Neat Repeats moving to new Rt. 7 location

MIDDLEBURY — The Neat Repeats Resale Shop will soon move from its longtime home at 3 Bakery Lane in downtown Middlebury into a more spacious building at 1428 Route 7 South. Pending the signing of a lease, Neat Repeats officials plan to open in the new location during the first week of June.
The 1428 Route 7 South spot was recently vacated by Quilters’ Corner at Middlebury Sew-N-Vac, which in January set up shop a mile or two north in The Centre shopping plaza in a space next to Supercuts.
Linda Waterman, who with Diane Howlett leads the Neat Repeats operation, explained that the former Sew-N-Vac venue boasts around 3,000 square feet and offers ample parking. It has roughly twice the room the resale shop currently occupies at its downtown location.
“It’s an opportunity to enhance our mission, with better parking and accessibility — and that’s just so key,” said Waterman, who helped found the store in 1990. “The volunteers are pretty excited.”
Neat Repeats has established itself as a veritable fundraising dynamo, turning people’s donated clothing and accessories into cash for numerous local charities. Since Neat Repeats is run exclusively with volunteer labor, all of its revenue (minus rent and other operating expenses) can be given away.
In its first year, Neat Repeats delivered $31,249 in grants to Addison County recipients, including organizations that provide food, clothing, housing and other services to low-income residents. This past year, the organization distributed $81,962 in grants, raising to $2,343,695 the total amount of aid it has provided since its inception.
Operating at 3 Bakery Lane has been a mixed blessing for Neat Repeats. Downtown Middlebury is a shopping hub and draws considerable foot traffic, though the store has remained fairly inconspicuous in its nook near the top of Bakery Lane alley. A lack of nearby parking has been a major concern for senior volunteers, customers and folks dropping off inventory, according to Howlett, who became a volunteer in 1994.
“Stairs are an issue for anyone with a need to be on a level surface,” Howlett added. “It’s difficult.”
Neat Repeats helpers have through the years made maximum use of their roughly 1,500 square feet at 3 Bakery Lane. A recent walk through the store found wares displayed in every available inch of every aisle. There’s men’s and women’s clothing in abundance, along with shoes, picture frames, luggage, jewelry, dishware, small furnishings and many other items.
Shoppers know they’re not only getting a bargain, but are also helping those less fortunate.
“We have definitely outgrown it,” Waterman said of the current spot. “We have things everywhere.”
Space has been so tight that Neat Repeats has at times had to decline inventory. So organizers have spent the past few years scouting for a new home.
“We looked at some other sites in town, but they didn’t work out,” Howlett said.
Until volunteers learned of the 1428 Route 7 South vacancy.
Neat Repeats began negotiations with landlords J.P. Carrara & Sons this past winter. Howlett and Waterman praised the building owners for being attentive to the organization’s needs. The space — which once hosted the Vermont State Police’s Addison County barracks — is currently being rehabbed. Work will include new flooring and removing a wall.
“Our offerings (on Route 7) will be more varied,” Waterman said, citing small tables, lamps and chairs as among wares Neat Repeats will be better positioned to showcase.
“The ease of donation will be so welcome,” she added.
Where’s SEW-N-VAC?
Meanwhile, Quilters’ Corner at Middlebury Sew-N-Vac owner Carla Berno is pleased with her store’s new location in The Centre. She’s pleased with the visibility and extra space, which has allowed her to expand her sewing machine offerings and related accessories — such as buttons, tape measures and other things that sewers used to get at the Ben Franklin store.
Berno said Middlebury Sew-N-Vac will continue to offer sewing classes and stressed that vacuum sales and service are still a big part of the business.
As Neat Repeats prepares to transition to its new Route 7 home, it will continue to accept donations during its business hours (9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday). As always, here’s the basic guideline: Anything donated must be in good condition — clean, with no tears — and “saleable.”
The business hopes to attract additional volunteers to go along with its new headquarters. Neat Repeats now has around 50 volunteers on the roster, though some can only spare a few hours every once in a while.
Store volunteers decide each month how the revenue will be distributed. Prospective recipients send in grant requests.
“We’ve got a fantastic group,” Waterman said.
A fantastic group doing great things with clothing and objects that might otherwise have been discarded.
Folks who help out do so out of a desire to help their community.
“I like the opportunity to give this money away to the community,” Howlett said. “It’s a hand-up to people who are falling through the cracks.”
“We all bring our energies to this, and what we create is beautiful,” Waterman said.
Check out the Neat Repeats’ Facebook page for periodic updates on the store’s upcoming move to Route 7.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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