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Pop-up venue opens for business Saturday in former Clay’s

MIDDLEBURY — The former Clay’s women’s clothing retail space at 60 Main St. in downtown Middlebury will begin its temporary run as a new pop-up events space called “Bundle,” which this weekend will debut with two sewing sessions at which participants will craft reusable bags.
The “Sewing for Change” pop-ups — slated for operation 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 6 and Sunday, April 7 — are just the beginning of what organizers hope will be consistent, creative use of 60 Main St. through at least this year. Funded through a grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, Bundle is being advanced as a high-visibility hub for creative thinkers to plant seeds for new products and/or ideas that could evolve into business startups.
“There has been an energy for this type of space and connection to community for a long time in Middlebury,” said Kelly Hickey, who will manage Bundle. “Local artists, producers and place makers have recently been connecting who have ideas that really need to be seeded, a place to grow and be seen. Being downtown by the river seems to churn the energy that we are all looking for and to get feedback from the public about what they will support and what can truly make it. It’s our hope the community, including college students, will come out for all the events and bring a robust sense of community to downtown.”
Bringing energy to the downtown will be particularly critical during the next three years, when work will be in full swing on a $72 million project that will replace the Main Street and Merchants Row railroad overpasses with a concrete tunnel. Merchants are bracing for detours, noise, dust and other temporary inconveniences of construction, which will kick off later this spring and hit its peak during the summer of 2020. That’s when through-traffic on both Main Street and Merchants Row — as well as the underlying freight train activity — will be suspended for around a 10-week period while crews work round-the-clock on tunnel installation.
VTrans has awarded the town of Middlebury a $75,000 grant to promote its downtown businesses and amenities this year during the first big phase of work on the rail bridges project. Other, like-sized annual VTrans grants are likely to follow, local officials believe.
The grassroots organization “Neighbors, Together” is collaborating with the Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP) and other downtown stakeholders to create marketing programs and activities to be sponsored through the $75,000 grant. Plans call for $8,522 of the money to subsidize Bundle at 60 Main St. through June; an extension through December is anticipated.
Future Bundle pop-ups will include local artist showcases, workshops and maker markets. A mobile-making workshop with Carrie Root of the Root Studio VT is also in the works for this spring.
Hickey wants to see young people from Middlebury Union High School, Patricia A Hannaford Career Center, Addison Central Teen Center, Vermont Youth Works and Middlebury College benefit from skill training and community mentoring opportunities that will be available through Bundle. Teens and emerging adults will be able to volunteer with Bundle in marketing, as workshop assistants, and/or as collaborators in creating events, Hickey said.
A full calendar of Bundle events will be posted each month in the window of 60 Main and will be publicized online at ExperienceMiddlebury.com, @experiencemiddlebury on Instagram, and on facebook.com/bettermiddleburypartnership.
Karen Duguay, executive director of the BMP, said the pop-up idea emerged from two successful artisan markets in the 60 Main St. space during Midd Night Stroll evenings this past December.
“We heard from a lot of people after the two Midd Night Strolls that it would be great to see something like this in the downtown on a more regular basis,” Duguay said through a press release. “Our goals are always to try to bring people into the community center and increase the energy and vitality of the downtown in efforts to support all of the businesses. This felt like a great way to bring people into town, get them excited about something new and different and support downtown merchants at the same time.”
Hickey said 60 Main St. is not equipped for food/beverage pop-up activities. But the space is versatile, good-sized and high-profile.
Hickey wants a rotating crop of users to ensure no one gains a monopoly over others seeking to use the space.
Users will be assessed fees ranging from $25 for a three-hour pop-up event, to $250 for a market featuring up to 10 vendors. These revenues will help subsidize Bundle’s stay at 60 Main St. But Duguay stressed that Bundle will relocate to another venue if the 60 Main St. landlord secures a permanent tenant for the space.
Vendors will be responsible for their own accounting for any transactions they make during their respective pop-ups, according to Hickey.
Vendors interested in the space can contact Hickey at sydzea@yahoo.com.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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