RUTLAND—Spring may be missing in action, but businesses continue to sprout in downtown Rutland at a healthy pace. For the sixth month in a row, downtown has seen a new business open its doors each month. They’re all different and each is working to meet the demands of the local community in diverse ways.
“We’re seeing a rise in entrepreneurs creating businesses focused on unique experiences, niche products and specialized services,” said Steve Peters, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership. “These are exactly the qualities experts say will bring people into downtowns, despite the ever-changing landscape of online shopping and the difficulties plaguing national retailers.”
Starting back in November, The Bakery knocked down the back walls of its West Street café to create an offshoot business at 58 Merchants Row called The Bakery Annex. Owned and operated by Donald Billings of Roots and The Bakery, The Annex features a full service, sit down breakfast experience that includes omelets, specialty eggs Benedict, hashes, French toast with house made sourdough bread, craft cocktails and much more. As always, Billings prominently features fresh ingredients from local Vermont farms. The Annex is helping to meet the growing demand for breakfast and brunch within downtown while supporting the local farm and food economy.
Then, in December, Juice Amour opened at 29 Center Street in a portion of the recently remodeled former home of Hawley’s Florist. Juice Amour is an organic juice and smoothie bar that serves fresh, unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juices, sprouted nut milks, raw smoothies, gluten and dairy free soups, chia puddings, salads and snacks. They also offer personalized juice cleanse programs, subscription services and the option to order online. Not only is Juice Amour bringing a growing health food trend to Rutland, its doing so in a way that meets the individual needs and preferences of customers.
Two floors up, in the same building on Center Street, Rebekah Robichaud launched a yoga studio called Live Love Yoga this past January. The studio offers over 25 asana style yoga classes each week, private yoga sessions, monthly workshops, as well as guided and open meditation. Robichaud wants to help people slow down, be still and let love live. With plenty of natural light, brick walls and a calming color palate, she designed her studio to bring ease and tranquility to her students. While yoga is offered in several area fitness centers, Robichaud wanted to create a space downtown that focused specifically on yoga.
“It feels so good to be here,” said Robichaud. “I’m humbled and full of gratitude. We have so much potential here, and it’s exciting.”
And the long, snowy winter didn’t hold Lenny Montouri back from opening his doors with Big Lenny’s Inside Job at 56 Strongs Avenue. Montouri has happily served the community from his hot dog cart for more than two decades and couldn’t wait to expand his popular business with a permanent year round location in downtown. His new, well decorated shop, serves hot dogs, a range of specialty toppings, chili dogs, sausages with peppers and onions, soft pretzels, popcorn, ice cream and more. It’s clear Montouri loves what he does and has no lack of enthusiasm. The downtown location now allows Montouri the opportunity to serve and interact with customers five days a week on a year round basis.
Then in March, the Downtown Gentlemen’s Salon opened at 32 Merchants Row. The newly redesigned space has a hip, yet vintage, style that includes plenty of deeply stained natural wood elements, work stations constructed out of repurposed pipes and comfy leather couches. It’s a warm and welcoming environment that owner Lori LaPenna stylized specifically to appeal to men, although she certainly welcomes women and children as well. In addition to specializing in a full spectrum of cuts, there are a number of conveniences that LaPenna hopes will set her apart, including later hours, the ability to either make an appointment or walk in, pay by credit card, free wifi, punch and referral cards, and senior discounts, to name just a few.
“I absolutely wanted to be downtown” said LaPenna. “It’s such a welcoming community and the support has been phenomenal. I’m excited to be here.”
In the past week, the latest business to launch in downtown Rutland is Just Threading. Owned by Sunita Dholakia, Just Threading, located at 116 Merchants Row, grew out of a home business and is one of the few locations to offer eyebrow threading services in the area. Threading is a natural hair removal process that is considered less painful and invasive than other methods. Just Threading is open daily and accepts walk-ins or appointments.
The positive trajectory of businesses opening within the downtown is set to continue in the coming months. A consignment boutique specializing in children’s and maternity clothing is hard at work preparing to open on West Street, as well as a new café on Center. If the long winter has kept you from wandering about downtown, now’s the time to get back out and explore our many new businesses and support your local community.