Vernon business creates 'welcome center' in historic home
VERNON -- Peggy Farabaugh wanted to give her customers a "Vermont experience."
And that goal has informed every aspect of Vermont Woods Studios' new home: The business has moved into a 220-year-old farmhouse on a former ski area, and Farabaugh has filled it with Vermont-made furniture, local art and a personal touch.
Farabaugh is running a fine-furniture business, but she also hopes her new headquarters embodies an idea.
"For me, it's the mission -- the mission drives the sales," she said. "My mission is to persuade people to purchase furniture that's sustainably made."
On Saturday afternoon, Farabaugh and her staff -- whom she refers to as a "family" -- will show off the freshly renovated Stonehurst property at 538 Huckle Hill Road. The open house is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The celebration comes eight years after Farabaugh, who runs Vermont Woods Studios with her husband, Ken, founded the business in her Vernon home.
Until recently, Vermont Woods Studios had been operating out of a small storefront off Route 142. The company does most of its business from its website -- www.VermontWoodsStudios.com -- and didn't need much floor space.
"A typical customer finds us on the web," Farabaugh said. "We have a really tiny niche. We don't have that many customers from the area."
But some of those customers want to see and touch Vermont Woods Studios' products, which are touted as lifetime-guaranteed, Vermont-made, hand-crafted hardwoods.
"The Internet is where we can find like-minded people, and that's why they come here," Farabaugh said. "We wanted to have a place that would make it worth the trip."
Hence the purchase of Stonehurst, where extensive renovations took about a year. The original plan was to sell furniture out of one section of the home while renovating other areas, but building codes made that impossible.
"So we had to scramble to get the money (for the entire project) much sooner than we expected," Farabaugh said.
Vermont Woods Studios got a boost toward that goal earlier this year when the business won a $100,000 grant from the state's new Working Lands Enterprise Fund.
The project may not have been completed on time without that help.
"That was really, really instrumental in getting this ready," Farabaugh said. "We matched it dollar-for-dollar."
Stonehurst now looks much different than it did one year ago. There is fresh paint, new roofing, a new deck and a new stone walkway outside.
Inside, administrators transformed the old farmhouse into a bright showroom while still maintaining the character of the place.
"We tried to do it all with local materials," Farabaugh said, mentioning wood and slate flooring and new windows.
Stepping into one section of the gallery Thursday morning, she pointed out a wooden ceiling consisting of the same room's former floorboards.
"They didn't have enough strength to be floorboards now," Farabaugh said, gesturing around a space occupied by tables and chairs for sale.
"This was an empty shell of a barn," she said. "The floor was covered with an inch of dirt, and the walls were falling down."
Ample evidence of the property's former use remains. One sign from the Pine Top ski area, which operated in the mid-20th century, advertises all-day skiing for $1.25 and skiing after 3 p.m. for $1 along with a request for "a nickel for ski patrol fund, please."
Through large windows, some of the former ski slopes are visible.
Farabaugh hopes such ambiance makes Stonehurst a comfortable spot for visitors. She encourages customers to "bring a picnic lunch, and bring a glass of wine."
She's also hoping, through a variety of local products and information as well as her staff's expertise, to send furniture buyers elsewhere in the local community when they're done shopping.
"We're like a little Vermont welcome center," Farabaugh said.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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