Monique “Mo” Bonner ’92 is the owner of Addison West — a home and lifestyle store on Main Street in downtown Middlebury. The Campus spoke with Mo last week about Addison West, the store’s new location in Waitsfield and her experience at Middlebury.
Maggie Reynolds: What is the story of Addison West’s founding?
Monique Bonner: I’ve wanted to start my own business for the better part of 30-plus years. When I was a Middlebury student, I worked at an awesome deli gourmet food store in [town] and seriously thought about buying that business when it went up for sale shortly after I graduated. I’ve always had a passion for retail but took a very different career path for 20 years. I worked as a technology marketing executive, and I loved it, and then Covid-19 happened — I had something of a midlife Covid-19 catharsis.
I thought, “I’ve always wanted to do this; I’ve always wanted to start a business.” So, I decided that I was going to launch, on my 50th birthday, an interior design blog and website. About two weeks after that was launched [in] October 2020, some friends from town who were moving their business had a storefront on Main Street, and they asked if I might want to use it for a pop-up store. So we launched that pop-up where the store is now in late November of 2020.
MR: Describe your merchandise. Where do you get it from?
MB: We started off leaning heavily towards antiques and vintage goods because I have been collecting them for the purposes of starting a business for the better part of 10 years: vintage birch bark canoes, vintage pennants, vintage glassware, vintage artwork. Since then, the business has expanded significantly: home furnishings, rugs and lighting, along with a heavy dose of Vermont-made products.
We’re very thoughtful about fair trade and ethical practices and sustainability, but we do look to some of our manufacturers who bring in things from overseas and other parts of the United States.”
MR: What is your main customer base?
MB: [Our] target customer is probably a woman who is in her mid-30s to mid-40s. [She] is looking to invest in things for a home, whether that is furniture that’s a step up from Ikea, or home decor or goods that are a little bit more contemporary.
MR: Can you tell me about the new Waitsfield store?
MB: Originally, we were looking to expand in Middlebury, and we looked at a number of locations. We got very close a couple of times, but for a variety of reasons, those opportunities fell through.
The Waitsfield location was a bit serendipitous — my husband and I were over there for our wedding anniversary in December of 2021 and drove by a building that had housed a very successful kitchen and pantry-type home store, which had closed during Covid-19. I saw that it was for sale, and it was like a lightning bolt struck.
It’s been really good for us to diversify our revenue base from the Middlebury area. Both stores happen to be in Vermont, but, because one is in a college town, and one is in a ski resort, they’re actually quite complementary in ways that we didn’t really plan for, but we feel very lucky that we have.
MR: Were you a part of the Better Middlebury Partnership Kick Start Grant?
MB: Yes. We applied for that grant and were granted one of [the Kick Start grants] to expand in Middlebury, but we were not able to take advantage of that when we decided to expand outside of Middlebury.”
MR: What was your experience at Middlebury?
MB: I loved everything about my Middlebury experience.
I remember being a senior in high school, and Middlebury was my top school before I even visited. My dad took me on the college tour in maybe early September, and it was one of [those] unseasonably cold September nights. We pulled up to campus on [Route] 125 and got out of the car. I looked back behind me and saw the Green Mountains, and I just felt it – this is where I have to go.
MR: What did you study?
MB: I was a psychology major with a creative writing minor.
MR: Were you the founder of Tav?
MB: The college was wanting to make changes, and the Tavern came out of one of the single-sex male fraternities. The Tavern was originally called Omega Alpha, which is the last letter and the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and the idea was: the end [of Greek life on campus], but the beginning of something new.
We felt it was really important to create this community of like-minded students who wanted to participate in this collaboration and co-creation. When I hear that Tavern is still around, it makes me happy for the college and happy for the students.”
MR: How does it feel to be back in the town where you went to college?
MB: I’ve lived in lots of other places, [but] the reason why we live here is because of that same feeling that I had when I stepped out of that car 30-some-odd years ago. It is because Vermont and the Green Mountains and Addison County just feel like home.
I love the opportunity to be involved in a small community and to make a difference.
Addison West, located at 44 Main Street in downtown Middlebury, is open Tuesday and Wednesday 12–5 p.m.; Monday and Thursday to Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity
Maggie Reynolds '24 is the Senior Local Editor.
She previously served as Local Editor and Staff Writer. Maggie spent this past summer in Vermont, covering arts & culture for Seven Days VT. She also interned as a news reporter with the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY during summer 2021.
Maggie is studying History with minors in Spanish and Political Science. She is also a member of the Women's Swimming & Diving team.