The popular restaurant was destroyed in an early morning fire in January. Almost immediately after the fire, restaurant owner Susan Lawrence vowed to rebuild the historic structure, citing a commitment to the community, her employees, and customers. “The town can’t afford to have another loss,” Lawrence said at the time.
The community responded in kind. With the help of Wilmington Town Manager Bob Rusten and Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Sibilia, Lawrence applied for and received a preservation grant for costs that weren’t covered by insurance. At a community hearing on the grant, more than 30 community members and business owners turned out to voice their support for Lawrence and the project.
On Saturday, October 16, Lawrence is thanking the community for their support with an invitation to a ribbon cutting and grand opening at the Anchor from 3 to 8 pm. The evening will feature live music by Skip and Laraine Morrow and other local musicians, a cash bar, and complimentary hors d’oeuvres.
“From the day of the fire, everyone reached out to us,” Lawrence says. “The firefighters did a tremendous job. The business community reached out to us. The town and the chamber of commerce searched out the grant money for us. David Dunn and Debra Boudrieau, of the Vermont Small Business Development Center, came out right away.”
The project, from fire to finish, has taken almost exactly 10 months – breakneck speed in the world of Vermont construction and permitting. Lawrence notes that work on the structure itself didn’t begin until mid-June, and she credits the local crew for completing the building so quickly. “Four guys put this up in four months,” she says. “If you need something done fast and done right, call Shippee Builders. All the local contractors put in 110% to make sure it was done right, and done quickly.”
Although Lawrence regrets the loss of a 150-year old building, she notes that the charm of the old building has been preserved. The new building follows nearly the same layout as the original building, the façade has been faithfully reproduced. ‘We maintained the familiar layout and the homey atmosphere, but it feels more spacious with higher ceilings . Working with Lyssa Papasian, John Guminak created a design that replicated the original building. It’s so close, some people think we just gave it a facelift, they don’t realize we carefully replicated this mid-1800s building.”
Even some of the items that graced the old building are back in the new building. Firefighters managed to save an antique whaling harpoon, an old desk (restored by local craftsman Jack Kincella), and a few other mementos. A hand-hewn beam salvaged from the original building has been “repurposed” as a mantle over a dining room fireplace. Local cabinetmaker Mark Sprague has custom built an oak bar, and it’s capped by the original green marble bar top.
But while the new building may look like the old one, Lawrence says it will be a treat to have a new, purpose-built kitchen and dining area. “That’s only what you can dream of,” she says. “Having a brand new building and new equipment.”
Lawrence has also added about 24 more seats. The old restaurant seated 56, the new restaurant seats 80 with the addition of an upstairs dining area. “We’ve added new staff,” she says, “including three new chefs with new creative specials on the menu.”
The original menu won’t change, however. “Everyone would have our head on a platter if we changed the menu,” Lawrence says. “Everyone has a favorite dish and they’re expecting it to be here when they come back.”
Sibilia says the chamber of commerce is “delighted” with Lawrence’s commitment to the community, and with the speed with which the project has been completed. “It’s a real testament to the hopefulness and hard work going on in the area that Susan decided to reopen. The chamber is ecstatic that we’re expanding the restaurant capacity in the area.”
The Anchor will close after the grand opening and reopen for regular meals on Thursday, October 21. “It has been intense,” Lawrence says of the project. “I’ll be glad to be slinging fish and chips when it’s all over.”