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Vermont Soap moving to a bigger space

MIDDLEBURY — Vermont Soap will soon relocate from its fire-damaged home at 606 Exchange St. to a new, more spacious headquarters at 183 Industrial Avenue.
“We are going into double the space and will be able to expand production,” Vermont Soap founder and CEO Larry Plesant said on Monday as he and others cleared the last of the debris and company assets out of the 606 Exchange St. location.
Vermont Soap has been on the rebound since a June 4 fire swept through the production area of the 10,000-square-foot metal building in which the company has, for the past 18 years, made its growing line of natural soaps, lotions and other skin- and hair-care products. The exact cause of the fire remains a mystery, but one thing is certain: It caused more damage than company officials originally thought.
When interviewed by the Addison Independent the morning after the fire, Plesant hoped to be quickly back in production once some of the key, soap making equipment was replaced. But greater scrutiny of the building revealed more substantial damage, Plesant confirmed on Monday. He said the structure will have to be gutted and a portion of the roof will need to be replaced. This forced the company to weigh its options. Fortunately, Plesant was able to work out an arrangement with his longtime landlord, Tony Neri, for the lease of up to 25,000 square feet in another Neri property at 183 Industrial Ave, which is located near the town’s water treatment plant.
The move will allow Vermont Soap to consolidate its operations under one roof and double its square footage for expansion of its operations. Vermont Soap must currently rent additional space for storage. The company currently employs 25 people, a number that should grow with the additional manufacturing capacity at 183 Industrial Ave., according to Plesant.
He is confident the extra space will come in handy.
In addition to manufacturing its own popular products, Vermont Soap is commissioned to make soap products for a variety of companies throughout the nation. The company, among other things, produces a line of Castile liquid soap-based products, certified organic soaps and cleansers, fruit and vegetable wash, pet and horse shampoos, foaming hand soap, bath and shower gels, yoga mat wash, and nontoxic household cleansers. Vermont Soap imports palm and coconut oils from places like Brazil and the Philippines. But it also sources ingredients close to home, including maple, and sunflower seed oil from Brandon.
“We are working for some large companies that are concerned about the liability that comes with using chemical formulations,” Plesant said. “In my opinion, natural formulations are inherently safer.”
Plesant hopes his company will be fully operational within its new Industrial Avenue space within the next 60 to 90 days.
Vermont Soap’s gain has unfortunately been Vermont Livestock’s loss, though the Ferrisburgh-based meat processing company’s story could still have a happy ending for its plans to expand into Middlebury.
Vermont Livestock had hoped to open a slaughterhouse operation at 183 Industrial Ave., but after months of delays in making a decision prompted Neri to fill the space with Vermont Soap. Still, Jamie Gaucher, director of the Middlebury Office of Business Development & Innovation, said Vermont Livestock continues to look for a new location in Addison County’s shire town.
“They are revisiting other options, including the 5.1-acre parcel on Pond Lane,” Gaucher said on Tuesday.
The parcel in question is owned by Middlebury College and was once the preferred settlement spot for the company. As reported by the Addison Independent back in March of 2012, Vermont Livestock previously proposed building an 11,442-square-foot slaughter- and meat-processing facility on the land, located across from Beau Ties Ltd. The town of Middlebury has already approved the plan, which VL shelved when it decided to pursue the Neri building.
Carl Cushing, owner-operator of VL, could not be reached for comment as the Addison Independent went to press.
Meanwhile, Neri is listening to other ideas from entrepreneurs interested in occupying 606 Exchange St., once it is repaired.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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