GRANITE CITY GROOVE: Young Entrepreneurs Bringing New Businesses to Barre

by Joshua JeromeMaria's Bagels

One of the exciting things about working in downtown Barre is that there has been a steady flow of economic activity for the past several years. And a stroll through downtown the other day indicated to me that it was not stopping any time soon. On this particular day, I stopped at three different startup businesses on Main Street to check in on their progress. The first business, The Office Block, is a co-working space located above Espresso Bueno. Business partners Markus Browning and Reuben Stone are in the middle of renovations and on this day had solicited the help from family members to paint.

Splotches of various colors adorned the main wall with the “winners” identified with smiley faces. The color palette was certainly warming and vibrant. Markus showed me around and described the layout of their vision. He was enthusiastic about the project and so were his mother and girlfriend who were painting trim. Reuben was away working at the business partners’ other venture, Stone & Browning Property Management. The two young Barresians have so much enthusiasm for downtown Barre and are looking forward to finishing The Office Block space sometime in the middle to end of September.

I left Markus and his talented painters behind to catch up with Elysha Thurston at Ever After Photography. Elysha and her husband, Matt, were painting also. Matt had grown up in Barre and the two met at Norwich. After stops in Florida and Massachusetts, their family of five settled in Barre. Elysha told me that after starting her photography business three years prior, she was excited to be able to bring her passion and energy for photography into downtown Barre. Weddings and portraits are Elysha’s specialties and she enjoys meeting clients in environments that make them feel comfortable. Their space was nearly complete with some minor painting yet to be done and they hope to open by the end of the week.

Across the street I headed to see Dustin Poitras, owner of Maria’s Bagels. As I walked in, sure enough there was Dustin painting. Dustin’s entrepreneurial path started two years ago when he saw a lack of quality bagels in the Barre–Montpelier area. After going through several iterations of recipes, Dustin finally was satisfied with a final product that was unique in that much of the seasoning, traditionally on the outside of the bagel, would be located inside the dough. I asked him how he came up with the name and he said “my daughter’s name is Maria and it sounded better than Dustin’s Bagels, but it would also be a constant reminder to give it my all.”

The move for Dustin was critical as his current production facility limited the number of days he could utilize the equipment. The retail storefront will allow Dustin to expand production from 70 dozen bagels a week to 600 and help to grow his wholesale business while diversifying his model with retail offerings. Dustin hopes to open up in late September or early October and is looking forward to being on Main Street.

As I left Dustin and contemplated my visit with Elysha, Markus and Reuben, I was encouraged that four 20-somethings had so much energy and passion for their businesses, but also for the direction of downtown Barre. It brought me great satisfaction that I was able to capture these moments of four entrepreneurs on the same day doing the exact thing, painting their hopes and dreams on the wall. And then I realized, I had not gotten any paint on my hand, or my shirt or pants and I knew then that this was a special day.

The writer is executive director of The Barre Partnership

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