Barber shop to be trimmed by rail project

MIDDLEBURY — An upcoming project to replace Middlebury’s two downtown railroad overpasses with a concrete tunnel is likely to result in Bud’s Barber Shop — a local institution — being trimmed from its longtime location at 44 Merchants Row.
But like hair on a young child’s head, the building is due to grow back once the tunnel is installed — at least if the owners of the approximately 50-year-old structure have anything to say about it. Sue Bourdon and her father, J. Andre, of neighboring Bourdon Insurance are keen on seeing the barbershop rebuilt better than ever when more than a year of heavy construction draws to a close.
“We realize the (tunnel) project has to move forward, and we want it to,” Bourdon said. “We want (the building) back. You’re never going to see a spot like that again.”
Bill Finger, who is managing the tunnel project for the town, explained the barbershop building is perched on top of a retaining wall that will have to either be added to, or rebuilt. Most signs point to the need to at least temporarily remove the structure this winter in order to allow for work crews and equipment to work on the tunnel, he said.
“It’s more of a proximity issue than anything else,” Finger said.
Middlebury officials want to see work begin next spring on the tunnel project, which will replace two aging and deteriorating spans above the railroad tracks. Work is expected to last two construction seasons, according to Finger, a timeframe during which downtown Middlebury will see some temporary detours, noise and other traffic-related inconveniences.
Bud’s Barber Shop was, of course, where the legendary Bud Lundrigan held court from early 1973 until his retirement a few years ago. Tracy Raymond recently acquired the business, where she and her associate Suzanne Lahaie have started a new chapter in the barbershop’s history, serving a wide range of customers, from college students to retirees.
Raymond and Bourdon said they only learned of the building’s potential fate a few weeks ago. It has come as quite a shock to Raymond and Lahaie, who are now casting about for a new location in which to cut hair. Raymond noted that some of her clients are elderly and are not readily able to climb stairs. And finding a rental fee within her budget is also proving to be a challenge.
“We’ve been talking to our customers to forewarn them (about a potential move),” said Raymond, who is hoping to return to a rebuilt Bud’s Barber Shop at the same spot in the future.
“We love this spot,” Raymond said. “Sue and her dad are great landlords. We are really comfortable here.”
Project organizers pledged to work with the Bourdons to make sure they are compensated for the temporary loss of their building.
“This partly depends on what the owners would like to see happen,”  Finger said. “The building could be temporarily placed somewhere else, or torn down and reconstructed. The intent of the project is not to destroy the building. We will replace it if that’s their desire.”
The Bourdons and town officials have yet to have an involved discussion about the fate of the structure. Sue Bourdon expects the building will be demolished and she’d like to see it “rebuilt to what we have now, or better.”
Meanwhile, organizers continue to lay groundwork for the tunnel project, estimated to cost between $14.6 million and $17.4 million. State and federal authorities have pledged to limit the town’s financial exposure in the project to $500,000, a sum that Middlebury might not have to absorb if the project comes in under budget or if it can find other funding sources.
Finger confirmed that three companies have proposals to serve as contractor for the project. A six-person technical evaluation committee that includes three local representatives and three state transportation officials will look over the proposals and zero in on a preferred contractor.
A contractor is expected to be on board before the end of this year, according to Finger.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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