Auto parts store to set up shop on Exchange Street in Middlebury

MIDDLBEURY — The former home of Whirlie’s World at 1232 Exchange St. in Middlebury will soon be occupied by a Fisher Auto Parts store that is tentatively scheduled to open next month.
The Middlebury Development Review Board recently paved the way for the new store by authorizing a change in use at the 1232 Exchange St. location from “indoor recreation” to “retail.”
Once open, the store will sell a variety of auto parts and accessories on both a retail and wholesale basis.
Founded in 1929 by Blair Coiner, Fisher Auto Parts currently has around 500 company-owned locations employing 5,300 full- and part-time workers. It operates 12 stores in Vermont, including locations in Barre, St. Albans, Hardwick, Johnson, Morrisville, Essex Junction, Montpelier, Burlington, Waterbury, Randolph, Waitsfield and Berlin.
Fisher is also a founding member of Federated Auto Parts Distributors, one of the largest auto parts distribution and marketing organizations in North America.
While Middlebury already hosts three established auto parts stores — Sanel, Napa and No. 1 — Fisher Regional Manager Adam Metzler said Addison County’s shire town has room for more competition.
“We see Middlebury as a growing market,” Metzler said.
Plans call for Fisher Auto Parts to use 875 square feet of the former Whirlie’s World space for retail, and use the remaining 5,055 square feet for storage and distribution of goods.
The company doesn’t plan on storing any of its products outdoors.
Metzler anticipates few changes to the interior or exterior of the building, owned by Maxwell Eaton. The existing door on the western part of the building will be replaced with a new glass door. Also, some exterior sheeting on the structure will be removed to expose an existing, overhead garage door.
Store hours will be Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, according to a project narrative included with Fisher’s application to the town. The store will be closed on Sundays.
Fisher plans to be in Middlebury for a while. The company signed a 20-year lease for the Exchange Street location, according to Metzler. Being on Exchange Street is convenient to downtown Middlebury and affords Fisher customers easy access via Route 7 from Bristol, Vergennes and other nearby communities, according to Metzler.
“It’s a perfect location for us,” Metzler said.
Fisher’s impending occupancy of the 1232 Exchange St. ends a more than six-year run of indoor recreation at that location. It was in 2011 that Peter and Naomi Neff opened Whirlie’s World, which offered interactive video games, laser tag, bounce houses, arcade activities and snacks for kids and families.
Faced with declining business, the Neffs put Whirlie’s World on the market in 2016. The couple sold the business early last year to Jeremy Griffin and Danielle Deroscher, operators of the Party Outfitters location in the Diamond Run Mall in Rutland. Peter Neff had hoped the new owners would be able to pump more energy and amenities into Whirlie’s World.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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