The state of economic well being in Essex and Orleans counties depends on who you talk to.
The Ethan Allen furniture manufacturing mill in Island Pond shut down this past summer, putting 120 people out of work. Two months later were the terrorist attacks.
But the economic collapse that was feared in Island Pond from both these events was less than expected.
Island Pond was probably the community expected to suffer the most in the region, said Mary Paull, economic coordinator for the Northeastern Vermont Development Association in the Orleans-Northern Essex counties area.
Some felt the impact for certain. Others did not.
One area business hit hard by the Ethan Allen shutdown was the Island Pond True Value hardware store. Owner Stuart Gaboriault said Ethan Allen had a major account with his store, and when it closed, he lost about 10 percent of his business.
Others less affected were those in the grocery, gasoline and convenience food businesses.
John Gariepy, owner of a major grocery store in the community, didn\'t feel the impact immediately because the mill closing coincided with the start of the tourist season. Much of his business comes from summer residents and campers on the nearby pond.
But when the tourists left this fall, he felt the loss of customers stopping for groceries on their way home from the mill.
Another economic reality for Gariepy is the late snowfall. Snowmobilers are a major contributor to Brighton\'s economy during the winter months.
Robert George, owner of R.J. Friendly Market in Newport, said despite the Sept. 11 attacks, recession and layoffs, business has continued to be good. \"I think people are staying home more. So if they stay home, they have to eat.\" Although George saw a definite slowdown in business right after the attacks, overall business was as good as last year. \"We had a good summer. We had the same tourist trade as last year.\"
Another major business and prime attraction to Island Pond, Simon the Tanner shoe store, apparently didn\'t experience any negative impact from the mill\'s closing. Although the mill workers may have bought boots at the store, \"we didn\'t see them too much,\" said a sales person. The store has felt a positive impact from the Sept. 11 attacks. They\'ve seen business increase.
Many area businesses on Newport\'s Main Street are experiencing equal and better sales this Christmas season compared to last year.
For example, the Bum Raps and adjoining Whisper Tree clothing stores, along with Alexandra\'s Kitchenware and Gifts store are having Christmas season sales as good as last year, or better. \"It has been very good for Christmas,\" said Bum Raps and Whispering Tree manager Jessie Davignon. That was also true at Alexandra\'s, where the fall season was better than average and sales continue to soar.
But not all businesses on Main Street shared the same good fortune. Sherry Norris, proprietor of The Landing clothing store, said her Christmas business has been down, presumably from the lack of snow. Norris thought people were buying bigger ticket items this year, such as electronics and snowmobiles, rather than clothing.
But stores specializing in television, stereo, and other electronic products reported that although business has been good this year compared to last year, it is only a normal December, with no higher sales on specialty items. While people were in shock and stayed home the first week after Sept. 11, business has been normal since. Most families, it was reported, are buying more for the home this year.
At the Great Outdoors sporting goods store in Newport, business has been slower this year. But was it due to lack of snow, Sept. 11 or the local layoffs?
Store manager Amanda Dagesse believed Sept. 11 had a lot to do with the slower business. She also believes the lack of snow made this year\'s November business drop off from last year\'s. But business in December, despite a continued lack of snow until the end of the month, is about the same as last year\'s.
Newport\'s Woodknot Bookshop owner Jennifer Hopkins has her own views of the decline in business as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. \"I think it is obvious business has been affected,\" Hopkins said. She blames it on the war against terrorism.
Hopkins said after the Sept. 11 attacks, people were glued to their televisions and weren\'t reading books. But that has since changed. The layoffs, on the other hand, gave more people time to read, although she doesn\'t know how much that has affected her business.
Jennifer\'s Restaurant owner Peter Sprague, a Brighton Selectman, said his business felt no impact when the mill closed. He experienced a slower November and December, but believed it was the overall economic slowdown that began in the spring. \"It was generally good for the past couple of months. And when the snowmobilers arrive, things will be back where they should be,\" said Sprague.
Although some of the other local restaurants reported that business has dropped off considerably since Sept. 11, Loren Shaw, owner of the Parkside Restaurant in Newport, doesn\'t believe his business decline had anything to do with the attacks. \"We are down about 15 percent from last year,\" said Shaw. He believes it was a decline in the economy since the beginning of summer more than the terrorist attack. \"I think free trade had a lot to do with it,\" Shaw said of the present recession. \"Big companies can do anything they want to overseas. It is killing us. We need to close that door.\" Shaw is a state legislator representing the Newport area.