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Dover residents have been brainstorming about businesses that can withstand the seasonal forces of an economy that so heavily relies on skiing and winter recreation.

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What does Dover want?

A brainstorming session comes up with a list of what folks want, what they don’t want, and advice to new business owners about how to succeed

DOVER—About 26 people attended an open public brainstorming idea jam on Aug. 31 at Deerfield Bar & Bottle to give local residents, business owners, and second-home owners a chance to voice their opinions about what types of businesses would best fit the town.

Attendees included Selectboard members, residents, and current business owners.

“Everybody was interested in having the conversation,” Dover Economic Development Director Eric Durocher said after the meeting. “We were excited. I think it went extremely well.”

Durocher says Dover Economic Development has focused “on emphasizing that a business we don’t currently have is going to get a higher score so people understand we’re not trying to replace their businesses.”

Asked what would happen if someone wanted to establish something like a recreational cannabis shop, medical marijuana dispensary, or car wash, Durocher noted there exists a town resolution disallowing medical marijuana dispensaries and that discussions are ongoing about the implications of high water usage vis-a-vis the town’s water table.

Ultimately, he said, such applications will be addressed if and when they come to the table.

“A lot of things could have a conversation, but I think we’ll just cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said.

Participants were asked at the brainstorming session, “If you had unlimited time and money and zero chance of failure, what type of business would you open?”

Their responses: a car wash, health club, clothing store, campground, golf simulator, bakery, maker space, distillery, motorcycle shop, specialty food store, and an Italian restaurant with live music.

When asked about the types of businesses that they feel “already have a solid presence in Dover,” they listed ski shops, New American cuisine restaurants, lodging, seasonal businesses, property management businesses, service businesses such as excavating and landscaping, and short-term rental businesses.

The top five businesses that participants deemed lacking and needed: off-hours weather recreation opportunities and kids’ activities, child care, maker space/coworking space, an information center, and a specialty food/restaurant.

Other responses included a dry cleaner, health care, veterinary services, pet supplies/grooming/doggie day care, reliable Internet service provider, long-term rentals, car wash, bank, live entertainment venue, ride sharing, public swimming pool/ice rink, and a food delivery service.

Among businesses that participants do not want to see in Dover are a chain big-box store, “the same restaurant,” a fast-food chain, strip clubs, casinos, and more lodging.

Attendees listed “the most innovative businesses to open in Dover or the surrounding area in the past decade” as Deerfield Bar and Bottle, Custom Catch, Mind Lock (an escape room), Ratu’s Liquor and Market, CB Creates, Snow Republic Brewery, Moto Vermont, Sticky Fingers Bakery, Peak Property Services, Tito’s Taqueria, Advisors Mortgage Group, First Choice Mortgage Services, the Creemee stand, Twice Blessed (thrift store), and Green Mountain Adventure Challenge (“epic real-life action adventure journeys”).

Those in attendance found the businesses best suited to Dover’s seasonal economy — or more immune to slower times and situations, such as a pandemic — to be a liquor store, marijuana dispensary, businesses with firm online presence, small manufacturing, recreational businesses, entertainment venues, retail clothing shops, child care, grocery stories, essential services, professional services, property services, and multi-functional businesses.

Businesses that would help attract a broader workforce here were listed as tech-based businesses, recreational activities, a culinary school, financial services, small manufacturing, a technical school, affordable housing, professional services, and an aviation school.

Advice for a new business owner in Dover included focusing on marketing, consistent and reliable hours of operation, community involvement, hosting and participating in local events, knowing town regulations, working with Mount Snow, collecting and understanding the 1-percent local-option sales tax, always returning phone calls and emails, professionalism, creating a solid web presence, continuing education, employee training, resiliency, providing the highest level of hospitality, maintaining a realistic budget, and presenting one’s passion.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #629 (Wednesday, September 8, 2021). This story appeared on page A2.

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