This Old House aka “Do you have a guy…?”
One of the benefits of everyone knowing everyone else in a small town is that it is very easy to get a recommendation for services. Many people are making their living as independent contractors—working out of their home offices, living rooms and barns, with word of mouth as their best source of business. Still others are one-man-bands with a shingle and full-service offerings, sometimes with unlikely pairings.
I bought a house in the valley a few years ago (ca. 1900) with the grace and guidance of Meg Streeter who has since been on the receiving end of many “Who do I call for….” Questions. I’ve found that good work makes people eager to pass on a reference. “Small places keeps you honest,” someone once said, a diplomatic way of explaining that everyone knows your business—sometimes even before you do.
My old place came with Arnie’s Quality Home Service, which had been looking after the property when it was on the market. Arnie kindly saw to the driveway and checked the pipes, then later the lawn and the mail. A kind and unassuming guy, he’s clearly enjoying his “retirement gig” in property management and maintenance after serving as the Chief of Police some years ago.
Leigh Tompson hauled away carpet scraps, hundreds of pounds of plaster and various detritus from my new pet project. The good folks at Catamount Environmental confirmed that the ceiling tiles weren’t asbestos and Eithne Eldred and her crew at WW Building Supply have walked me through the store to get the items on my list innumerable times in under ten minutes. They’re open just about every day of the year and have free delivery and a frequent buyer program.
Until I met his wife, Steve Suponski was known simply as the “Valley Scrapper”. He’ll fetch your old lawnmower, pots-n-pans, washing machine, and Christmas lights and recycle them. If it is made of metal, give him a call to get it out of your barn and keep it out of the dump. If it grows, however, talk to Shelly, she’ll fix up your garden great and get you onboard for the Blueberry Festival in August.
I got incentives to insulate my attic with Efficiency Vermont (up to $2000 in rebates available to homeowners and programs for appliance upgrades, lightbulbs and heating/cooling too). The Heat Squad—available to Windham County homeowners--set up an energy audit which told me how the furnace was doing and which areas needed air-sealing help first. Green Foam Insolutions was patient and knowledgeable about cellulose and sprayfoam. Adam is also a horticulturist, like so many Vermonters there are many seasonal ways to keep busy.
Quick and easy estimates for service came from the folks at Rice Lock, VT Stonework and Black Diamond Tree Services, as well as Tom McCloughlin’s window repair. JEK Plumbing and Heating passed on the sign up information for the fuel buying club Propane Dover which has saves valley residents many dollars and has also contributed tens of thousands in fuel assistance to Deerfield Valley Community Cares. I am saving my pennies for spring projects to come, maybe a picnic table from John Lazelle Woodworking, a birdbath from Frank Sprague’s Stone Puddles shop or a custom sign for the homestead by the Village Woodcarver Dale Doucette. All three of these guys lead many lives, including winemaker, Chief Operator, welder and more.
I’ll call Lane Plumbing & Heating to resurrect my claw foot tub, and trust that I’m in good hands with this family business as well as with Swan Electric who did a full electric overhaul that enabled the Richards Group to find me an insurance policy. I then set about filling up the old house with even older things from the Chapman’s barn—their in-town location is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to antiques. The good tellers at People’s United Bank know you by name and are happy to follow up on questions about your home-construction loan…
All this fixing is dirty work. If you’d rather wash-n-fold yourself the Bucket of Suds is open daily until 11 pm, or Grandma Betty will take your bags on weekdays and turn them over for a very reasonable rate. Across the street, the Tidymen will spruce up your rental property, cater your birthday dinner, fix your hot tub pump and also have a range of concierge services.
The Deerfield Valley Buy, Swap, Sell Facebook group has delivered some great leads and deals, as has Twice Blessed and the Front Porch Forum. But by and large this whole list has come from a friend’s mother’s, brother’s cousin; a poster at the River Valley Market, comment in line at the Post Office or the like. So don’t be shy the next time you’re at the counter at Dot’s or the Cup & Saucer. Odds are good that you’ll come away with a lead on what you’re looking for (like that amazing Lyman’s strawberry-rhubarb jam) with a side of local opinion you just can’t get on Google.