Vermont Sun adds childcare tenant

MIDDLEBURY — Vermont Sun Sports and Fitness will soon provide a home base for the next generation of work-out enthusiasts. Steve Hare, co-owner of Vermont Sun, confirmed on Monday the business will soon sign a five-year lease with a new tenant, Middlebury Family Center (MFC).
The Addison Independent reported in June that Kathleen and Katey Lafayette were seeking town approval to open a new childcare center at 111 Court St. that could accommodate up to 45 children and employ up to 10 caregivers.
That plan failed to come to fruition, however.
“The childcare center was going to require too many major changes to the building to make it possible to open at that location,” said David Werle, co-owner of Lightning Photo and 111 Court St.
“The building is for sale and we are listening to offers.”
That sent the Lafayettes looking at other appropriate spaces in which to open the MFC. Their search ended at Vermont Sun, which has always staffed a child care room for clients. Vermont Sun officials were looking for a new tenant to fill a spot most recently occupied by Champlain Valley Cardiovascular Associates. Hare determined MFC would be a logical tenant to bring into the 3,000-square-foot spot, currently being renovated.
“We are just ecstatic,” Hare said of Vermont Sun’s new association with MFC. “It is a neat fit for what we are doing here.”
As the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday, the MFC had filled 20 of an eventual 50 childcare slots at its Vermont Sun location on Exchange Street. Kathleen Lafayette said the center — slated to open as soon as next week — will cater to children age six weeks through 12 years. The center will offer a pre-K program and will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Lafayette anticipates MFC will employ eight full-time people by the time it ramps up to its 50-child capacity.
Kathleen Lafayette was the longtime owner-operator of the Playful Learning Kids’ Place off Burpee Road in Bristol. She has a bachelor’s degree in early education and is also a former educator at the Lincoln Community School and was director of the Acorn Child Care Center in Shelburne.
She recently moved to Middlebury, where she wants to continue her role as a childcare provider. Her daughter Katey is joining her in the venture.
Kathleen Lafayette acknowledged having been a “silent partner” in the short-lived “King’s Plate” buffet restaurant on Route 7 South in Middlebury. She said one of her older daughters spearheaded that restaurant effort.
“It would have been great if it had worked out, because there is no buffet around this area,” Lafayette. “The idea behind it was good, but it was not a money-making venture.”
Lafayette said she is eager to return to doing what she knows best — delivering childcare services. It’s a job she said would be made easier by having many of Vermont Sun’s amenities at the children’s disposal. Vermont Sun will take a $10 cut from each MFC child’s tuition to give them membership privileges for swimming and other club recreation activities. Lafayette is calling it the “Kid Fit Program.”
“They will be bringing up kids to swim, to play floor soccer, kickball, basketball and any other number of games we have,” Hare said.
Some of the MFC children might also want to join some of Vermont Sun’s after-school kids’ activities, such as its school of dance.
“Parents will see they don’t have to worry about staying at work a little late, because children are going to go seamlessly from the child care center to any number of these (Vermont Sun) programs,” Hare said.
And Hare said it’s inevitable that some of the MFC children will become fitness enthusiasts and in turn encourage their parents to join up.
“To have this synergy with families working out together and be taken care of together is what we’re trying to be all about,” Hare said.
Lafayette said the Vermont Sun space will allow MFC to offer, among other things, an art studio, free meals, and an after-school program with activities. Organizers will gauge interest in a potential 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. childcare shift, as well as for “Friday date nights” for parents who’d like to drop off their children while they go to dinner and a movie.
Both Hare and Lafayette stressed that MFC is open to all county families whether they are members of Vermont Sun or not.
Full tuition will range from $210 per week for infants to $180 per week for preschoolers, according to Lafayette. She stressed that grants and/or scholarships will reduce the price for lower-income families.
“We are very competitive,” Lafayette said.
The MFC can be reached by calling 388-6325.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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