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Bottom Line: Coffee truck pulls into Bradford, Vt., storefront; New London firm gets its Martian orders

  • Art Springsteen, founder of tiny Avian Technologies in New London along with his wife Kathryn, holds a white calibration device the company is known for in their office on Friday, February 25, 2021.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 3/6/2021 10:42:30 PM
Modified: 3/6/2021 10:42:29 PM

Vittles Espresso and Eatery is pulling its espresso operation onto Main Street in Bradford, Vt.

The owners of the mobile coffee, breakfast and lunch stand which has been run from a truck in the parking lot of Kinney Drugs in Bradford’s Lower Plain, are taking over the downtown space occupied by the coffee shop The Local Buzz and run for the past 11 years by Sarah Copeland Hanzas.

Vittles Espresso owners Kendall and Travis Gendron, who have been serving up espresso drinks brewed from organic, fair-trade beans that they roast at their home in Corinth, have temporarily closed The Local Buzz while they renovate the space.

They plan to reopen the cafe in mid-April under a new name, which Kendall Gendron said she is withholding until “the grand reveal” next month.

“We’ll have some classics from the stand, but (the cafe) is going to be a brand-new breakfast and lunch menu,” she said, adding that the Local Buzz’s manager is staying on and she will be hiring other employees.

After two years of running the coffee and food truck at Routes 5 and 25 — “Our original design of the stand, serving people as they drove up, is kind of made for the pandemic,” Gendron said — they now feel comfortable expanding.

“We were ready to move into a brick-and-mortar store,” Gendron explained, adding that she’d “heard about a year ago” that Copeland Hanzas, who is serving her ninth term in the Vermont House as a state representative from Bradford and Corinth, was looking to “retire” from the business after running the cafe for more than a decade.

(Vittles Espresso is only the most recent Upper Valley food truck to go from wheels to tables. Others in recent years include SamosaMan in Hanover, Juel Modern Apothecary Cafe in White River Junction, The Karibbean cafe in Lebanon and Rocky’s Taqueria in Claremont.)

So Gendron said she approached Copeland Hanzas, who owns the building, about leasing the ground-floor space. Copeland Hanzas said she was delighted.

“I have another job that keeps me busy,” Copeland Hanzas said about her role in the Vermont House. “When it became clear Kendall was looking for a physical space on Main Street, I thought this would be great. It’s going to be very exciting they are going to carry on the tradition of being Bradford’s local cafe.”

Gendron said that initially she and her husband were hoping to open 12 months ago — but then the pandemic struck, dealing a fatal blow to many dine-in restaurants, and the plan was delayed a year.

But Gendron said she thinks the worst of the pandemic is over and eateries will begin clawing back.

“I know it seems kind of a weird decision to do it now. But things are looking promising with the vaccine,” Gendron said. “We still want to be a coffee shop that is community-oriented.”

Green Valley on Red Planet

Desolate, rock-strewn, dusty and with a daily temperature of around minus-80 degrees Fahrenheit, Jezero Crater on Mars does not have a lot in common — even in winter — with the Upper Valley.

But if you look carefully the next time you gape in awe at one of the photo images of the Martian landscape beamed from NASA’s rover Perseverance, you will see telltale signs of intelligent life ... from the Upper Valley.

That’s because the Mars rover, which landed in Jezero Crater last month, contains a piece (albeit a small one) of equipment invented in New London. More precisely, it’s a part of a piece of relatively low-tech equipment on Perseverance.

But, hey, how many places on Earth can boast they have a hand in a Mars rover mission?

Avian Technologies, a New London engineering firm run by a team of wife and husband Ph.D.s (she in inorganic chemistry, he in organic chemistry), designed the material used in concentric rings that are part of the color palette used to check the accuracy of the rover’s camera, called a Mastcam-Z.

Known as a “calibration target,” the dinner plate-size palette is attached to the rover and photographed by the Mastcam-Z, which enables scientists back at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., to make sure the images they are viewing are accurate for color, tone and clarity, said Art Springsteen, who co-owns Avian Technologies with his wife, Kathryn Springsteen, a former dean at Colby-Sawyer College.

Space missions are not Avian Technologies’ usual line of work. The seven-employee company with annual revenues in the low seven figures specializes in making coatings and materials that set standards for the pharmaceutical, agricultural and optical industries.

But Springsteen — and yes, he said he’s “distantly” related to Bruce Springsteen, whom he last saw “when we were 10 years old at a wedding in New Jersey” — said that the alumina and glass material named AluWhite98 used for the white bands in the concentric rings is a specialty product of the company.

The white-to-gray scale porcelain “reflectance standards” on the calibration target are designed to withstand the brutal conditions of Mars’ atmosphere, Springsteen explained.

Contractors of the color palette for the calibration target “wanted something that is stable. You can’t put a piece of white and gray cardboard on Mars,” Springsteen said.

Although Springsteen has been working on the project since 2016, he said the mission is not a cash cow.

“All the stuff combined we made maybe $200,” he said.

So why spend all that time and resources with such small payback?

“Because of science. We don’t have to make money in everything,” Springsteen said.

And then there’s the prestige of planting the Upper Valley’s flag, so to speak, on the Red Planet.

“It’s on Mars,” Springsteen said. “Not everybody in the world has something on Mars.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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