Rainbow Room venture to live on through the Internet

MIDDLEBURY — Abby DeGraw-Josey loved 99 percent of her experiences operating the Rainbow Room, a downtown Middlebury business she acquired in 2007.
It was that remaining 1 percent — the hiring, firing, ordering supplies and taking inventory — that got tiresome and prompted her to close the store last month, ending the Rainbow Room’s 40-year run on Main Street.
While the Rainbow Room no longer has a retail presence, it will live on in cyber space. DeGraw-Josey will continue to run the clothing, jewelry and accessories shop on an on-line basis, through her website.
“It’s been a nice transition,” McGraw-Josey said on Tuesday of her decision. “The only downside for me is  I am such a people person.”
So instead of greeting customers at her door, DeGraw-Josey is taking orders on-line and processing them at her home office in New Haven. She still communicates with customers, only now it’s via email and through personal notes in their packages. DeGraw-Josey does see a lot of the UPS delivery person, with whom her dog has developed quite a friendship, she jokes.
DeGraw-Josey continues to keep her eye out for another retail location in Addison County featuring lower rent and closer parking. But she’s in no hurry.
“We have a big following, and I think people are waiting to see what’s going to happen (with the transition to on-line),” DeGraw-Josey said. “I’m re-educating myself on how to do business.”
Running business from home hasn’t meant less work for DeGraw-Josey. She’s virtually glued to her phone, and must closely monitor and fill orders. And she must still regularly replenish her wares and keep inventory.
In the meantime, the Tinker & Smithy game store has relocated to the 72 Main St. store the Rainbow Room has vacated.
“It was a quick turnaround,” DeGraw-Josey said. “They are really nice people. They have made the space their own and done a really good job.”
While DeGraw-Josey will miss daily interaction with customers, she will not miss other aspects of running a business — such as the occasional slow months and the management tasks. She added her recent years in Middlebury have seen a reduction in foot traffic.
And she said some customers continue to complain the lack of parking along Main Street. As recently reported by the Addison Independent, the town of Middlebury is trying to deliver more parking through a garage they hope to see subsidized through tax increment financing, as part of a major new development behind the Ilsley Library.
DeGraw-Josey is committed to keeping the Rainbow Room alive, and is doing so knowing she is the latest of three stewards of the popular business. Marilyn Gaul established the Rainbow Room during the 1970s. Lorri Sperry acquired it during the 1990s and ran it until DeGraw-Josey bought it in 2007.
The Rainbow Room can now be found at rainbowroomvt.com.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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