Wilmington Book Store To Re-Open
11/21/11 7:34AM By Nancy Eve Cohen
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(Host) Since Tropical Storm Irene flooded most of the stores in downtown Wilmington, it's been challenging for business owners to rebuild.
About a quarter have reopened. But on Friday, one more store owner will be opening her doors.
VPR's Nancy Cohen reports
(Cohen) Lisa Sullivan was hit with a double whammy this year. In April, a six-alarm fire broke out in the building that housed her Brattleboro store, the Book Seller. Water damage wiped out her entire inventory. Then came the flood in Wilmington.
(Sullivan) "We were actually in the building when it started flooding and we had to use a back door up a hill escape route because the water came so fast."
(Cohen) Sullivan owns Bartleby's Books on West Main Street. The flood raced down the road like a river. The water rose 46 inches in her store, swamping everything but the books on the top shelf. Sullivan learned something from the April fire: move quickly when there's water damage
(Sullivan) "We were in here within 40 hours of the flood removing all of the books all of the shelves. Everything was basically ruined. And within 48 hours my husband had pulled all of this drywall and insulation out so we could dry the building and we wouldn't get mold."
(Cohen) Despite their efforts, the store still suffered $325,000 in damage. Sullivan is happy to be reopening, but as the president of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, she's also thinking about other businesses. She says they face tough questions
(Sullivan) "I think in general anyone who hasn't opened up yet is dealing with the big issues of do they have enough money to rebuild? And also they're all facing in the short term, how do they pay their bills?"
(Cohen) Sullivan had to take out a loan from the Vermont Economic Development Authority. And several vendors have given her store a break, either by forgiving balances or offering longer terms to pay. And a number of publishers have donated books.
But the flood also brought Bartleby's new customers, people who have never walked in the store, but who are now buying online.
(Sullivan) "What we are really heartened by is the outpouring of support that we have had for our business, and the fact that our customers really want to see an independent bookstore reopen in this town."
(Cohen) Sullivan has hooked into that support. She's launched a new ad campaign that goes like this: "Come Hell or High Water I'm Buying My Books At Bartleby's."
For VPR News I'm Nancy Cohen
(Host) Reporting on Vermont's recovery from Tropical Storm Irene is supported by VPR's Journalism Fund.