The Vermont Difference
The Vermont Difference.
Melissa Weeks is a computer programmer who went to Wall Street with a small consulting firm and ended up writing financial software for J.P. Morgan Securities. In addition to being a total Brainiac (which we love with a capital L), she’s an avid outdoorswoman, wife, and mother of four.
“I knew if I’d stayed on Wall Street, I’d never see my kids.” So, Weeks explains she made her exit. She joined the PTA groups. She ran a 350-team soccer tournament. She got involved with a nearby YWCA. “We had a single residence only facility for 90 women and provided social services and a work study program.” With colleagues, she founded the YW’s Racial Justice Institute which produces high profile events and community roundtables that make meaningful dialogue possible.
“My daughter and son were also involved in a model WHO organization. It started with small projects like raising money for mosquito netting, but the students were so into it and then the community got involved and we ended up raising sixty thousand dollars! Because I had run the YW, I helped them start a non-profit. We went to Kenya, we built a health care center, a tea buying center.” However, with one child heading off to college, two in high school, and one in middle school, Melissa said her family was cruising toward crisis. “My youngest and most competitive kid woke up the morning before a full day of activities and had a complete melt down.”
The Mountains are Calling.
“So, we started talking. What would we like to do? My husband was a software executive, miserable in corporate. My kids were stressed. I was burnt out. We decided to put our house on the market and make a move. But where? I have a brother in L.A. I have a brother in Seattle. The kids shocked us both when they suggested we consider our ski house in Vermont.”
Melissa investigated MVT area schools. Burr & Burton, Long Trail. She encouraged husband John to pursue his dream of starting his own development company. The entire family came up for a week during April break and did the whirlwind tour.
“We fell in love. And that was that.” Today is eight years later.
In 1879, John Heinel was a tailor with a shop on Main Street where Up for Breakfast is today. Because summering businessmen needed shirts and local businessmen needed suiting, Heinel opened a store. At some point, John’s son Fred took over. “Fred is the one that every local knows, the one who built the business. And then there were a handful of lovely owners. Carol and Harlan were here for almost 25 years. I shopped with Carol for gifts and flannels for the kids. One day, she told me they were putting the store on the market.”
“I thought about it long and hard. Heinel’s embodied so much of why we came to Vermont. The local history. The neighborhood vibe. The fact that you could get everything you want in one place. Real handkerchiefs. Vermont flannel.”
So, Melissa said yes and just like that, became a retailer. “I had to look at the store and the iconic lines that long time customers expected. I tried to envision what I could add that would be unique and fresh for a new customer. I’ve computerized everything. I’ve had a crash course in retail!” She laughed.
In the Shop.
When Weeks looks for new lines, she goes to trade shows and browses mid-level boutiques in San Fran, Seattle, and New York. She asks for input from her daughters and sons. Her inventory includes feel good fabrics, creative design, and quality-made items. We think that’s the Vermont difference. You’ll find companies like True Grit and Hippy Tree, cool young men’s brands. Plus a fun Burlington, VT t-shirt company — retro, nice fabric, kind of artsy.
Also, Tribal that Manchester Sports used to carry. Classic women’s wear — refined, less Vermonty, and travels beautifully — and Cut Loose, casual women’s clothing made in LA but with a dash of Vermont sensibility. Then there’s Lee Cornell’s One World Brothers. Cornell comes from a family with retail and textile history, and a connection with a small family mill in India. He travels there for a month or two each year and comes up with the ideas for OWB’s original fabrics and prints. “The shirts have a beautiful hand and really nice details.”
Look for Rachel DeCavage’s Cinder & Salt. From a small shop in Connecticut, DeCavage uses organic fabrics, makes her own organic, sustainable dye, and pens her own designs with a sharpie and cardstock before she silkscreens each shirt herself. “They’re beautiful, they wear well. They’re original, fun, and a little fashion forward.”
tasc is one of Melissa’s favorites. A father-son team patented this incredible formula for bamboo and wool, and bamboo and cotton. “It’s one of those things that once people try it, they love it. We camp a lot. And in the fall when it’s cold at night you can sleep in these and stay nice and warm without waking up all clammy.”
Also for the happy camper in you, Cedar Ravine from Cali. “These are all pics of our national parks.” Melissa shows us the scarves and headbands pictured below. “Everything from Cedar Ravine is hand-dyed and made in L.A. They donate 1% of their profits to preserving open land in the US.” We love their fun flannel wallets, camp blankets, fanny packs and lightweight beanies and gloves. Super cool, comfy.
Tried and True.
Since 1842, Johnson Woolen Mills has made the winter apparel Vermont is famous for. Flannels, wool shirt jacs, hunting pants, blankets and capes.
Salaam is another signature line. Woman owned, based in Plainfield, VT. They work with “really flattering fabrics and brilliant designs. I have their leggings and amazing basic layering tops which I can never keep in stock! They’ll also do one pattern in a couple of styles, one with ruching, one with a simple knot. The dresses look and feel unique. I’m able to order one of each size.” So, if you buy the blue dress hanging on the rack, there’s a good chance you’ll be the only one wearing it around town. She winked.
“So far, this year, I’m record-breaking. And my customers are the world. They’re local. They’re visitors. They’re young, like my kids. They’re retired. Once I had a man call me to say he had inherited his father’s Johnson Woolen mills shirt jac and while it was “perfectly fine” his wife said it wasn’t suitable for Sunday dinner.”
“We made a plan. The next time he was down here in “the city,” he should try one on, pick out the color and I would order it. When the jacket came in he was over the moon. Like I just did him the biggest favor.”
That’s what we love about Melissa and her store. It’s the Vermont difference. We support local. We value quality. And most of all, we’re here to give you the best dang service. You won’t find better anywhere else.
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