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Bottom Line: Fairlee ice cream stand hopes to whip up a buyer

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

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 6/6/2020 10:22:53 PM
Modified: 6/6/2020 10:22:51 PM

Here’s an opportunity for the right entrepreneur, even in these fraught times: The Whippi Dip ice cream stand in Fairlee is for sale.

The Whippi Dip has been, if not quite world-renowned, a favorite pit stop with tourists and local residents hungry for its roadside menu of burgers, barbecue, sandwiches and ice cream. And what could be better than running an ice cream stand that serves heaping sundaes to kids from the camps around Lake Morey and Lake Fairlee on a hot summer day?

But Crystal Johnson, who along with Mark Fifield owns the Route 5 roadside enterprise, says she is now looking for a “new energetic and creative owner” to take over the business, which didn’t open this season.

The decision to put Whippi Dip up for sale was prompted by an unexpected turn in plans that left Johnson scrambling for a new operator, she said, when an existing lease/purchase agreement fell apart on Memorial Day weekend.

Johnson called the situation “unfortunate for everyone, especially given I built a wide Whippi Dip ‘community’ and I know that it has been a destination for people, both locally and as a little ‘day trip.’ ”

To be sure, with camps suspended and summer tourists expected to be fewer because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing rules making it problematic to form a line at the service window, business at Whippi Dip could be slower this season.

But, Johnson assured, “a motivated person could have it open by the Fourth of July.”

Someone please step up to the window.

Johnson has not enlisted a broker but says interested buyers can contact her at whippidip05045@gmail.com.

Dunkin’ closes oneWest Lebanon location

Drivers pulling in to grab a coffee and doughnut to go at the Dunkin’ stop on Main Street in West Lebanon on Monday morning were greeted with a surprise: a banner sign in front of the store announcing it would be “permanently closing” at noon and “consolidating our operations” with the Dunkin’ franchise a mile away, by Powerhouse Plaza on Route 12A.

The company didn’t give a reason for closing — the Main Street Dunkin’, which dates back to at least the 1980s, always appeared busy — but a statement from the corporate office suggests it might be related to the difficulty in running an in-store service counter because of COVID-19.

Both West Lebanon Dunkin’ franchises — the chain dropped “Donuts” from its name in 2018 — are owned by Sagris Enterprises, which also operates Dunkin’ franchises in Bradford, N.H., Enfield, Grantham and Henniker, N.H., and in December opened its ninth store in Contoocook, N.H.

Owner Greg Sagris did not respond to an inquiry about why the Main Street Dunkin’ closed, but a spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Brands Group replied via email that “the franchisee decided to consolidate operations and put greater emphasis on a nearby Dunkin’ location that offers drive-thru service.”

The statement noted, “All of the restaurant employees at this location have been transferred to other locations.”

Sagris earlier this year pulled its site plan to open a new Dunkin’ at the Nugget Arcade building in Hanover. Sagris, which has been trying to get back into Hanover ever since it lost the space inside the Circle K/Irving gas station more than four years ago, never gave a reason for withdrawing its plan.

Piecemeal Pies adaptsto get a slice of Stowe, Vt.

COVID-19 couldn’t have hit at a worse time fort for Justin Barrett and Josh Brown, owners of Piecemeal Pies in White River Junction: The partners were getting ready to open their second restaurant in Stowe, Vt., when the pandemic interrupted those plans.

But that’s not the end of the world, Barrett said, because when it comes to expanding their business, they are taking the long view.

Barrett and Brown opened the breakfast and lunch restaurant in 2016, serving traditional British-style meat and vegetable pies and quickly becoming part of White River Junction’s hip revival.

It wasn’t long before they noticed something about their customers: Motorists from Boston and New York were frequently stopping off in the village on their way to ski in Stowe to grab some pies to take with them.

Further clues that the town east of Burlington might be a good place to open a second restaurant came last September when Piecemeal had a tent on the town green during the annual British Invasion car show.

“We sold 100 pies in an hour,” Barrett said. “We got great feedback.”

The partners found an available space, a former carriage barn, in downtown Stowe and were in the process of renovating it to be open by summer when COVID-19 forced them to a halt.

“We decided we didn’t want to move forward with purchase of all the equipment and training staff right away because we don’t know what will happen in the fall,” Barrett said.

Nonetheless, Barrett and Brown have paid for a year’s lease of the space in Stowe with an eye toward opening the second Piecemeal Pies restaurant sometime in 2021.

“We determined this was this is a short-term setback and we have a five-year-to-10-year goal,” he said.

Until then, Barrett said, Piecemeal Pies will continue taking online orders from Tuesday to Thursday for curbside pickup on Friday afternoon in White River Junction (outdoor seating will open soon).

But not forsaking their expansion plans, the partners have also extended deliveries to Stowe, where customers can pick up online orders at Stowe Public House & Bottle Shop. And they are looking at putting up a tent again on the green during weekends in their new town this summer.

That way the aroma of Piecemeal Pies will waft through Stowe ahead of the store’s 2121 opening.

“It’s been a hell of a spring, but we are looking at this as an opportunity,” Barrett said.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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