By Ethan Weinstein
Amidst the year’s pandemic tumult, business is thriving in Rutland’s downtown.
“We’re beginning to see a revived vibrancy,” said Lyle Jepson, executive director of the Chamber & Economic Development of the Rutland Region (CEDRR). “What’s exciting to me as someone who would call himself no longer young, is that there are young people who are excited about opening stores in the downtown, that are investing in downtown.”
According to Nikki Hindman, the executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, 13 businesses opened or relocated to downtown Rutland in 2021. The Mountain Times covered many of them.
Wild Kind Toys moved into the long-vacant space once held by Sabby’s Pasta House. The kids’ store already has a thriving e-commerce business and opened its doors in time for the holiday season.
Manchester-based Arson Skate Shop opened its West Street location in June, filling a need in a community that loves skating in the summer and snowboarding in the winter.
Four Seasons Sotheby’s, an internation real estate agency, moved its Rutland regional headquarters from Route 7 to downtown.
GreenSpell plant shop opened on Center Street in December. Owners Calista and Brian Budrow were attracted to the area through CEDRR’s Real Rutland marketing program, which seeks to attract prospective residents and connects them with likeminded locals. Not only did Calista open GreenSpell, but her husband Brian renovated the upstairs space to be a short-term rental unit, adding much-needed beds to downtown.
Hindman also noted that businesses opened in Rutland at a similar rate in 2019, revealing sustained growth.
Businesses haven’t just come to the heart of Rutland City, they’re also staying here. Deputy City Clerk Tracy Kapusta said that no businesses holding food or alcohol permits closed during 2021, demonstrating the strength of the city’s brick and mortars.
Looking ahead: In the new year, Masala Corner, an Indian restaurant, will move into the space once held by Coffee Exchange, on the corner of Merchants Row and Center Street. The restaurant will fill arguably the most glaring vacancy among downtown storefronts.
It will be the second Indian restaurant in Rutland, joining Little Havali on No. Main Street. Masala Corner will offer primarily table seating. Little Havali mostly does take out.
While the growth of businesses signals even better things to come in Rutland, housing — or lack thereof — is a critical issue stymieing further success.
Although housing is more affordable and available in Rutland than other Vermont cities, finding manageable rentals for low and moderate income renters is a struggle. Jepson expressed excitement about the Vermont Housing Improvement Project, administered locally by Neighborworks of Western Vermont. The program provides up to $30,000 to rental owners to bring their properties up to code, and should, according to Jepson, increase the availability of affordable housing.