Local business in a 'beautiful place to be'


WILMINGTON -- Local business owner Beth Leggiere and her family moved to Vermont several years ago and have had no regrets.

"I think there's a really great sense of community here," she said. "It's less stressful than being in a busy metropolitan area. I really enjoy the people here. It's just a beautiful place to be."

Leggiere was establishing her business HandKnits in the downtown area, when Tropical Storm Irene came. Officers from the Wilmington Police Department called to warn her of the approaching storm.

The previous HandKnits building had also been on Route 100, but closer to Main Street. Behind it sat the Deerfield River, which eventually overflowed and caused havoc.

"Water came up through the basement into the floor," said Leggiere. "It pushed up the carpet through the windows."

She told the Reformer that the windows used to vibrate if a motorcycle or vehicle with a loud sound system drove by. During the storm, most of the products and furniture inside her store went through the windows and floated through the flood water.

"There was yarn everywhere," said Leggiere. "One building inspector told me that I booby trapped the town. It was just everywhere. There's still trees that have bits of yarn in them."

She had been in the building, where Beyond Imagination is currently located, for only 18 months. A year ago in August, Leggiere reopened HandKnits but in a building next to her house at 617 Route 100 North. It is located close to the Dover town line and had been the original site of the business when her family moved to Wilmington a few years ago.

Able to secure several grants, Leggiere has been grateful for the opportunity to start over.

"It's just been a very long, hard road," she said. "It was important to me to have something on before the anniversary. It's just been slowly rebuilding and getting furniture."

Currently, Leggiere is focused on expanding the amount of knitting and crosier classes that she offers. She is negotiating with local people who are in the same field. Leggiere also is designing an upstairs space in her building to accommodate hand-dying projects, allowing her to offer more locally-made products to her customers.

Since 2000, Leggiere has had her own knitting related business. It began in Hoboken, N.J. After parking problems for her customers persisted, she decided to move the business to Englewood, N.J.

Now that Leggiere and her family live happily in the Green Mountain State, she said the move has been good for everyone involved.

"I don't have the volume (of customers) I once had, but it's been good for us and our family," she said. "We really love living here."

Other than Irene, mud season has been the only other particular challenge for the business.

Before teaching knitting and selling supplies associated with it, Leggiere taught pottery. She used to regularly attend craft shows and was a graphic designer for a Museum of Modern Art contractor.

HandKnits is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m to 5:30 p.m. On Sunday, it is open from noon to 4 p.m. During holidays, especially Christmas, the store is open for other days and longer hours.

There is a special "Knit Night" held every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. Husbands enjoy coming to these events because they can watch the chickens, which Leggiere and her family raise on the property for eggs.

HandKnits offers discounts through a frequent buyer program. Customers fill out a 3x5 card with their information. For every fourth purchase, customers receive 20 percent off most items.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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