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How The Bridge Was Built

Steve Larose. Photo by John Lazenby.
Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series of narratives from The Bridge’s early founders and those involved in the beginning years of this newspaper’s history. We turn 30 in December, and as part of our celebration, we’ll be hearing from more of the people who formed this beloved local publication in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned for more!

by Steve Larose

When Phil Dodd first mentioned to me the idea of starting a community newspaper in the early 1990s, I knew immediately it was something Montpelier needed. But I wondered if there was enough support in the community to make it sustainable. My doubts were quickly dispelled. 

Phil and I knew each other through my desktop publishing business and my work as a journalist. We talked about how a community newspaper could cover city issues being missed by the daily newspapers. I told Phil I would volunteer and offered my tiny office in the Depot Building on Main Street as a meeting place for the group of volunteers he had recruited.

I was only expecting a few people to show up for the first meeting. To my surprise, there were so many that my office was full. To accommodate everyone, we took the meeting outside to the steps of the old warehouse building next door (where Sarducci’s is today). As we watched traffic cross the Main Street bridge, we talked about what each of us could contribute to launching a newspaper focused on Montpelier. As it turned out, the volunteer talent pool was deep and broad.

In a subsequent meeting at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library, we kicked around ideas for a name. Someone in the audience blurted out “The Montpelier Bridge,” and it quickly stuck. People liked both the reference to the city’s many bridges and the newspaper’s ability to bring residents together. In fact, we used “connecting our community” as the tagline in our first nameplate.

We felt strongly that copies of the newspaper should be free. That meant we would have to rely on advertising revenue to pay the bills. Advertisers look at readership numbers when deciding whether to buy ads, but we didn’t have any readers yet. To give ourselves instant credibility, we decided that The Bridge would be mailed to every household in the city. It was a gamble, as the sizable postage bill would add to our startup costs.

Phil, Nancy Schulz, and other volunteers went door-to-door in the city’s business district, telling business owners about our plans and soliciting ads. The response was strong enough that we soon had the green light to put out the first issue.

Bernie Folta volunteered to be the first issue’s editor, coordinating and polishing the work of many volunteer writers. My role was to assemble the ads and articles into the final product. With my desktop publishing business, I had the necessary computer equipment and software to layout the paper and prepare it for printing.

Our remaining hurdle was finding a printer willing to work with a startup that had no capital. Fortunately, I had a contact at Upper Valley Press in Bradford, which printed many other newspapers. After I explained our effort and the support it had received in the community, they agreed to print the paper on credit. It cemented the final piece of The Bridge in place.

My involvement with helping to start The Bridge only lasted a year, as my other work took me elsewhere. I’ve watched from afar as The Bridge grew and flourished over the last 30 years, and I remain grateful for how much support it has received from the community.