Bottom Line: Tattoos, kettle bells and craft cocktails in the Brooklyn of the Upper Valley

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 7/13/2019 10:27:41 PM
Modified: 7/13/2019 10:27:38 PM

The first tenants for the makeover of the former Kibby Equipment buildings in White River Junction by Upper Valley developer Mike Davidson are getting ready to move into the refurbished spaces, signaling that the renaissance of the downtown business district has now officially spilled over to the opposite shore of the White River.

Tattoo artist Brian Barthelmes is opening his own storefront tattoo studio, Standard Company Tattoo in the east building (note: it’s not Standard Tattoo Company) where he will practice the craft that earned him a following with fellow artist Chris Bowen at Vintage Soul Tattoo, where they have run an appointment-only tattoo studio located above Four Aces Diner in West Lebanon.

Barthelmes, who lives nearby in Wilder, said Standard Company will be a walk-in studio, which he hopes will engender a welcoming, small-town storefront where customers or anyone can strike up conversations with each other about whatever is on their minds, “like the vibe of a barbershop.”

“I really like people and community and as an entertainer I feed off of that energy,” said Barthelmes, a former pro football player who fronted a rock band for several years.

The conventional taboo around tattoos has quickly given way in recent years to wider cultural acceptance and appreciation of the art, Barthelmes said, noting that his clients include “local artists, doctors, warehouse workers, bikers, cartoon school kids and Dartmouth students.”

“It cuts across every demographic,” said Barthelmes, a father of 2½-year-old twins whose wife, Caitlin, is director of the student wellness center at Dartmouth College.

Barthelmes took an atypical path to becoming a tattoo artist (is there a typical one?). He was a standout offensive lineman when a student majoring in sociology at the University of Virginia and later spent a couple seasons with the New England Patriots before abandoning the sport — he admits to never being all that into it — and forming the Providence, R.I., indie-folk-Americana band Tallahassee.

A lifetime illustrator who got his first tattoo as 18, Barthelmes apprenticed under Bowen for several years and then worked alongside him — Bowen is known for the work of his arm-length sleeves, while Barthelmes said he focuses more on small tattoos that take one to three hours to draw.

Standard Company Tattoo will be open by mid-August, Barthelmes said. He also plans to use the space to display the work of Upper Valley artists and hold receptions for them.

Meanwhile, on the second floor of the building, above Standard Tattoo Company, certified strength and conditioning specialist Emile Smith is opening Mindful Movement Coaching, to provide individual training to clients seeking to stay healthy with a “holistic approach” in their exercise program, he said.

Smith, who has been partners with Scott Stone in the Stone-Smith Movement Studio on the mall in Lebanon, said that after 4½ years it was time “to move on professionally” and open his own studio.

A martial arts instructor, physical therapist assistant and fitness expert with more than 25 years’ experience, Smith said he “has a unique skill set where I can pick up where physical therapy has left off and get the individual to a higher level of performance.”

Smith’s approach to strength conditioning is decidedly low-tech, without the use of fancy equipment crowding typical health clubs. An expert in the use of the kettle bell and mace bell, Indian club, and weighted club bell that were “the preferred training methods for the ancient warriors of the East,” Smith can tailor his training to individual sessions or eight-week programs.

“I’m not a machine person,” Smith said. “They have their place, but I offer a different program.”

Davidson acquired the two side-by-side Maple Street buildings earlier this year from former Kibby Equipment owners Phyllis and William Shambo for a total of $700,000. When he struck his deal to buy the properties, Davidson hailed their location as “the gateway to Vermont across from Hartford Town Hall” which “present the community’s next redevelopment opportunity.”

White River Junction bar to serve cocktails with a Vermont twist

After you get that tattoo from Barthelmes, you can walk under railroad bridge on Pine Street to pick up an ironic vintage T-shirt and then finish off the day with a celebratory locally sourced artisanal cocktail, fully embracing White River Junction as the Brooklyn of the Upper Valley.

Spirits industry maestro and Fairlee resident Max Overstrom-Coleman, the former bartender at Carpenter & Main restaurant in Norwich, is opening a “craft cocktail” bar behind Kim Souza’s Revolution vintage apparel shop.

To be called Wolf Tree — taking its name from ancient forest tree that towers over its neighbors — Overstrom-Coleman’s cocktail lounge will occupy about 700 square feet with room for up to 24 seats in a space being built inside Marcia Landon’s Rio Blanco Salon & Spa on Currier Street — possibly a place to get a trim for your bangs or handlebar mustache.

Overstrom-Coleman, a onetime graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at Dartmouth College, left academia to pursue a career in hospitality and mixology (he was founding president of the Vermont chapter of the U.S. Bartenders Guild) and now lives in Fairlee.

Wolf Tree will serve local craft beer, local and natural wines and “crafted cocktails” which “rely upon the flavors and products” of Vermont, Overstrom-Coleman said in an interview. He also will offer available cured meats and cheeses and “seasonally driven” small plates.

“There are a tremendous number of exceptional cheeses made locally, and we’ll be incorporating them into the food program,” Overstrom-Coleman said last week. Initially, Wolf Tree will be open five days a week from 3 p.m. to midnight, and then Overstrom-Coleman will consider expanding to seven days.

Overstrom-Coleman said he is “shooting for” an Oct. 1 opening date and said he has been in awe of “the support and love” he has received from the community and other merchants for his cocktail bar. “It feels really good.”

West Lebanon Old Navy opening soon. Really. Probably.

Nearly a year after Old Navy first posted online ads seeking employees to work at a new store in West Lebanon, the national clothing retailer looks as though it finally is getting ready to open in the Upper Valley Plaza in West Lebanon. Old Navy signage has reappeared on the plaza’s marquee along Route 12A — it had initially appeared last October, then was turned backward before being removed altogether — and Old Navy’s name has been affixed to the front of the building in large, blue letters. A bulletin posted at the entrance announces Old Navy will be “opening soon” — and adds that they are still hiring.

Old Navy did not reply to emails for more information.

John Lippman can be reached at

Sign up for our free email updates
Valley News Daily Headlines
Valley News Contests and Promotions
Valley News Extra Time
Valley News Breaking News

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy