‘Bundle’ Pops Up on Main Street, Aims to Revitalize Downtown

By LUCY TOWNEND

Lucy Townend/The Middlebury Campus
Nancy (right) and Mary Beth (left) participate in the ReBag workshop at Bundle.

MIDDLEBURY – Bundle, a new organization recently installed at 60 Main St., hopes to bring the community together to revitalize the downtown area through pop-up stores, workshops and galleries.

Karen Duguay, Executive Director of the Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP), said that the space could bring an “infusion of energy” into Middlebury. Her hope is that the space will draw people downtown to meet their neighbors, learn new skills and check out the stores and restaurants in order to promote business in town.

The idea was the brainchild of Neighbors, Together, an action group comprised of stakeholders ranging from Middlebury College to Porter Hospital, who hope to mitigate the effects of the downtown construction. The BMP is the fiscal agent behind the new project. Kelly Hickey, a local artisan who created Edie and Glo, a handmade vintage clothing business, has been hired to manage the space.

“I prefer a more urban environment, and so I really wanted to create a feel for the two – a small community feel but with stuff going on downtown,” said Hickey. She described Bundle and the space as “an intersection of experience and shopping” that merges urban and small town living.

Lucy Townend/The Middlebury Campus
An example of some of the bags created in the ReBag workshop at Bundle.

Events in April include the ReBag workshops, in which community members have the opportunity to make reusable bags in order to cut down on the use of plastic ones. The workshop ran on April 6 and is also scheduled for April 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“It’s crafts as a form of activism,” said Nancy, a community member involved with the organization.

“I just love to sew, and so this is a great way to sew and do things for others at the same time,” added Mary Beth, another participant.

Other future events will include a secondhand clothes pop-up shop, which will coincide with the Middlebury Maple Run on May 5. The market will include vendors from Pittsfield to Burlington, and will include jewelry and health oils as well.

“Local high schoolers don’t often purchase from second hand stores because they don’t like to wear other people’s clothing,” said Hickey, who thinks that bringing in retailers from other areas will mitigate this problem.

Bundle will also be involved in “Spring into the Arts” around Memorial Day, in which Bundle will showcase art from the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center, Middlebury Union Middle School and Middlebury Union High School. The hope is that local artists will come in and collaborate with students on their work so that each group can learn from each other.

“It’s a time when the youth can learn from the community member and the community member can learn from the youth,” Hickney said.

The calendar will also feature swing dance workshops, a fiddle group, collaborations with the farmer’s market and an African basket-weaving workshop led by residents from Shelburne. Both Duguay and Hickey emphasized that the space is meant to be part of a collaboration, not a competition.

The space at 60 Main St. was formerly occupied by Clay’s, a women’s clothing store that closed in June of 2018. Bundle rents the space on the condition that no other retailer wants to rent it, meaning that if a retailer wanted to open a new store, Bundle would move out after a 90-day grace period. “If anyone wants the space permanently we will step back…we can take it to a different space,” Duguay explained. Hickey added that 51 Main St. and the space once occupied by the general store Ben Franklin could be additional options for Bundle.

Bundle and the Neighbors, Together organization were created to tackle the impacts of construction work downtown. “Retail is declining nationwide,” said Duguay, claiming that Middlebury’s retail is “facing challenges never seen before.” Next summer is supposed to be the heaviest period of construction, and retailers are “nervous about future,” Duguay said.

When asked about feedback, Hickey said, “people love the space, love the idea, but hate the parking,” but also added that the lack of parking is part of the idea of Bundle. The hope is that visitors, especially from hotels and Airbnbs on the outskirts of town, will be drawn in by events at Bundle, have to park outside of town and then be forced to walk through downtown, interacting with stores, restaurants and the movie theatre.

Hickey and Duguay wish to include college students as much as possible in the process. “We want college students to feel an ownership of the downtown space,” said Duguay, “and we need to encourage people to value community over cost and convenience.”

Lucy Townend/The Middlebury Campus
“A penny for your thoughts”: Bundle asks participants to provide feedback on its first event.

“We just need to bundle everyone together,” finished Hickey.

If any college student is interested for working for Better Middlebury Partnership or has any other ideas about how to mitigate the effects of Downtown Construction, contact Karen Duguay at karen@bettermiddleburypartnership.org.

If any student is interested in hosting a workshop or pop-up at Bundle or wants to know more about events, contact Kelly Hickey at sydzea@yahoo.com.

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