BRATTLEBORO -- For more than 100 years, Labor Day has served as an occasion to honor and acknowledge the workers who keep help this country moving.
But not every working American can sleep in or barbecue while bidding farewell to the seasonal warmth of the summer solstice. Labor Day is just another day at the office for millions of citizens who are compensated for working a federal holiday but have to do what they have to do.
Many businesses in Brattleboro's downtown area were closed Monday, with signs out front telling passers-by the shop was observing Labor Day. Others, however, had their doors open to try to get as many customers as possible.
"With the way things are in Brattleboro right now, you kind of take what you can get. It's slow here right now. So I guess I don't have a major reason for it, other than the hope of doing some business," said Byron Greatorex, the owner of In The Moment Records at 143 Main St.
Greatorex purchased the business with a partner about nine years ago before buying out the remainder of the operation. He said times are tough for the vinyl industry and he chose to open Monday in hopes of a good day. He said Labor Day used to be a pretty good sale day, though that has not been the case the past few years.
"I have a 3-year-old daughter, so I'd always rather be at home. But as long as I keep the retail aspect open -- the brick-and-mortar store -- I need to retain some sort of normal business (routine)," he said, adding that he has no employees. "Somebody could be passing through that was on vacation in Vermont for two weeks and they're leaving this weekend and this is the only day they're going to come into my store and, who knows, they might buy $200 worth of records. My business is that kind of business."
It is more important than ever right now to keep the business going, as Greatorex's wife, Vedrana, works as an operator for Vermont Yankee. The nuclear power plant's board of directors decided last week the facility will close by the end of 2014. The plant currently employs 630 people.
Avi Ovadia has owned City Dogs, a food cart, for about 15 years and was on Main Street on Monday to cater to tourists and locals who have the day off. He said business was very slow -- the result of a few factors. He said the weather forecast predicted a 90 percent chance of rain, which kept many people inside, and the Brooks House has not yet been fully rejuvenated since it was badly damaged in a fire in 2011.
The Brooks House is now under new ownership and Mesabi LLC, a team of five local investors, are undertaking the project to reconstruct the historic downtown building. The group needed to raise about $24 million for the purchase of the building, and for all costs associated with the design and rehabilitation.
Ovadia said he hopes the downtown crowd returns when the work is completed.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's website, the first governmental recognition of Labor Day came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. This sparked a movement to designate the day at the state level. Labor Day first became law in Oregon in 1887 and later that year Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York had all created and recognized the holiday. By 1894, 26 other states had done the same and in June of that year Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
Nevertheless, Laura Walker found herself working at the Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center on Labor Day. She recently moved to the area from Portland, Ore., with her boyfriend, who now works in a local artist's studio, and is looking for a job for herself in the arts.
"I volunteered to do it. I'm looking for work and I work here about once or twice a week so I'll take as many days as I can," she said.
Walker said attendance had been good Monday, as "What's the Ruckus," an exhibit by New York artist has been quite successful.
"I think because the weather has been a little rainy, it's actually been a pretty good day," she said. "And this show has been really popular."
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.