Part II: It’s not easy being The Green; Defining a unique space

Country store and residence; the Mason's Lodge and Country Treasures.

Country store and residence, the Masonic Lodge and Country Treasures.

By Cynthia Prairie
© The Chester Telegraph – 2014

When Vermonters talk about their town’s “Green,” they are speaking of a gathering place, one that likely sports a large bandstand on an expansive lawn — more square than long and narrow. Typically, public buildings or churches and some homes surround these greens, while the town’s businesses are on other streets.

You’ll find such Greens in Weston, Townsend, Ludlow and Newfane. While not every Vermont town has a green — Grafton and Londonderry have parks — those that do generally fit the mold above. Chester’s Green is an exception.

An Analysis: The Green in Chester’s Green
Part I: Chester’s Green a window on the health of its local economy
Part II: It’s not easy being The Green; Defining a unique space
Part III: Dining out on the lure of a restaurant

Chester’s Green has businesses, with attached residences, lining one side of the street. Homes – a number with businesses — dot the other side.

Because it is long and narrow – and on a major thoroughfare through town – it isn’t as suitable to large “listening events” for, say, music or speakers. Chester’s traditional Memorial Day ceremonies are often drowned out by the 18-wheelers and other vehicles passing by. On the other hand, the Rotary’s annual Fall Festival on The Green, with its myriad vendors under tents and diners at picnic tables, successfully fits into the space.

And even though Chester’s Green physically runs from the Spater Building on the east to the Masonic Lodge on the west, defining what it means to be “On The Green” is problematic at best. For many home and business owners, being “On The Green” is part of their downtown identity that is as natural as the larger area’s walkability.  Proximity to the Green is an important marketing tool for businesses in the Village Center.

Although Chester’s Green physically runs from the Spater Building on the east to the Mason’s Lodge on the west, defining what it means to “On The Green” is problematic at best. For many home and business owners, being “On The Green” is part of their downtown identity that is as natural as the larger area’s walkability.

Joan Morey has been a real estate agent for 35 years, all of it in Chester, and almost all of her business conducted from the building she owns at 68 The Common.

When pressed, Morey  hesitates to draw boundary lines for a definition of “The Green.” “Chester is about this whole community,” she says.

However, she remembers, “There wasn’t much on The Green when I first started here” 30 or so years ago. “It was a sleepy little bedroom community” for the bustling factory town of Springfield. “There was the Fullerton (Inn), two banks in the Fullerton, a grocery story (an IGA where Misty Valley Books is). We’re evolving,” she says.

At the same time, the American Legion, an electric company and a plumber also inhabited the Green. With the growth of the Okemo Mountain resort, Chester became a lodging destination for skiers, and with that came the shops and restaurants that helped to meet the needs of the ski traffic and year round tourism. This replaced some of the economic vitality that was lost as Springfield’s factories lost business.

But that, says Bob Flint of Springfield Regional Development Corporation, was before the resort opened Jackson Gore, which provides an abundance of lodging and restaurants. Resorts like Okemo and Stratton that have developed “ski villages” are now aggressively marketing themselves as year round destinations putting more pressure on local economies to compete for business.

Now, solutions must be found. And that explains a lot of the buzz over the The Free Range restaurant.
Click here to read the third and final part: Dining out on the lure of a restaurant

The new Bargain Corner antiques shop that is also home to a number of apartments and the Moon Dog Cafe building with quite a number of shops in it.

The new Bargain Corner antiques shop that is also home to a number of apartments and the Moon Dog Cafe building with quite a number of shops in it.

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Filed Under: Business & Personal FinanceFeatured

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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