Middlebury Skihaus to close its doors
MIDDLEBURY — Skihaus of Vermont, a major retail presence in downtown Middlebury for almost 60 years, mostly under that name but also as the Alpine Shop, has scheduled a liquidation sale at its 6 Merchants Row location in anticipation of closing its doors.
The news arrived at the Addison Independent late last week in the form of a small display ad offering basic details of the sale, slated for this Friday, June 12, and Saturday, June 13, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, June 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The ad promises 50 percent off all retail inventory and other “progressive discounts.” Sale items will include name brand clothing, footwear, sandals, wallets, rain gear, skis, snowboards, snowshoes and a “quantity of fixtures and displays,” according to the ad.
Phone calls and emails requesting comment from Skihaus co-owners Barb Nelson and Anna Boisvert went unreturned as the Independent went to press on Wednesday. A sign posted on the store’s main entrance on Tuesday and a voice message on the store’s phone line both proclaimed Skihaus to be closed for inventory and spring cleaning. The store has not kept regular business hours for more than a month.
Bruce Hiland, principal owner of the Battell Block, in which Skihaus has been based for decades, confirmed both the store’s imminent departure and recent negotiations with two other businesses in line to take the space. He expects to be able to name those firms soon, contingent on lease signings.
Skihaus has occupied roughly 5,700 square feet of retail space at street level and another 3,900 square feet below street level in the Battell Block.
“We’re sad that a Middlebury institution will be winding up operations,” Hiland said of Skihaus. “We greatly appreciate their contribution to the local retail community over the years and wish (Boisvert and Nelson) well on their new ventures. We are encouraged to have highly appropriate downtown tenants seriously interested in the space and hope to be able to provide more details within the week.”
A PIECE OF HISTORY
The roots of Skihaus can be traced to 1947 and Frank Mahre’s Ski Shop at 2 Park St., just behind Cannon Park. Mahre operated the shop until 1956 when two Olympians, Bill Beck and Verne Goodwin, bought the store and changed the name to Skihaus. The business soon expanded into ladies’ and menswear.
Neil and Alice Kvasnak bought Skihaus in 1966 and in 1968 moved it to its current Merchants Row location.
In 1990, the Kvasnaks sold Skihaus to two local couples, John and Peg Myhre and Rick and Karen Greene.
It was in 1998 that the two couples sold Skihaus to Scott and Peg Rieley, owners of the Alpine Shop in South Burlington. The Rieleys not surprisingly renamed their Middlebury acquisition “Alpine Shop,” which like Skihaus specialized in men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, as well as skis, accessories, bicycles and other sports supplies.
Boisvert and Nelson — longtime friends and co-workers at the store in both its Skihaus and Alpine Shop iterations — acquired the business in March of 2010 and restored its name to Skihaus of Vermont.
“We are ready for 51 more years of wonderful skis, snowboards, bikes, apparel, shoes and much more,” reads a company entry on the skihausofvermont.com website, which is dominated by a large “website currently under construction” sign on the home page.
Boisvert and Nelson shared their thoughts and visions for Skihaus in a March 1, 2010, article in the Independent that confirmed their purchase of the store.
“Buying the store has been a pipe dream, really, for the past five or six years,” Boisvert said at the time. “I’ve always thought, one day if I ever win the lottery, I want to buy this store … so here we are. We haven’t won the lottery, but at our age I feel blessed to actually be achieving our dream.”
Nelson also compared acquisition of the store to a dream come true.
“We would encourage anyone to pursue their dream, no matter how old they are or how scared they are,” Nelson said in 2010. “When opportunity knocks, just open the door … that’s all we did, and we’ve been running scared since … It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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