Home News and Features Downtowns Recovering From Flood Hope For Strong Holiday Sales

Downtowns Recovering From Flood Hope For Strong Holiday Sales

Eric Anderson, from Anderbell Acres, was one of the three 2022 Flannel Fairies as part of the Montpelier Alive annual “Flannel Friday” event, a longstanding Montpelier tradition designed to keep shoppers local on one of the biggest holiday shopping days of each year. This year’s Flannel Friday takes place in Montpelier on Friday, November 24. Photo by Carolyn Grodinsky.
The local economy benefits when people shop locally, studies have shown. A dollar spent locally stays in the community, not only helping the local merchant, but — as that dollar circulates through the community — also aiding their local suppliers, staff, and other businesses they work with, such as local banks and contractors. By contrast, a dollar sent to a big business in another state adds no juice to the local economy.

Local businesses are also more likely to donate to local nonprofits, feature locally made products, and be knowledgeable about the products they are selling. Moreover, by avoiding shopping online, shoppers get exercise walking to stores and can avoid shipping and handling fees. 

This holiday season, downtown advocates say, shopping locally is more important than ever as local retail businesses, restaurants, and bars seek to bounce back from the devastating floods that hit the area in July. Not only did these businesses lose inventory, they lost income that normally takes a jump during foliage season, and they have had to absorb the costs of rebuilding and restocking.

As a recent newsletter from Montpelier Alive stated: “In order for these businesses to keep their doors open, and for the businesses we expect to open soon, we need to give them extra support this holiday season. Fourth quarter revenue for these small businesses is essential to making it through the slower first quarter in the New Year.”

Montpelier merchants suffered some of the worst flood damage in central Vermont, although stores and restaurants in Barre and Waterbury were also flooded and are also looking for a boost from local shoppers this holiday season. 

In Montpelier, at least 125 businesses were severely impacted by the flood, and many more experienced economic hardship, according to Katie Trautz, executive director of Montpelier Alive. “I estimate less than half of the severely damaged businesses will be open by Flannel Friday, somewhere around 40 total,” she said. “However, many of the open businesses are in the downtown area, which feels uplifting, and we’re excited to welcome back a number of businesses in the upcoming weeks.” For a full list of current open businesses and restaurants, visit montpelieralive.com/flood-2023-visiting-montpelier. Businesses that are not yet open may be selling products online.

Flannel Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the official kick-off to the holiday season in downtown Montpelier. Carolyn Grodinsky, Montpelier Alive’s festival and events coordinator, said merchants will be offering sales and special promotions, and shoppers who come downtown in flannel attire may be spotted by the Flannel Fairy, who hands out prizes and gift cards from local merchants, she said.

Small Business Saturday, a national program meant to support small businesses, will be celebrated in Montpelier on Nov. 25 with horse-drawn wagon rides from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.. The rides will also be offered on Dec. 9, and special events are planned for each of the Saturdays leaving up to Christmas, Grodinsky said. The city is expected to once again offer free two-hour parking for the two weeks before Christmas.

Montpelier Alive was awarded a Vermont Community Foundation grant to fund artists to make art for storefront windows that are still empty, and will deliver over 10 of these grants to local artists. Montpelier Alive will also be making grants specifically to recovering food establishments in the coming weeks. Restaurants, bars, and cafes in the city are also hoping for a holiday boost.

Merchant flood recovery efforts were helped by grants totaling from $5,000 to $24,000 handed out to over 125 Montpelier businesses from the $2.6 million raised by the the Montpelier Foundation and Montpelier Alive, according to Trautz. In addition, Grodinsky said donors gave around half a million dollars to local Montpelier businesses through various GoFundMe campaigns.


In Barre, downtown merchants experienced quite a bit of flood damage, but are now all open again and “hoping to see a lot of local shoppers,” according to Tracie Lewis, executive director of the Barre Partnership, which has more than 80 business members. Barre will be welcoming shoppers on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25, with horse-drawn carriage rides and a 5:15 p.m. parade and tree-lighting ceremony, with hot chocolate and caroling.

Barre offers free two-hour parking from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, and many businesses will be having extra holiday hours, Lewis said. She also said the Merry Barre Holidays Crafts Fair will happen at the Barre Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 25 and 26.


Waterbury businesses suffered some flood damage in July, but not as much as Barre and Montpelier, according to Karen Nevin of Revitalizing Waterbury. “Montpelier got what we got in 2011 with Tropical Storm Irene,” she said. All Waterbury businesses are now open, she added.

During the holiday season, Revitalizing Waterbury will once again be running a “Wrap it and Win” program. Shoppers who get a special card stamped at five businesses can enter a drawing. The program ends up handing out $4,000 in gift cards to 160 to 170 lucky drawing winners, Nevin said. About 50 stores and restaurants in Waterbury and Waterbury Center participate. 

Nevin also said that this year businesses are being encouraged to stay open late on Fridays during the holiday season, with special events from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. planned on most of those days.