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Montpelier's Bear Pond Books reopens two months after flooding

A store with tables of books outside it's doors. A blue sign says "Bear Pond Books," and a blue wire statue shaped like a person waving holds books outside.
Nathaniel Wilson
Vermont Public
Bear Pond Books is a new and used bookstore in Montpelier. During this summer's floods, they were forced to close their doors. But on Sept. 1 — two months later — they reopened.

Bear Pond Books was just one of many businesses in Montpelier forced to shut their doors after devastating flooding this summer.

But, two months later, they're opening back up.

Vermont Public's Jenn Jarecki sat down with Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books. Their conversation is below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jenn Jarecki: What have you been experiencing feeling-wise this morning?

Claire Benedict: Just relief and joy and a lot less worry. So it's, it's felt good. We're all very excited.

So new counter? Can you tell me a little about this?

Yes, we got a slab of tree from Fontaine Sawmill in East Montpelier and then Winter Wood, also in East Montpelier, finished it for us and made it perfect. It's a raw-edge slab of pine. Isn't it beautiful?

How long did this take, from July 10 to then getting this here?

This came — yes, the countertop came yesterday morning, last minute. But it didn't— it took them about two weeks to do it. So.

A man in a gray shirt and a woman in a blue shirt stand together in front of large bookshelves. Their shirts say "Bear Pond Books 50 years."
Nathaniel Wilson
Vermont Public
Robert Kasow and Claire Benedict co-own the downtown Montpelier bookshop Bear Pond Books. After closing after the summer flooding, on Sept. 1, they reopened their doors.

So Claire, you've kept the community up-to-date on the shop's journey since July's floods pummeled Montpelier. For the folks that may not know, will you walk us through what you all have gone through to get to this amazing reopening today?

Well, we started with, you know, a flooded store full of water and mud. And we had to clean all that out, including all the ruined books that were floating in the puddles of mud. So that was first phase, was a big clean-out, then they ripped out the walls and the floors. And all of the furniture, all of our bookcases were — had to be destroyed. And then it was rebuilding. And then most recently, kind of more redecorating.

Once they put the floors and the walls back in, we were able to start bringing the books back in. And we have a new layout. And so we've been, you know, fiddling around with the finishing touches the past couple of days. And we're really pleased with it. We think it looks great.

Dark blue tote bags hang on the end of a book shelve. In yellow letters it says "Bear Pond Books 50 years."
Nathaniel Wilson
Vermont Public
Bear Pond Books celebrated 50 years while doors were closed this August.

And I understand you celebrated a very big birthday or anniversary for the shop, but while you were closed. What was that like, to celebrate 50 years, closed?

Yeah, we had a big party planned for the beginning of August to celebrate our 50[th] birthday. And unfortunately, we had to cancel that. We were not open. And you know, that was kind of sad. But we had so much going on that we've just decided to celebrate it at another time when we can really fully appreciate it.

Vermont is projected to see more flooding in the future, most likely. What would you say to people who questioned why you would build back here and reopen in downtown Montpelier?

Well, I feel like a bookstore is a important part of a downtown. And we've gotten so much support from people encouraging us to reopen and sharing their stories about how important Bear Pond has been to them in their lives and the memories they have of coming here when they were a kid or when they would visit in the summers.

And, you know, we've heard from people all over the country about how sad they were about what happened to Bear Pond and how much they're looking forward to us reopening, even the ones who aren't nearby. And that kind of thing just reminds us that it is important to have a bookstore in town. And it's more than just a storefront.

You know, this place has been here for 50 years, and there's a lot of heart and a lot of community in it. And we just thought, it's important for Montpelier, and we just really never questioned whether it was right. We knew we wanted to reopen.

So no plans for Bear Pond Books to leave downtown Montpelier?

Absolutely not.

Several people browse and chat to each other in a bookstore.
Nathaniel Wilson
Vermont Public
Bear Pond Books was one of several downtown Montpelier businesses to reopen on Sept. 1.

Bear Pond isn't the only downtown Montpelier business reopening today Claire. Capitol Stationers, Notion Fabric and Craft across the street, Splash Naturals, also opened their doors to customers today. Can you speak to us about the resilience of this downtown Montpelier business community?

People have been working really hard. And you'll notice our block is opening — Notion is on this side of the street now — and the reason our block is opening a little faster this time is because we have an awesome landlord. Tim Heney is the most amazing landlord in Montpelier, and he's really made this possible. He's had his crews out here around the clock, and he made it possible for us to open up as quickly as we did.

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