After a busy holiday season, businesses in the town of Middlebury are temporarily closing or reducing their hours for the winter. Middlebury Mountaineer, The Schmetterling Wine Shop, The Vermont Book Shop, Buy Again Alley and Middleton have all shortened their hours. The Stone Mill public market has fully closed for a three week period. Local businesses limiting hours in winter has become common practice in recent years due to an annual need to reset and a smaller number of customers coming in during the colder months.
Steve Atocha, owner of outdoor gear and clothing store Middlebury Mountaineer, has opted to close on Mondays since Jan. 1, but said the store will return to regular hours at some point in the spring. He looks forward to taking an extra day to pay bills and get things organized in the store while business is slow.
“You walk around downtown Middlebury on a Monday and you know it’s fairly quiet,” Atocha said. “It’s also more of a staffing issue for us, just because we do run a small skeleton business. When we have some other college students that come back, later this spring or early this summer, we’ll probably be open seven days a week.”
The Schmetterling Wine Shop has shortened their hours from open five days a week to only Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m to 6 p.m. Owner Danielle Pattavina attributes their choice to a decrease in customers after the holidays and widespread participation in “Dry January,” a common New Year's resolution to abstain from alcohol for the first month of the year.
“There are a lot of wine shops in Burlington that have completely closed their doors in January, but we decided to just lessen our hours over the course of the month to stay open, just not our full-fledged five days a week,” Pattavnia said. For now, Schmetterling has added an online feature for customers to shop at any time and pick up orders during open hours, and they also may shop by appointment. They will expand their hours as the days get longer in late winter and early spring.
The Vermont Bookshop will close all day on Sundays and an hour early on Monday through Saturday, with hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Store owner Becky Dayton said this change is typical for the shop in the winter, and she thinks staying open later is unnecessary when it gets dark earlier in the day and foot traffic is reduced. Additionally, she aims to accommodate her staff members with children and families to attend to in the evenings.
Buy Again Alley, a thrift store on Main Street, is open daily at 11 a.m., an hour later than their usual 10 a.m. opening time. Store manager Janette Gykeri said staffing has not been an issue for them, but there are not many people looking to shop earlier in the morning. She plans to see what her peer businesses do in the spring and adjust the shop's hours accordingly.
The Stone Mill public market’s temporary closure will last from Jan. 2 to Jan. 24. Their Instagram page announced they are taking the time to freshen up their space and take a break before beginning the new year.
The market also closed in January 2022 in a similar effort to reset.
“Closing for a few weeks in January positioned us for a stronger year across all our businesses. Investing time and effort over a three-week period to do this work, enables us to see a return on that investment through the year,” Community Barn Ventures – an advisory business on the second floor of The Stone Mill – partner Stacey Rainey wrote in an email to The Campus.
Karen Duguay from the Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP), a civic organization dedicated to supporting local businesses in Middlebury, said that businesses like the Stone Mill public market that opened right before the Covid-19 pandemic are still trying to figure out what is normal for them.
“One positive thing that has come out of the pandemic is that businesses have gotten more nimble and confident with making necessary adaptations that fit the climate. I think that businesses used to feel obligated to stay open certain days because people expected them to be open. Now, I think more businesses feel comfortable figuring out what their specific needs are at that moment and making changes as needed,” she wrote.
According to Duguay, stores typically use this time to clean, organize and plan. She noted that the BMP is also looking ahead to how they can fund and provide support for businesses. Duguay is currently working with a grant from the Addison County Economic Development Corporation to draw more visitors to the county area, targeting underserved populations such as the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities from a tourism perspective. They have put out advertisements and social media posts by micro-influencers highlighting local businesses to entice more customers and economic activity. Resulting data from the project will be available in the coming weeks.
To add some life to the quiet winter months before businesses fully reopen in Middlebury, Duguay is also planning a lantern walk for mid-February in town following the success of the Midd Night Stroll in December.
Madeleine Kaptein '25.5 (she/her) is a local editor and previously served as a copy editor.
A Comparative Literature major and German minor, Madeleine enjoys reading, biking and hanging out with her cats. She is also an editor for Clover Magazine.