New businesses secure storefronts on Merchants Row

By Emily Hogan

A photo of Maggie and Anthony Gerakos, owners of Little Seed Coffee, taken by Katie McCuin of Katie Jean Photography. The couple were lovers of coffee roasting for years before starting their own business in Middlebury.

Three new businesses have arrived on Merchants Row in downtown Middlebury, including the Little Seed Coffee, new locations for Berkshire Hathaway Realty – Vermont Realty Group and the food spot Juice Amour, which was previously located in East Middlebury.

Merchants Row’s central location provides its shops with heavy foot traffic, which has become even more important for local businesses during the ongoing economic downturn. Shops on Merchants Row are also frequented by college students, since the street is within walking distance of campus, making the location a significant draw for new establishments.

Little Seed Coffee occupies 24 Merchants Row, and its owners Anthony and Maggie Gerakos are avid coffee roasters who lived in Brooklyn just last year. The couple began roasting coffee beans a few years ago on a small sample roaster, a move which set plans in motion to launch a coffee shop. 

Maggie Gerakos indicated that the pandemic sped up the timeline of opening Little Seed Coffee but ultimately expressed that it has paid off.

“We really loved the community of Middlebury and how supportive everyone has been here,” she said.

While Little Seed Coffee does not officially open until Oct. 2, it is already buzzing with pre-opening activity. As the Gerakoses prepare each day by hiring new employees, working with contractors, amassing a variety of coffee beans and creating merchandise, they make an effort to embrace the locals who walk by. 

“We’ve had people in the neighborhood sort of wandering around . . . we’d be around to answer them as best as possible about what we’re planning to do,” Anthony Gerakos said. 

“We’re hoping [Little Seed] will be a really nice spot for the community of Middlebury,” Maggie Gerakos said. 

The location has two floors, and the Gerakos plan to use each space differently. The couple intends to fill the upstairs space with music, and customers will be able to chat and purchase coffee there. The downstairs will have room for two long communal tables and is meant to be a quiet space where students and working professionals can gather.

The couple hopes to do community outreach through their “You Sip, We Give” program. This program will involve donating 5% of the shop’s quarterly proceeds to small nonprofits based in the communities that their beans originate from. Since Little Seed Coffee plans to change the coffee beans it offers every few months, the Gerakos plan to give back to multiple communities.

“That way, we can support not only the [coffee] farmers but their communities at large,” Maggie Gerakos said.

At 32 Merchants Row, Brokers Neil and Sue Mackey partnered with several real estate agents to open a branch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Vermont Realty Group in mid-July.

Berkshire Hathaway – Vermont Realty Group has gone through several changes throughout its almost fifty-year history in Vermont. Started in 1972 by Jack Russell in his home in Georgia, Vermont, the group was originally called Jack Associates and was part of the Century 21 franchise. In March 2020, the group changed its name to Vermont Realty Group and switched to partner with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. 

“Having been with the Century 21 franchise since the inception of [Jack Associates], it was somewhat of a difficult decision,” said Neil Mackey. “I think [the Russells] have been very pleased with the change.”

Mackey himself started his own real estate company in Middlebury in 1986, which was later acquired by Jack Associates in the early 2000s.

Over the course of the pandemic, real estate has been subject to plenty of changes and adjustments. Due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, some out-of-state buyers have been unable to look at properties in person, instead relying on associates at Berkshire Hathaway to do video tours of properties. These changes have also led to many out of staters buying property in Middlebury and the greater state of Vermont.

“We’re seeing a tremendous influx of out-of-state people coming in and buying property in Vermont right now,” Mackey said. 

Although Juice Amour currently has a store in Middlebury on Route 7, owner Sheri Bedard is moving her Middlebury store to a more downtown location at 16 Merchants Row. Bedard opened the business with her father, Jack Bedard.

Juice Amour serves juices, smoothies and vegan food, which, according to the Addison Independent, aligns with Bedard’s values, as she is a vegan. According to Juice Amour’s website, “creating nutritious, delicious, beautiful and accessible food to our community is at the core of everything we do.”

The business buys their produce from organic farmers in Vermont, and juices are served and delivered in glass jars that can be reused when brought back into the shop. Juice Amour also uses “100% compostable single use items” to eliminate waste and plastic usage, according to its website. Bedard hopes to open Juice Amour’s new location on Merchants Row on Oct. 1, the Addison County Independent reported.

The three businesses join six others that are set to open their doors in Middlebury within the next year, including an ice cream parlor, a climbing gym and an art supply store.