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Bristol shop HoneyLights moves, but not far

BRISTOL — On Feb. 12, when Vermont HoneyLights announced on Facebook that it would be closed the following day because something “very exciting” was happening, more than a hundred people perked up their ears.
A week later, the longtime Bristol business, which has been at 9 Main St. for 18 years, announced a giant moving sale.
“We can’t wait for you all to see our beautiful new space on the sunny side of the street!” wrote owners Shawna Sherwin and Bonita Bedard.
Then photos started appearing. Lumber and ladders. Saws and sheetrock. Plastic and painter’s tape.
On the very last day of the month, with the help of a “bucket brigade,” Sherwin and Bedard moved all their stock across Main Street to their new home — number 22.
“I have dreamed about these windows forever,” Sherwin said the following weekend as winter sunlight poured into the store.
Vermont HoneyLights will share the commercial space with Kayla Bessette, owner of screen-print and embroidery business InStitches, formerly located at 2 South St. InStitches has a separate entrance in the back of the building.
Occupying fewer square feet has meant that Sherwin and Bedard have had to get rid of a few things.
“We have to be more efficient with this space,” Sherwin said. “But it was good to pare down some.”
Space isn’t the only efficiency consideration for these new retail neighbors, however.
The 120-year-old building they now occupy has been renovated over the last eight months to increase energy efficiency and to provide tenants with an opportunity to source all of their energy needs from the renewable marketplace.
“The building is probably 20 times more efficient now than it was before,” said owner John Moyers. “It never had any insulation. I don’t see how anyone could live or do business there.”
Over the years, before sitting vacant for a while, the retail space was home to two different thrift stores, and before that, Reed’s Auto Parts.
Originally heated with coal, the building had been using propane until Moyers tore out the piping behind the building.
The upstairs apartments are now heated with wall-mounted electric heat pumps. The retail spaces get heat from a third heat pump located in the basement.
In fact, after upgrading the ancient knob-and-tube wiring, Moyers changed everything over to electric.
“There are no fossil fuels anywhere in the building,” he said.
For Moyers, who owns seven buildings on or near Main Street, including the Bristol Trading Post and Bristol Mill, increasing energy efficiency makes environmental and business sense.
In both cases, reducing energy use is more fundamental than choosing how that energy is sourced, he said.
“The lowest hanging fruit is to air-seal and insulate a building — that’s the most important thing you can do.”
Because of these improvements, HoneyLights can heat and light its space with solar energy, which it gets from a local community array.
“It’s like being in a brand-new building,” Sherwin said.
Moyers is getting ready to tackle another of his buildings, he said.
“Whenever I renovate, I try to keep to the historic fabric of a building and to make it more energy efficient,” he explained. “Main Streets are crying out for investment — not just in Bristol but everywhere. Most of these buildings are not updated for the 20th century, much less the 21st.”
Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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