Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff File Photo
Valerie Beaudet, owner of Flowers By Emslie and Co., arranges bouquets in her shop inside Ladder 1 Grill and Pub in the former fire station in Barre. She is moving the floral business to the Blanchard Block.
BARRE — It won’t happen next week, or even next month, but come spring Flowers By Emslie & Co. will move from the ground floor of the former firehouse it now shares with Ladder 1 Grill and Pub to the lowest level of the newly restored Blanchard Block.
The once-comfortable co-location of a local florist shop that has bounced around Barre since 1897 and the now-established restaurant is starting to hold both businesses back, according to proprietor Valerie Beaudet, who recently decided to transplant one of them.
Beaudet said the florist business that she acquired with her husband, Richard, 11 years ago, was the obvious choice given that the Ladder 1 Grill’s firehouse theme was both inspired by and dependent on its current location.
As far as problems go, having two successful businesses pressing each other for space is a pretty good one to have, and Beaudet’s solution will accommodate her desire to grow both of them by moving Flowers By Emslie into the restored brick basement of the Blanchard Block.
According to Beaudet, the lease starts March 1 and will allow her to comfortably move Flowers By Emslie after Valentine’s Day and well before Mother’s Day.
“We’re all very excited,” she said of a move that will allow the florist shop to reassert its identity and bring back gift items, like Bearington Bears, that it discontinued to make room for her increasingly popular restaurant.
“It’s going to be good for the restaurant and the flower shop,” Beaudet said.
It will also be good for the Blanchard Block’s owners who have begun to turn their attention from restoring the massive brick building that is located right next door to City Hall to filling the newly renovated space inside. Mark Nicholson, one of the partners in Granite City Developers LLC, said landing an established business to occupy intriguing space just inside the newly redone rear entrance of the Blanchard Block was good news, and the fact that Beaudet is running it is an added bonus.
“We’re excited about her being involved,” Nicholson said of Beaudet. “We think she is going to be dynamic for our building.”
The looming move makes sense for the Beaudets given the evolution of the historic South Main Street firehouse that the Williamstown couple purchased from the city for $150,000 in 2007.
At the time, critics of the transaction — and there were some — argued the firehouse itself wasn’t integral to the Beaudets’ plans to transform the then-vacant brick building into an “urban garden center and café” with offices on the second floor.
That vision never fully materialized.
The café concept was short-lived and eventually morphed into the firehouse-themed restaurant that has expanded, both indoors and out, since it opened and in 2011 received a “small business of the year” award from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Last year second-floor offices were scrapped in order to create the Firehouse Inn in space that for more than a century served as the on-duty living quarters of local firefighters.
The Beaudets, who vowed from the start to preserve and honor the heritage of the historic firehouse, have kept that pledge even as their plans have evolved.
With an upscale inn upstairs and a thriving restaurant competing for space downstairs, Beaudet said she began shopping for an alternative location for Flowers By Emslie and quickly settled on the Blanchard Block, which is conveniently located a stone’s throw from the firehouse.
Initially located in the firehouse by necessity, Flowers By Emslie has started to suffer from the creeping needs of a successful restaurant.
“The restaurant is really busy and we can definitely use the space,” said Beaudet, who is looking forward to bringing the flower shop to a location that is better suited for walk-ins and big enough to allow her to bring back and possibly expand a tasteful display of gift items.
“It’s awesome space,” she said, noting the new shop will have a sign on North Main Street and be visible from the Merchants Row entrance to the Blanchard Block.
“That’s the hub of where everyone is going to enter the building,” she said. “It’s perfect for us.”
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