By Gwen Stanley
BRIDGEWATER — Jireh Billings, owner of the Bridgewater Mill Mall, says he has had a longtime dream of clearing out the various antiques and other items in the basement of the building and using the 100,000 square feet for a variety of non-profits and businesses.
“It was a two or three-year plan, something I looked forward to,” he said.
Now it’s a vast expanse of space, but not by Billings’ hand: the waters of Tropical Storm Irene damaged most of the items that were stored there as it pushed through the bottom floor of the Mill Mall.
Weeks later, after much work by crews and volunteers, most of the shops in the Mall are reopen for business. The thrift store on the top floor is open, Billings said, as well as Ramuntos and Donna’s Hair Studio. The artists’ galleries located there are open, and though the used bookstore is closed, Billings said that if customers are interested in a particular item, staff from the thrift store can help them obtain it. The Post Office is also open.
“One of the most important things is that we got the parking lot smoothed out,” Billings said. The town of Reading will keep a pile of gravel for use on their roads in the parking lot for a while, but otherwise the lot is back to normal.
Billings said a touch of humor was found while cleaning out: a live brown trout was found in the elevator shaft of the building. “Don’t know how he got in there, but there he was,” he said. The fish was taken to Three Sisters Farm where he was released.
This article first appeared in the September 29th print edition of the Vermont Standard.