Fix-Up for Route 5 Fixture
Chad Preston checks out customer Sayward “Shep” Shepard, of Enfield, at Blodgett Supply Co. in White River Junction yesterday. Shepard has been a customer of Blodgett’s for 40 years. “Years ago, I used to come here about every day,” he said. Now the complex will be torn down to make way for a new store. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Brian Williamson, a 27-year employee of Blodgett Supply, said the time is right to renovate. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Mike Ryan parks a forklift before knocking off for the weekend at Blodgett Supply in White River Junction. Twenty four employees once worked at the plumbing, heating and appliance supply company and now three operate the business. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — A plumbing, heating and bath supply retailer that has been a Hartford fixture for decades is planning large-scale improvements at its store site, in order to modernize a facility showing signs of its age.
Blodgett Supply Co., located on Route 5 near Hartford High School, will bring its plans for a new storefront and warehouse, as well as a proposed new building with leasable space on the current site of an abandoned gas station, to the town next month for approval.
On May 8, the plans will go in front of Hartford’s Zoning Board, and then will be reviewed by the Planning Commission five days later. If everything is approved, work will start on the first phase of the plan this year, said branch manager Brian Williamson.
“It was about time to take the step,” said Williamson, who said he’s been working at the White River Junction location for 27 years and has been hearing about modernization plans for 26 of them.
Those plans were first weighed seriously about seven years ago, he said, but were put on hold when the economic downturn took hold in 2008. If the plans are approved now, it would mark the first major changes to the building since a renovation in 1984 added office space to the storefront, Williamson said.
“I’ve been coming here for years, and I still don’t believe it,” said John Balch, of Lebanon, who had been standing at the front counter.
Williamson said that the first step after winning approval would be to dismantle the L-shaped cluster of dilapidated storage structures that hug one corner of the lot, opening up space that will eventually be landscaped. After that, a new, 9,000-square-foot building will be constructed on what is now the parking lot. The store will still be open for business in the old building while the new one is constructed.
After the staff moves into the new building, which will include loading docks and an outside storage area lined by a chain-link fence, the old one will be torn down and a new parking lot will be created in its place.
“Everything gets ripped down,” said Hartford Zoning Administrator Jo-Ann Ells.
The current building, home to a warehouse, storefront and offices, was built in 1945, according to town assessing records, and covers just less than 13,000 square feet. The L-shaped storage buildings cover nearly 14,000 square feet.
Williamson declined to provide a dollar amount for the improvements. Town records assess the current property value at $450,600.
An employee who answered the phone at Blodgett Supply’s main branch in Williston, Vt. said neither the company’s president nor vice president would be able to comment about the expansion yesterday. The company operates seven branches, five of which are in Vermont.
At its meetings with the town boards in May, the company will also attempt to gain approval for its plan to tear down an abandoned gas station on the adjacent lot, and to rebuild it as a 7,125-square-foot leasable space for either office or retail use. The zoning application, filed on behalf of Blodgett by Essex, Vt.-based consulting engineers Lamoureux & Dickinson, states that there is no “specific tenant or use” planned for that space yet.
“If this building were used for office space, there could be as many as 30 employees,” the application states.
Though the lots that contain the gas station and warehouse building are separate, Blodgett owns both.
However, the town nearly became the owner of the space more than a decade ago, when a $3.2 million plan for a consolidated town library on the Blodgett property was defeated in 2000 by a two-to-one margin. At the time, the town had entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the supply company, and $450,000 in town funds had been earmarked for the purchase of the land.
Yesterday, while standing in front of the blueprints of the project, which had been laid atop the store’s long front counter, Williamson reflected on the building he has been working in for nearly the past three decades.
“I plan on taking a few pictures myself, before the old girl goes down,” he said.
Jon Wolper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3248.