by Ellen Cronin
A drug war of a different sort-a legal one-is brewing here in town.
Two rival national drugstore chains are poised to become neighbors literally. Rite Aid and Brooks Pharmacy are moving in next to one another on Meadow Street.
Rite Aid's plans to build a new store from scratch have been no secret. Site work shifted into high gear this week when crews demolished four houses the chain purchased earlier this summer.
But on Monday night, a construction crew arrived next door to Rite Aid's new home. Workers began to tear apart the inside of the old Ruggles supermarket to make way for a Brooks Pharmacy.
Rumors have floated around town Brooks was looking at Littleton, but actual confirmation surprised some. And many were startled by news of the location - next door to Rite Aid's new home.
Prank Dodge, owner of Dodge Construction, confirmed his company is doing the work on the Ruggles site for Brooks. As he explained, he's been instructed to begin the interior demolition work of the old supermarket while consultants start to draw designs for the new Brooks. Dodge added that Brooks is moving ahead because Rite Aid is too.
Pam Newland, manager of the Brooks Pharmacy in St. Johnsbury, also confirmed it's no secret there have been plans for a store in Littleton. She added that Littleton shoppers like Brooks, judging from the numbers of them who travel to the closest existing one in St. Johnsbury.
No details were available Tuesday from Brooks corporate headquarters in Warwick, R.I. The company vice president who handles media inquiries concerning construction plans was unavailable.
Brooks once had a place here on Main Street, a health and beauty store that did not include prescription medications. It closed in the early 1990s.
Reportedly, the new Brooks will include full pharmacy services.
Originally, Brooks hadn't honed in on the Ruggles plaza site as a preferred location. According to Dr. Richard "Doc" Hill, the company had negotiated to buy his property
istine a way as it can. We will build a walkway along it, that will be four miles down and back. What do people do on vacation? If they are from a city? They like to walk, perhaps along a brook in the spring, or on a fall day."
Before the people can come to Jay Peak, winter or summer, and stay the night, more beds are needed. Stenger said combined with the existing facilities, there will be room for 1,200 or more people in a variety of living quarters when the master plan is achieved.
The golf course and academy will be done in one construction cycle, while the next five to seven years will focus on implementing the plan, to be completed in up to a dozen years. It will feature an enclosed area sprouting from existing buildings that will feature a courtyard look and include commercial space, a sports center and living areas. More trails and snowmaking are included, with condos, duplexes, single family homes and townhouses to go along with more ho~ rooms.
"The housing is designed to provide the bed base for our growth. There are too few places to stay in the area versus Stowe, Killington and others. This is imminently doable, and the timing is right," he said.
Stenger sees three environmental assets at Jay Peak: the brook, the mountain views and the forest canopy that is visible throughout the resort and is relatively undisturbed- That is important, since drawing people to the area in the summer will involve the lands around the base of the mountain.
"You know what you need to do from a business standpoint to be successful. You can't have a four month business anymore. The ski industry is far too capital intensive and too expensive for one season. You need balance recreation such as biking, hiking, fishing, g~f and photography- This is a breathtaking part of Vermont, the most picturesque part of the state," Stenger said.
To describe the Jay Peak expansion effort as simply an environmental one would be incorrect, as its backers firmly believe the resort can be one of the best around after reviewing how they handled their expansions.
"We will benefit from what other resorts have done in New England; learn from the good and the bad. And our implementation plan will be the right one. This would not work at Stowe, because of the way their land is. And a lot of resorts seem to be hodgepodge in terms of how they have grown. Our plan is not, and we believe Jay Peak will look like the plan when it is done," Stenger said.
The resort itself has been up for sale since last year by the company which owns it, along with five ski areas and a water park. "They need capital for expansion, and they do not have the capacity to do them all. Last September, the decision was made-It was a strategic decision. I will say our plan is very appealing to people who are showing interest. It's very important. The health of this resort is dependent on a transfer of ownership," he said.
Stenger said he fully expects a deal to be done this year, and "it is my intention to see it to its destiny. The staff is very eager to implement the plan."
This expansion could provide quite an economic stimulus for the area, and getting the vacationer is an important part of that. "We have relied on day skiers, and we love them. For Vermonters, it is a part of their life, and we have lots of programs for the locals. But what provides the jobs on a year-round basis is the vacationer. They will stay, eat meals, buy lift tickets, shop. It is a vacation mentality- They spend more," Stenger said.
"The demographics of it are there will be more 45 year olds in this country than ever. It will be the most affluent generation, and they are typically interested in our product, real estate. It is a strong and growing market," he added.
Special touches are being taken to weave the expansion in and out of the natural environment, such as living up what Stenger called "interesting trees" that are slowly dying but have bear tracks showing where they climbed for food.
Driving around the future and current housing sites, Stenger admitted the 1985 expansion, a high density living area, might have been done better. "Doing it now, we would have left more trees," he said.
The future is now at Jay Peak, where the culmination of a sale, whenever it takes place, will signal in the move toward realizing one of the grander visions in the Northeast Kingdom. And it everything happens as planned, the resort will create jobs and more recreational opportunities, with the environment taken into account every step of the way.
There are other efforts to bring about economic development gains in the area on a small business basis. That will be the focus on the next article in this series.