DOWNTOWN: South Main revival

Michelle Monroe

By Michelle Monroe

Executive Editor

The Facts

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ST. ALBANS — The south end of Main Street in St. Albans City is getting a facelift. Buildings have new or refurbished facades and new enterprises have opened their doors.

“That end has really taken on a life of its own,” said Marty Manahan, the city’s director of business development.

The city stepped in and purchased 10 South Main St., a building damaged by a runaway truck that had been languishing ever since, and gave a façade improvement grant to the owner of 12 South Main St.

Lee Roscoe has restored two buildings he owns on the block, those housing Rail City Market and Vintage Vibe. “He has done a wonderful job with upgrading the building,” said Elaine Jones, owner of Vintage Vibe.

Downtown Cuts also has done a façade upgrade, and two other businesses are considering improvements, said Manahan.

“It’s diverse,” said Manahan, referring to the facades on the block, but he could just as easily have been speaking about the businesses.

The block south of Main Street has longstanding city businesses including Kevin Smith Sports Connection and Rail City Market. It now includes two specialty retail shops.

Vintage Vibe features older but not antique items. On a Thursday afternoon multiple people came through the door. Business used to be focused on the center of downtown, said Jones, “but now people are wandering down.”

“They’re so amazed by the look of things,” she said.

Like the other businesses the Messenger spoke with on the south end, she has a number of regular customers. “I have people who come in literally every day,” said Jones.

At Build a Bagel, owners Colin and Diane Daniels have begun naming sandwiches after their regular customers, even though they’ve only been open for about 10 weeks.

The bagels are made on site, with an emphasis on hearty, rustic food, explained Colin, who handles the cooking.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better spot,” said Daniels, who was selling tractors before opening the shop. The location had everything they needed, he explained, including a kettle for boiling the bagels.

Daniels also credits city leaders for their roles in the revitalization. “Civic leaders don’t often get credit, but I think what these guys have done is remarkable,” he said.

Almost next door, Eddie Woods specializes in serving “America’s number one addiction” – coffee.

Woods, who previously operated a coffee truck in the city, has opened the Grind Café inside Just the Place. Just the Place specializes in gifts from artisans and craftspeople, many of them local.

He offers specialties such as nitro coffee and cold brew iced coffee, along with drinks that reflect the region or the season, such as a maple macchiato or caramel apple cider.

For this pumpkin spice drinks, Woods made the syrup himself.

After working for Starbucks for several years, Woods felt if he wanted to do more with his love of coffee, he needed to start his own business.

Like his neighboring businesses, Woods said he is drawing a mix of new visitors and regular customers each day.

To avoid directly competing with Build a Bagel, Woods serves pastries and donuts along with his coffee, but not bagels. Mother Hubbard’s here in Franklin County supplies the pastries, with gluten-free offerings coming from West Meadow Farms in Essex Junction.

The block’s other food business – Maggie O’s frozen yogurt – has expanded their offerings to include candy.

Business on the south end is boosted by the presence of the U.S. Passport Agency, which provides passports on short notice. The agency brings visitors from around the region to St. Albans, all of whom have time on their hands while they wait for their passport application to be processed. “It’s kind of one of those sleepers that brings in a lot of business,” said Manahan.

The hope is that some of those visitors will return in the future, as well, said Manahan.

“Everybody talks about how good downtown looks,” said Manahan. “That’s where it begins is supporting these merchants.”