Beverage Center closes its doors for good

Mary Shepard, who has been managing the Montpelier Discount Beverage Center for the last 5 years, poses for a portrait on Tuesday in Montpelier. Josh Kuckens/Staff Photo

MONTPELIER — The mood was somber on the penultimate day of business at Montpelier Beverage & Redemption Center on Main Street in the Capital City Tuesday.  The beverage store will close at 9 p.m. Wednesday, the day after the groundbreaking of the Taylor Street transit center and housing project, which includes a recreation path that required the demolition of the beverage store and nearby former Vermont Association for the Blind building to complete.  "It's the end of an era," said beverage store manager Mary Shepard. "People are very unhappy, very disappointed."  But Shepard said news of the closure had also brought offers of work to many of the eight employees who will lose their jobs, including Shepard, who said she hoped to start work soon at a Jolley's convenience store in the area.  "There's nothing we can do except move on," she said. "The community has been very good to us all, and they're very sad to see us leaving. We will miss them."  Shepard said the store normally received 500 to 600 customers a day.  "Between bottles and cigarettes — we had the best price on cigarettes in town — and for all the locals that walk, this was a very convenient location for them," Shepard said. Hopes that the business would relocate to the adjacent parking lot were dashed when building owner Jay White, of Mowatt Trust, said he was unable to act on a permit to build a new, three-story building because of the $3 million cost of the project. Instead, he accepted the city's offer of $360,000 for a straight buyout of the property's appraised value. Similarly, beverage business owner Farogh Wien accepted a $190,000 buyout of the business with time still on the lease of the building.  The buyouts of the business and property were the final acquisitions needed for the city to proceed with the Taylor Street transit center and housing complex. The project's recreation path will connect Taylor and Main streets and another section of the recreation path west to Gallison Hill, which also received the final $1.9 million last week needed to complete the project.  Employees at the beverage business were disappointed to learn about closure of the store, which started as a gas station in the 1950s, but many said they had job offers elsewhere.  "I think it's ridiculous because it's put eight people out of work," said George Davis, 75, of Montpelier, who has been an employee for 23 years. "Now you have people who can’t return their bottles. They can't walk up to Price Chopper in Barre, and you can’t take them on the bus, so what are they going to do?"  Customer Justin Monteith, of Montpelier, said he was disappointed the business would close.  "It's always been a great store, a place where you could find a pack of Heady Toppers, off-weekend — they would always have a couple tucked away in the back they could find for you — and good prices on beer and cigarettes," Monteith said. "It's a good store, it's convenient, it's local, and now I guess it's Rite Aid (instead)."  Another customer, Josh Mallery, added: "It's downtown … it kind of sucks they're leaving, absolutely. It opens up (opportunities for) large corporations like Cumberland Farms and the Shell station, which are not that far away, but I don't really consider that shopping local like this was."  Shepard said the store would be open for the last time Wednesday, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., closing a little earlier than usual.  "A lot of people said they want to come by and say goodbye," Shepard added. stephen.mills @timesargus.com 

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