WILMINGTON—Water and books don’t mix. But a flood won’t keep a determined bookstore down.
Two and a half months ago, Bartleby’s Books was a boarded-up casualty of Tropical Storm Irene.
But thanks to the elbow grease of owner Lisa Sullivan, husband and contractor Philip Taylor, employees, local contractors, and volunteers, Bartleby’s will hold its grand reopening on Friday, Nov. 25, starting at 10 a.m.
“Bartleby’s is a vital part of the [Wilmington] community,” Sullivan said. “We want to be open to support that community.”
Sullivan serves as a member of the board of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce. She once was its president.
Irene’s Aug. 28 rains overwhelmed the banks of the Deerfield River, which courses through the heart of downtown. Floodwaters bled into Wilmington, leaving a swath of damage.
Most commercial properties had to be evacuated, and mostpublic utilities were disrupted due to damage to central infrastructure like the municipal water system.
During the storm, Sullivan and Taylor escaped through the back of the store when floodwaters blocked the front exit. Sullivan said the couple ran up an internal staircase to the second floor, down an outside flight of stairs behind the building, and climbed the steep slope of Ray Hill to their home.
From Ray Hill Road, overlooking the center of Wilmington, Sullivan said, they watched the dirty, rushing water engulf the Route 9 bridge and flood downtown businesses.
“It was surreal” watching the “rapids” through downtown, she said.
Stunned but never daunted, Sullivan and her fellow Wilmingtonians are rebuilding.
Four months before Irene, Sullivan also lost her Brattleboro-based bookstore, the 60-year old Book Cellar, to the estimated 1.8 million gallons of water that doused the Brooks House in a five-alarm fire on April 17.
Sullivan decided one lost bookstore was enough.
She held no doubts. Bartleby’s would reopen.
‘Fast and furious’
Sullivan said that everyone helping to rebuild has “worked fast and furious” to meet the store’s Thanksgiving grand reopening deadline.
Once volunteers and contractors removed the waterlogged inventory, furniture, and drywall, Sullivan said, she was ready to use Irene as an opportunity to redesign the store.
Sullivan estimates that Irene’s damages totaled $325,000. Most of the costs came from unsalvageable inventory and shelving. Damage to the building itself came to approximately $65,000.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) paid out $150,000. Sullivan and Taylor also borrowed $100,000 through the Vermont Economic Development Authority’s low-interest loan program for businesses and farms hit by Irene.
“We’ll make the rest of it work,” she said.
Sullivan said contractors have taken “floodproofing” measures when rehabilitating the building, constructed in 1833.
Contractors have raised the furnace and electrical systems, raised the front windows — formally large plate glass about one foot above the sidewalk — and insulated the building using closed-cell insulation, which, according to Sullivan, is more resilient to water damage.
The store’s second floor is open, providing seating and book “sections” like home and garden, travel, and reference. The store will continue to serve coffee from Mocha Joe’s in Brattleboro.
As part of the grand reopening, Bartleby’s will host Vermont author Archer Mayor for a signing of his latest Joe Gunther mystery, Tag Man. Mayor will be on hand to sign copies of his new book on Saturday, Nov. 26, at 2 p.m.