are working hard to feed those who lost their homes and belongings to Sandy.
When a disaster like this happens, especially one so close to home, our first response is usually to jump in and lend a hand on the ground or bring supplies to those in need. Right now, many areas are still in disaster mode coming out of this storm. Emergency crews are working tirelessly to help those in danger. If those areas were flooded with inexperienced volunteers or with mass amounts of unnecessary supplies, it would make the jobs of rescue workers even more difficult. Until the major areas affected are in recovery mode, there is not much that the rest of us can do except donate what money we can and send thoughts and words of support.
Vermont Woods Studios expresses our condolences to families affected by Hurricane Sandy. Since we have customers and employees with families in those regions, we feel a special need to offer our help and support. While we have not organized anything yet, we are currently looking for ways to volunteer or raise money to support the victims of the storm. Keep an eye on our blog as we update with new resource links as they become available and opportunities for you to give back.
We are feeling very lucky this morning, waking up to intermittent rain and occasional gusts of wind from the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Although tens of thousands of Vermonters lost power last night, thankfully Vermont has escaped the worst of the storm. As pain from last year’s devastating Hurricane Irene has yet to subside, it makes me wonder if perhaps Mother Nature has a heart after all.
Our thoughts and prayers are going out to all our friends, family and customers who are today going through the kind of nightmare we woke up to last year on August 21, 2011. In the coming days we will be thinking of you and looking for ways to help. Vermonters have a tradition of reaching out in times of need and we will be supporting our state’s efforts to send relief to hurricane victims in neighboring areas. Stay tuned for details as they evolve.
Hurricane Sandy started tip-toeing in to Vernon this morning bringing a spooky Halloween greeting to everyone at Vermont Woods Studios. It’s been frightening hearing so much news about her colossal size and brutal behavior! We had a hard time focusing on our work, even though it was pretty calm and quiet all morning. It was like being in a Halloween fun house: scary because you never know when a demon is going to all of a sudden jump out in front of you.
By 2pm today, the rain started and winds began to pick up so we decided to make a run for it. The office will be closed for the rest of today to allow our staff time to hunker down and prepare for the worst. Hopefully Hurricane Sandy is more bark than bite and we’ll be back in business tomorrow. In the meantime, our website is operating just fine so you can still place orders online safely and securely. If you have any questions about your order, email email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Stay safe!
If I was a cow and you gave me a choice of where I could live, I’d seriously consider Vermont. Wouldn’t you? I mean, you’d think this guy has it pretty sweet… rolling pastures with a brook running between them, expansive views of the Connecticut River, lush meadows with an endless supply of green grass to feast on. What more could a steer ask for?
But you know what they say about the other side of the fence. For this poor guy, it’s a farm stand full of freshly picked corn, squash, tomatoes and other succulent veggies. It stands there all day long, fully stocked– and abundantly available with nothing in between but a barbed wire fence and an honor system.
Can you imagine the frustration? I don’t know if I could live like that. There’s not much else to do that might provide a distraction either. A couple times a day a train goes by. Once or twice a week the Cabot truck comes to get milk from the holsteins across the street but other than that, it’s pretty quiet in Vernon, Vermont.
So I think everyone in town cheered this guy on when he finally made his move. Who could blame him? I hope he had plenty of time to indulge before anyone noticed. I don’t know what the eventual consequences were, but from the looks of things it really didn’t matter much to him.
Like this post if you think this steer should eat for free.