Home is just across the street in Brandon
BRANDON — The plan was always to come back to Brandon. And much like the U.S. Postal Service, neither rain nor pandemic would keep Janet and Joel Mondlak from their appointed rounds here.
The Mondlaks lived in town for many years and raised their daughters here. The antique and collectible dealers owned and operated Antiques by the Falls and the Inside Scoop ice cream shop next to the Brandon Inn.
After 10 years there, they closed their doors on New Year’s Eve 2014 and hit the road. They’ve been traveling around the U.S. and Mexico and living the RV life with their Chihuahua, Horace, ever since.
Now, they are back in Brandon with a new antiques and collectibles shop called Across the Street, located in the former Aubuchon hardware store space in the Smith Block on Center Street across from Café Provence.
Across the Street opened on May 18 and features everything from fine antiques to budget-friendly treasures.
“We’d been planning on coming back when Segment 6 was over,” Janet Mondlak said in an interview last week. “There’s foot traffic and we’re hoping for more and more as things open up more and more.”
The timing couldn’t be better. Gov. Phil Scott just loosened restrictions allowing retail stores and other businesses to re-open May 18, requiring facemasks, social distancing measures and store capacity limits on customers.
It has not been an easy time for Brandon business owners, who just seven months ago celebrated the end of the three-year Segment 6/Route 7 reconstruction project through the downtown that tested their resolve. Downtown Brandon businesses were looking to this spring, summer and fall as a new chapter with an upgraded streetscape. But the COVID-19 pandemic stopped that effort cold, with most businesses shuttered for roughly two months.
The Mondlaks, both 60, returned to Brandon via Tampa, Florida in early April just a few weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation.
“We quarantined for two weeks and signed a lease on May 11,” Mondlak said.
HITTING THE ROAD
When they made the decision in 2014 to live life on the road, life had changed for the Mondlaks. Their youngest daughter Jessa, now 27, had just graduated from college, and the couple were officially empty nesters. Their oldest daughter, Ariel, 30, had already left the nest.
“We decided to hit the road, live life a little differently,” Mondlak said. “We were empty nesters, we were young and healthy. We wanted to see this beautiful country and experience people and places that were unlike anything we were used to.”
You could say the Mondlaks have been working from home, just like most people, but they were doing it from a 35-foot travel trailer well before an unimaginable pandemic hit. “We make our living on the road with our eBay store no matter what we do,” she said.
They have Vermont Eye Candy and The Art of Mexico eBay stores. Vermont Eye Candy offers “interesting, unique, eclectic, and whimsical found objects in Vermont.” The Art of Mexico offers Mexican arts and crafts items hand piece by Joel, who is a native of Mexico.
When they aren’t maintaining the eBay stores, the Mondlaks practice “workamping,” traveling from place to place and finding work either in state and national parks or private campgrounds, sometimes for pay, sometimes in exchange for a campsite and water, sewer and electrical hook ups. Often they will stop and work for three or four months, then move on. Mondlak has done everything from working as a lodging supervisor in Grand Teton National Park, for a bird nonprofit on the Gulf Coast, to an Amazon warehouse in Nashville.
The couple plans to operate Across the Street through October, and then go back on the road.
“That’s our plan yes,” Mondlak said. “Coronavirus has changes things a little… or a lot. We’re taking it slowly. Everything went downhill so fast, so who knows what’s going to happen two or three months from now?”
The store will be open during regular business hours most days, but Mondlak said it’s not going to be all business now that they’re back on familiar ground.
“We’re here to sell, but we’re also here to have some fun,” she said.
Across the Street is located at 12 Center St. Call 802-236-3737 for more information.
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