Washed Away: Irene's Rains Swamp the Alchemist and Other VT Restaurants
damage at the Alchemist
The ruin that Tropical Storm Irene wrought on Vermont’s farms and eateries is so widespread that the food landscape will be altered for some time to come. Particularly stinging is the loss — for now, anyway — of Waterbury’s Alchemist Pub & Brewery.
On Sunday night, the swollen Winooski River inundated much of Waterbury’s South Main Street area and devastated the beloved pub. The next day, co-owner Jen Kimmich looked shell-shocked as she described how murky water sloshed through the basement and rose to waist-high level on the main floor.
“Everything” in the pub’s basement was lost, said Kimmich, including the brewery. Damaged, too, were the tables, chairs and equipment on the main floor, which were submerged.
On Monday, the inside of the pub was coated with silt and smelled of propane gas and dust. As some of the pub’s 22 employees cleaned the space, Kimmich teared up. “They’re here helping us, and we have no money to pay them,” she said. Outside, the sound of generators and pumps filled the dusty air.
Despite the initial shock and the temptation to walk away from the ruin, Kimmich predicted that she and husband John probably won’t. “It would be easier to gut this place and sell it. But we can’t do that,” she said. “We’ll hold some fundraisers through the winter and see how it goes.” The pub’s nearby cannery is still slated to open later this week.
Down the road, the floods and heavy mud gutted Juniper’s Fare and Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea Co. and severely damaged Waitsfield’s Green Cup. In Warren, the Pitcher Inn’s lower level was flooded, ruining the downstairs bar and wine cellar along with their many supplies. “We’ve had tremendous community support,” said Siobhan Grady, front desk concierge, though the inn is partly closed for now.
At On the Rise Bakery in Richmond, flood waters swallowed the café’s garden and parking lot. They lapped at the main floor, but didn’t seep in. “Compared to some, we’re lucky,” said co-owner Raechel Barone, though the bakery did lose a dense garden at the height of its production. Like much of the town, it was without water on Monday, though Barone hopes to reopen this week.
Several Montpelier eateries still recovering from May’s floods were inundated for a second time on Sunday night. Inside Kismet, owner Crystal Maderia looked stunned and described herself as “tired” and unsure when the restaurant would open again. Kismet’s basement took on eight feet of water that was still being pumped out at midday on Monday; the parking lot out back was a sea of mud. Down the street at Positive Pie 2, the basement also flooded, but less severely than in May; the restaurant reopened on Monday night.
Particularly devastated were southern Vermont towns such as Brattleboro, Rockingham and Westminster, as well as towns throughout the Upper Valley. The Ottauquechee River — which runs through both Woodstock and Quechee — became a raging torrent on Sunday night, its water filled with propane tanks, Dumpsters and other hulking detritus that destroyed part of the Quechee covered bridge and severely damaged the façade and lower levels of Simon Pearce Restaurant. Also flooded were Shepard’s Pie Restaurant and Parker House Inn & Restaurant; all three restaurants remain closed. On Monday, police tape cordoned off Simon Pearce and other area businesses, and access to Quechee’s Main Street was by foot only.
In Woodstock, the Woodstock Farmers Market on Route 4, most of it submerged in flood waters, is closed indefinitely.