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Lyndonville Working On Downtown Rejuvenation


As seen in the Caledonian Record:

LYNDONVILLE — A new committee is at work on trying to rejuvenate the downtown.

The group was borne from the recent Community Visit process townspeople and local and state officials took part in with the Vermont Council on Rural Development.

Improving the downtown was identified as one of the top three priorities in the visioning process that dozens of residents and community leaders participated in.

Kim Crady-Smith, owner of Green Mountain Books & Prints for the past ten years as well as owner of the Grindstone Café, is the chair of the downtown committee.

She said on Friday, “We are working on some short term projects, more art in the downtown,” including murals, and also a winter lantern walk.

“In the long term, we are working on downtown wide Wi-Fi and possibly working on incentives to help new businesses in the downtown area,” said Crady-Smith. “Thus far we have only met once so things are still nascent.”

The other two top priorities which task forces have formed around are strengthening partnerships between the town and its educational institutions at all levels, and recreational opportunities in Lyndon.

On Thursday afternoon, Congressman Peter Welch took a walking tour of Lyndonville’s downtown, along with Municipal Administrator Justin Smith, Town Planner Annie McLean, Sen. Jane Kitchel and State Rep. and Lyndon Select Board Chair Marty Feltus, Village Trustee Susan Mills, and members of Welch’s team.

Smith set up visits to three businesses: a new one, Lead & Tackle opened this spring by Ted Benoit; Green Mountain Books & Prints, owned by Crady- Smith for a decade but in business for 41 years in Lyndonville; and White Market, a family business now being operated by the third generation of the Bona family.

Benoit told the congressman that traditional retail has been hurt by the internet, but he’s banking on being able to offer selection with personal service, and a passion you can’t get off a website. He eventually is planning to teach workshops such as fly fishing, he said.

“This is a pretty cool operation,” observed Welch, checking out the inventory of fishing and hunting sports equipment, and looking over antlers set up on display on the glass counter. “You’ve got a pretty good inventory, this must be expensive.”

Benoit said people expect A-Z inventory so he has that on display, and can get stock in very quickly with today’s expedited shipping capability.

“Retail is a dying breed,” said Benoit, who quickly said he’s hoping his personal service and passion for sports and knowledge will offer the kind of experience local sporting enthusiasts appreciate. “I am willing to go the extra step to make sure their experience is what they envision it to be,” he said.

Up the street at the White Market on the corner of Main and Depot streets (one of three the Bona family operates between St. Johnsbury and Lyndon), Sarah (Bona) Lafferty spoke to Welch about her employees’ struggles with health issues and her family business trying to provide health care to some 200 workers, at a cost that is about $400,000 a year now due to several health conditions their pool has.

“That’s almost all of our profit,” she told Welch.

She also founded a preschool on Church Street around the corner, and said the need for quality child care is critical in the Northeast Kingdom.

At Green Mountain Books & Prints, Crady-Smith told Welch that, “It’s been going well, different trends have been up and down, unfortunately the trend has been down in the last couple of years.”

Crady-Smith said she does many special orders and also sells books online, and has about 1,000 books online now for sale, which helps. She said she reaches out to teachers and local schools, gently asking them to bring them some of their book business each year, saying even 10 percent of a school’s buying can make a huge difference if that spending is kept local.

She buys as much as she can local, including her paper products, which she gets from the St. Johnsbury Paper Company, she said.

Crady-Smith said she plans to work soon with the Northern Communities Investment Corporation (NCIC) to launch a new website to help her business in the future, and she’s looking forward to that. “I think there’s more I can do,” she said. “I’m excited about the new website, I think that will make a difference.”

The idea to have murals painted downtown came from the downtown brainstorming ideas during the community visit process, where making Lyndon the “mural capital of New England” was one of the ideas; another was to try to attract a microbrewery or bar to the downtown.