'Pal' Borofsky named VRA Retailer of the Year
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott joined VRA Executive Director Tasha Wallis to honor, Sam's Outdoor Outfitters in Brattleboro, Green Life in Burlington, and Brown Dog Books in Hinesburg as the 2011-2012 VRA Retailers of the Year.
Governor Shumlin said, “It’s hard to overstate the importance of Vermont’s retail industry. About one in five Vermonters works in retail. But numbers are only part of this story, because retail businesses are also the heart and soul of Vermont’s historic downtowns. Their unique presence is a quintessential part of Vermont’s character and mystique.”
Lieutenant Governor Scott, who is also co-owner of one of Vermont’s major construction firms, said, “As a business person myself, I know that it’s impossible to overstate the importance of our retail industry to Vermont’s economic health. I’m pleased to join the Governor, and Executive Director Wallis, in congratulating these exemplary businesses.”
WINNERS OF THE 2011-2012 VRA RETAILER OF THE YEAR AWARDS:
RETAILER OF THE YEAR: Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, Brattleboro
2012 VRA Retailer of the Year: Incoming VRA Board of Trustees President Marc Sherman; Lt. Gov. Phil Scott; Stanley “Pal” Borofsky; Bradley Borofsky; Vermont Senator Jeannette White (D), Windham County
Samuel “Sam” Borofsky, a Russian immigrant, opened the first Sam’s Army & Navy Store in 1932 in Brattleboro, selling—literally—military surplus. Today, Sam’s is a third-generation family-owned and operated business that includes stores in Brattleboro, Keene, NH, and Hadley, MA totaling almost 65,000 square feet and employing 100 people. In addition, Sam’s is that rarest of all retail species, a true “destination store,” in the tradition of L.L Bean. Legendary for matchless quality and a unique shopping experience, Sam’s also gives back to its community in many ways, providing financial and volunteer support for numerous civic, religious, and social institutions. Resilience is another trait common to very successful businesses. Tropical Storm Irene dealt Sam’s a heavy blow, damaging 6,500 pairs of footware and sending much more inventory down the river as well. Sam’s opened a sale site for damaged merchandise and sold 96% of the product within five weeks. Even more impressive, the Brattleboro store remained open without losing a single day.
All things considered, Sam’s richly deserves the 2011-2012 Vermont Retail Association Retailer of the Year Award.
GREENTAILER OF THE YEAR: Green Life, Burlington
2012 VRA Greentailer of the Year: Incoming VRA Board of Trustees President Marc Sherman; Lt. Gov. Phil Scott; Sharon and Mike Hassenberg
Some business owners do good environmental work as part of their community involvement philosophy. For a select few others, including Green Life, helping the environment is the business. Mike and Shannon Hassenberg opened Green Life in 2009 with two underlying goals: protect the environment and live sustainably. To that end, Green Life offers hand-crafted, eco-friendly Vermont products whenever possible. The Hassenberg’s commitment doesn’t end at closing time. They support many eco-friendly organizations and events, including the Lake Champlain Land Trust, Car Share Vermont, City Market, Ecofest, Toxics Action Center, to name a few. They actively involve customers, as well, communicating frequently about local events and environmental issues. Green Life may be a small business, but its contribution to sustainability and environmental awareness is huge, making it a most deserving recipient of the 2011-2012 Greentailer Award.
COMMUNITY GEM: Brown Dog Books & Gifts, Hinesburg
2012 VRA Community Gem: Incoming VRA Board of Trustees President Marc Sherman; Lt. Gov. Phil Scott; Natacha Liuzzi; Emma Pouech
Natacha Liuzzi opened Brown Dog in 2008, bringing years of experience as a children’s librarian and book buyer—and a lifelong dream of owning a shop in her hometown. The business now offers products and creations from more than 150 local vendors and Vermont handcrafters. Being a true community gem, though, is about more than buying and selling, and few retailers indeed have embraced the “giving back” ethos more fully. Brown Dog hosts high school skills programs, Music Nights for local musicians, offers free space for discussion groups and author events, and donates to many local groups.
In a letter to the local paper, one community member wrote, “Hinesburg is really lucky to have Brown Dog Books & Gifts.” It’s safe to say that sentiment is unanimous throughout the town—as one would expect for a true community gem.