Businesses in Bristol see spring reshuffling

BRISTOL — As the weather is warming up, so too is the Bristol business scene.
Among the many recent developments in the county’s second largest town are an ownership change at the Almost Home Market on North Street, a new ice cream shop set to move in on Main Street and new landlords for the old Bristol High School building, which houses a number of prominent businesses.
After close to a decade running the Almost Home Market, Beth Newman-Place and Linda Hanson just sold the business they founded. But new owners Beth Marr of Vergennes and Gary Smith of Bristol have told old customers not to worry; they say the market won’t change too much.
“We’re going to try to add to it and not change what’s been so successful,” Marr said late last week. “It’s just been two weeks and a few days. We haven’t had much time, but we’ll increase our offerings.”
The planned new offerings include a cooler full of fresh meats and fish, a larger selection of housewares and beer, and expanded business hours — the store will now be open seven days a week. Marr, who grew up in the South, also plans to incorporate some Southern and Cajun favorites into the menu.
Marr and Smith grew close while working at the Basin Harbor Club, where they coordinated weddings and conferences together. Looking to take on a business venture of their own, they jumped at the opportunity to take over Almost Home when they heard it was up for sale.
“We were both looking for a big change in our lives and we love the look and feel of the store,” said Marr. “It has loyal clientele and it seemed like a no-brainer. We’ve both been in the hospitality industry for years and years and years so it seemed like a good fit.”
Smith will oversee most of the kitchen work, and Marr encourages customers to seek his advice when it comes to wine and beer pairings.
In Bristol business developments:
•  Doug Mack and Linda Harmon, owners of Mary’s Inn at Baldwin Creek, are opening a gourmet ice cream shop at 11 Main St., which was formerly occupied by Greetings and, incidentally, was the spot where Mary’s first opened for business. Carol Wells, director of the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership, said they plan to open in May. Neither Mack nor Harmon were available to comment, since they closed Mary’s last week and part of this week for spring vacation.
•  Wells and her husband, Tom, a lawyer and former chair of the Bristol Planning Commission, acquired the old Bristol High School building last month from EPJ Properties LLC. The building is home to Bristol Heath and Fitness, Vermont Family Forests, Optimal Energy and a number of alternative health clinics.
Wells said there were no big plans for the space.
“The intent is to maintain it as landlords,” she said.
•  Wells is also organizing an antiques cooperative where numerous antique vendors sell goods in the same space. She’s hoping to get anyone interested on board and on the same page. In the next week, she plans to hold a meeting in Bristol with interested parties. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to call Wells at 802-453-7378.
“My goal is to get this up and going by this summer,” she said.
•  A Quiznos fast food restaurant will also move into town in May. The sandwich franchise will set up shop in Champlain Farms gas station on Main Street.
David Simendinger — President of Wesco Inc., which owns Champlain Farms — said the Bristol Champlain Farms is the second in the state to get a Quiznos. The first one opened in downtown Burlington, and Simendinger plans to open Quiznos in Champlain Farms locations across the state, like Colchester, Waterbury and Northfield, among others.
•  On the unfortunate side of Bristol business happenings, Forand’s Auto Supply is closing after roughly two years of operation.
Owner Eric Forand explained why.
“To be competitive in this market segment we would need to carry twice as much inventory as we were carrying,” he said. “Given the current economic environment we were not willing to make that capital investment.”
He said that he’s open to selling the business, but does not currently have any buyers.
“We are in the process of closing the store down, which should be done by the end of the month,” he said.
Also, Wells said that a prospective outdoor gear shop eyed for the spot previously occupied by the Village Corner Store will not get off the ground this year, if ever.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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