Wilmington Businesses Re-Open
10/14/11 7:34AM By Nancy Eve Cohen
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(Host) After Tropical Storm Irene raged through Wilmington in August most of the downtown businesses closed.
VPR's Nancy Cohen reports about a quarter have re-opened. Others are scrambling to get ready for the ski season.
(Cohen) Imagine a river rising so high it leaps over bridges. That's what the Deerfield did in Wilmington nearly seven weeks ago. Lisa Sullivan watched that day from a hillside. She saw Dot's Restaurant take one of the biggest hits
(Sullivan) "The water just kept getting higher and higher. We didn't know that Dot's was going to stand. We were waiting for the moment when Dot's would be carried down the river."
(Cohen) Dot's, which is famous for home-cooked breakfasts does still stand. But Irene ripped the back off the building and it's not open for business. Just down the road, other businesses, like Lisa Sullivan's Bartleby's Bookstore, are in a hurry to rebuild
(Sullivan) "We're fast and furious. And we feel strongly that we need to be open again in November. Our biggest sales month is December and we can't lose it. So time is our biggest enemy at this point and we are running up against it."
(Cohen) Sullivan has future floods in mind: Her furnace is being moved upstairs. New windows are built higher.
Sullivan is also the President of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce. She gives me a tour of the battered streets.
(Sullivan) "We used to have sidewalks all throughout town and now there are spots like here where the side walks need to be replaced"
(Cole) "That's our open sign We're open today! "
(Cohen) Elizabeth Cole of Quaigh Design, which sells jewelry and pottery, says it's a good feeling to be open again
Besides Quaigh, ten out of the 40 businesses that were closed have reopened. Including the Anchor Seafood House and Grille where Adam Lemire is lunching on baked stuffed clams. He says Wilmington was like a ghost town.
(Lemire) "In the last few weeks I've been seeing more and more people out just walking. You know even though a lot of the businesses aren't open its not as depressing as it was. It's pretty good now.".
(Cohen) But the sounds of demolition and recovery fill the air. Jeremy Werner is ripping down a ceiling at a downtown law office right on the Deerfield River.(Dugan) "We had to take down all the walls. There was four layers of floor we had to dig up. There's glass everywhere from the water breaking the windows. It's pretty Cloroxy and Pine-soley smelling in here."
(Cohen) Nearby Eileen Ranslow's showroom, which was once filled with carpet and tile samples, has been scrubbed and rescrubbed.
(Ranslow) "It's just pasty mud and it clings to everything."(Cohen) Ranslow started this store 41 years ago. She's had tough times. But nothing like this.
(Ranslow) "You know for the most part I'm fine until I start really getting into, you know, the future and are we all going to make it?"
(Cohen) Unlike homeowners, business owners like Ranslow can't get grants from FEMA. If they need money borrowing is the only choice
(Ranslow) ‘"Everybody in town has to take a long, hard soul-searching to even continue. You know it's very difficult to come through the economy the way it is now and it has been for the last two and a half three years and have to deal with taking out mortgages. I have no mortgages right now, but I'm going to have one."
(Cohen) Ranslow has a big sign in her window thanking volunteers for help cleaning up. It says "In Vermont we're all neighbors." That sentiment resonates with visitors from other states. Jim Mcinnis from New York is going to tell his friends to visit Wilmington"
(Mcinnis) "It's not gone. It's just bruised a little bit, but it ain't broken."
(Cohen) For VPR News I'm Nancy Cohen.
(Host Outro) Irene flood recovery coverage is supported in part by the VPR Journalism Fund.