Business Notes: June 30, 2013

White River Junction — After having their business flooded out during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, Mel and Damaris Hall have spent the last two years recovering.

Now, they’re ready to expand their line of Taste of Africa’s World Cuisine prepared meals to a national market, and they’re hoping that a Kickstarter fundraising campaign will get them heading in the right direction, Mel Hall said last week.

“We’re continuing to grow, and we have some national distributors who are willing to handle our products,” he said. “But we need to redesign our packaging to make it look more appealing to a national market, and we’re looking for some ideas on that. We also want to develop our new gluten-free products.”

With the help of volunteers, the Halls were able to rescue their operation on Bridge Street from the White River’s flood waters and get the Taste of Africa catering and prepared foods going again in a new USDA-inspected kitchen facility in the old Hartford Motors building on Pine Street.

In the last year, Hall has revamped the company’s business model and reworked his products to make them more marketable on regional and national markets. The Mel’s Gourmet African cuisine-inspired products have been selling well in area stores, he said. To ramp up for the larger markets, Hall is seeking crowd-sourced funds, he said, noting that he will launch the program Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m., at the company’s new facility at 43 Pine St.

“We want it to be a fun thing, to use this opportunity to thank the volunteers who helped us and saved our business. And to tell everyone, we’re here and part of the community. And to say we’re still in business, and here’s how we’re hoping to expand,” Hall said.

“We’re going to have food, and it should be fun.”

Company News

Keith Avery is the new owner of Lebanon-based Paul Davis Emergency Services. The company’s Water Street office serves central New Hampshire and Vermont and provides emergency restoration services, including water and flood damage, fire and smoke damage and mold removal, 24 hours a day.

Previous owner David Donegan opened the office in 2012, and Avery served as the company’s manager of field operations. Avery purchased the business in March.

He has more than 20 years of residential and commercial construction and remodeling experience in the Upper Valley. Tina Kenison, Avery’s partner, runs the firm’s administration and office management. Their sons, Mike Avery and Corey Kenison, work as the company’s lead technicians.

Keith Avery and Tina Kenison are certified from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification. They live in Lebanon.

Jules Chatot, of Cabot, Vt., an architect and principal at Banwell Architects, an Upper Valley architectural firm with offices in Lebanon and Quechee, was a presenter and panelist at the fifth annual 2013 Northeast Biomass Heating Expo, held April 3-5 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Chatot presented information for the real projects and case studies plenary on two completed biomass district heating projects designed by Banwell Architects that make use of a renewable local fuel source, replacing up to 90 percent of heating loads previously met with fuel oil.

Banwell Architects has completed numerous projects in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine that make use of biomass fuels, either wood chips or wood pellets for heating.

Soon to come online is a new central biomass district heating plant for Grafton County Complex in North Haverhill that is projected to cut fuel oil use at the county’s nursing home, courthouse, prison and administrative buildings by 90 percent.

The firm is at work on plans for a renovation of Claremont’s Stevens High School that will replace old fuel boilers with a new wood pellet fired heating plant.

Items of interest to the local business community are published every Sunday. Submissions may be mailed to: Business Notes, c/o Sunday Valley News, P.O. Box 877, White River Junction, Vt. 05001. You may also send your items by fax to 603-298-0212, or by e-mail to All items are subject to editing for clarity or space.