RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) – The pandemic has been bad for business, but don’t tell that to people in Rutland. The downtown is seeing a flurry of new shops and restaurants opening up.
“Because of what it represents — opportunities, advancements,” said Ibjar Meneses, the owner of Dos Eses Delicious Tamales, who opened his restaurant in June. He says it’s wild that 13 new businesses have opened or relocated downtown this year. “Obviously, where there are businesses, it helps to get the economy flowing.”
“Business is booming is Downtown Rutland right now,” said Nikki Hindman, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership. She says the push to shop local and the pandemic is creating a springboard for some. “Younger business owners or potential business owners that have decided after the pandemic, they want to do what they are passionate about and they are ready to take that risk right now.”
Hindman says almost all ground floor storefronts are occupied and some of those that may look empty have plans. That includes the former Coffee Exchange Cafe, which is going to be an Indian restaurant. Many new businesses are filling spaces that sat vacant, in some cases for years.
“Who wouldn’t want to own a building downtown? And in Rutland, it’s affordable to do that,” said Calista Budrow the owner of GreenSpell Plant Shop. Burdrow’s family bought the building as an investment in April and she opened the houseplant and gift shop Saturday. “People are really excited for where Rutland is heading and I am too. I think there is really great momentum.”
After discovering the downtown is lacking places for visitors to stay, Budrow and her husband decided to renovate the space above the shop as a luxury Airbnb.
“We desperately need housing — number one — and we desperately need places for visitors to stay in,” Hindman said.
Studio Mini is a full-service promotional agency that moved downtown to create a showroom and have a space for clients to meet. “Downtown Rutland was the obvious choice for us because it’s a family business and it’s always been located in Rutland,” said agency’s Dana Carroll. They are also working with Castleton University to offer interns full-time jobs. “Encourage the young people graduating to put down some roots in the Rutland area.”
Hindman says those buildings that are still for sale are also getting attention from potential buyers.
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