Brattleboro's Home Depot set to shutter
By Susan Smallheer
Herald Staff | May 02,2008
BRATTLEBORO — The Home Depot's tenure in Brattleboro, which was greeted with protests and in part prompted an ordinance designed to control big-box retailers in town, is ending.
The closing of the local Home Depot Store on Putney Road, one of 15 home improvement stores the nationwide chain will close — a tiny location compared to the chain's usual size store — was announced by Home Depot's corporate headquarters Thursday morning.
It will put more than 80 people out of work.
The store, which offered discounts on items from lawn rakes to refrigerators to light bulbs and lawnmowers, lumber, electrical supplies and carpeting, closed its doors Thursday evening and will reopen on Saturday for a clear-out sale.
The reason for the closing? Brattleboro's small Home Depot store wasn't meeting its financial targets or projections, according to Home Depot's corporate spokesmen.
The 60,000-square-foot Brattleboro store was far smaller than a newer Home Depot store in nearby, tax-free Keene, N.H., and another store, less than 20 miles away in Greenfield, Mass. The average size is 100,000 square feet.
When Home Depot came to Brattleboro and opened its store four years ago, it was greeted with some controversy, recalled Jerry Goldberg, executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce.
When it set up shop, it was the largest and most visible presence of the nation's so-called big box stores. Of major retail chains, only Staples and Peebles have stores in Brattleboro, except for the chain supermarkets and fast food restaurants.
"I'm sure when Brattleboro came to town, there were people who vowed to never set foot in the store. I don't think that happened," he said. "Home Depot was accepted as a fact of life."
Goldberg said his heart went out to the people working at the store who would lose their jobs.
"It's always sad to see that, I really feel for those people," said Goldberg, adding that Home Depot had joined the local Chamber of Commerce and had contributed to the community. "A lot of people are employed by Home Depot."
He said when the company came to town, it brought some managers with it, but it hired locally.
"I would hate to see that knowledge leave the community," he said.
Goldberg said he was always impressed with the variety of the goods offered at the store. When he needed a new stainless steel sink, he had 15 models to choose from, he said.
Goldberg said Brattleboro had debated the issue of big-box stores vigorously after Home Depot came to town.
According to former Brattleboro Planning Director Jim Mullen, Home Depot easily got all the permits it needed in Brattleboro because it was replacing another store, discount retailer Ames Department Store. "It was just retail for retail," said Mullen.
But the issue of large stores presenting unfair competition to small, homegrown businesses was on Brattleboro area residents' minds, both Mullen and Goldberg said.
"There was a lot of back and forth on big-box stores, and what was the definition of a big-box store," said Goldberg.
Goldberg said Brattleboro's beloved family-owned hardware store Brown & Roberts "has never been healthier."
And he said the other hardware store in town, Fireside TruValue, which was directly across Putney Road from Home Depot, was doing well, as were the two building supply stores in the area: Leader Home Center in West Brattleboro and Perkins Home Center in neighboring Chesterfield, N.H.
Mullen, who is now town manager in his hometown of Rockingham, said Brattleboro passed a zoning ordinance that would require any store larger than 65,000 square feet go for state Act 250 land use permits, in addition to local permits, but he said there was "no connection" to Home Depot's arrival.
"I guess it's survival of the fittest," Goldberg said. "It's very easy to hop over to Keene and get your Home Depot fix."
Contact Susan Smallheer at email@example.com.