BRATTLEBORO -- Ten months after sustaining heavy damage in Tropical Storm Irene, a Brattleboro business was named Vermont's retailer of the year.
Sam's Outdoor Outfitters, an institution on Brattleboro's Main Street, won the honor from Montpelier-based Vermont Retail Association.
While the business has been around for 80 years, Vice President Pal Borofsky focused on the efforts of his employees to recover quickly from Irene's flooding in late August.
"We really appreciate the award," Borofsky said. "We took a very significant hit with the flood, financially."
Borofsky and his son, Brad (the company's president), traveled to Montpelier late last month to receive the award. Retail association Executive Director Tasha Wallis, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott also attended.
Sam's was founded in 1932 as an Army/Navy surplus store. The third-generation, family-owned business still is headquartered in Brattleboro but also has stores in Hadley, Mass. and Keene, N.H. A store in Bellows Falls was closed two years ago.
The three stores total 65,000 square feet, with the sprawling Brattleboro flagship store accounting for roughly half of that. Administrators tout "one of New England's most comprehensive inventories of comprehensive brand names" in clothing, footwear and sporting goods.
"We have a wide variety of products. We've become a destination shop," Borofsky said. "There are a lot of things that
That includes an emphasis on staff expertise and careful product selection, Borofsky said.
And, of course, there is free popcorn available for all.
"It makes the customer feel more comfortable," he said.
Like many other Vermont businesses, Sam's took a beating during Irene's severe flooding. The store borders Flat Street, a particularly hard-hit area in Brattleboro.
"We lost a lot of merchandise down the river," Borofsky said.
The store's shoe department was swamped. Employees eventually resold much of the affected merchandise at discount prices, but they had a lot of work to do first.
"We had roughly 6,500 pairs of shoes damaged," Borofsky said. "We had to clean them, pair them and get them organized."
Borofsky notes with pride that "we never actually closed a day" in the wake of Irene.
"We were able to absorb the loss and continue on," he said.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.