• Wintry weather boosts Vt. business
    By Kevin O’Connor
    Staff Writer | December 26,2013
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    Albert J. Marro / Staff PhotoS

    Kevin Visi, left, and Therese Beckwith were busy buying gifts in Rutland just before Christmas. But some Vermont retailers say the week after the holiday is also a boom period.
    Oh, the weather outside is frightful. But for many Vermont businesses, that means this holiday shopping season is delightful.

    “A short time ago, we’d say the weather wasn’t such a big deal, but when the economy took a downturn, people said, ‘Do I need these boots or coats now?’” says Mark McCarthy, part of the family that operates Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel stores in Barre, St. Albans and Williston. “This snow and cold has played very well into business.”

    That sentiment is echoed statewide, as merchants prepare for a flurry of post-holiday shoppers.

    “It’s certainly not the rush and buildup before Christmas, but this will be a really busy week,” says Eliot Orton, one of three brothers who make up the third generation of proprietors of Vermont Country Store in Weston and Rockingham. “People are here for Christmas break, and you can only ski about half the day. They’re looking for things to do.”

    Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, a downtown Brattleboro anchor since 1932, expects plenty of returns and exchanges.

    “We handle twice as much merchandise because it’s a lot of bringing back and taking out,” says Stanley “Pal” Borofsky, second of three generations of storekeepers. “And we have a tremendous amount of people who buy stuff because they get gift certificates. It’s just as busy the two or three days after Christmas as it is before.”

    This year, Mother Nature is puffing up sales.

    “This is the kind of weather that drives business,” Borofsky says. “Snow for boots, a little bit of wind so people buy ski masks and gloves … we’re having a great December.”

    People’s United Bank, Vermont’s largest with 42 offices, will be open as usual this coming week before closing early New Year’s Eve at 4 p.m.

    TD Bank, the state’s second largest with some 40 branches, will go one better, operating as usual through Dec. 31 with its call center and ATMs open “24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” an operator reports.

    Hannaford’s 18 Vermont supermarkets will offer regular hours until closing New Year’s Eve at 9 p.m. and reopening New Year’s Day.

    Price Chopper’s 15 Vermont supermarkets will offer regular hours until closing New Year’s Eve at 10 p.m. and reopening New Year’s Day.

    Vermont’s more than 250 post offices will deliver as usual, with most closing early at noon on New Year’s Eve but branches in Burlington, Montpelier and Rutland remaining open through Dec. 31.

    State offices will be open as usual until closing New Year’s Day, although employees will continue to monitor roads, prisons and other essential services.

    And Lenny’s returns to regular store hours today.

    “The month of December definitely doesn’t end on the 24th,” McCarthy says. “From the 26th to the 31st, with the weather and students being out of school, we’re expecting a better-than-average week of business.”

    kevin.oconnor @rutlandherald.com
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