Letter to the editor: Franchises could boost Middlebury

With two kids in college and two taking college tours I have spent a great deal of time in some of America’s most iconic college towns. Most are very similar to Middlebury, with the quaint downtowns parents expect to see. All the college towns I have visited are dissimilar to Middlebury in one key respect. Every other college downtown I have toured, including others in Vermont and New Hampshire, include judiciously placed and well-appointed franchises. Yes, I said it, franchises.
I was once an ardent opponent of franchises occupying our buildings downtown; however, evolution is crucial to survival and one must think long and hard if on a path no one else is taking. The world has changed and so have college towns and the seasonal residents therein. Middlebury is in a heap of trouble and grasping at straws to get out of it. Necessity is the mother of invention and the clock is ticking.
Any parent or student touring other colleges in Middlebury’s wheelhouse will see a tasteful smattering of carefully selected and vetted chains. Yes. I said it — chains — with the experience, funding, and economy of scale to successfully provide the products and services Americans now expect. 
The mom and pop era is charming but outdated and destined to fail. Vermont is the creator of several successful local chains that currently dot many towns in Vermont and New Hampshire with bustling businesses. I have reached out to several of them, but have been met with trepidation as it is common knowledge that in the past Middlebury has not shared an open attitude to franchises demonstrated by other towns. I suggest that the Town of Middlebury reach out to some of Vermont’s finest and invite them to include Middlebury in their portfolio of proven success for the benefit of all.
Anders Holm

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