Even as the rains from Tropical Storm Irene pounded Bridgewater Corners last Sunday, Long Trail Brewing Company Visitors Center & Pub stayed open. The brewery was finally forced to close when firefighters evacuated the building. By then, several employees, including Long Trail's CFO, Tom O'Grady, and visitor center manager, Garrett Mead, had learned that surrounding roads were closed and they would be unable to return home. They were among the lucky ones in the Killington region, one of those hardest hit by the storm.
The employees spent the night cleaning up what they could; by 8 a.m. Monday, they'd made free breakfast sandwiches and coffee for others who had been less fortunate. The provisions were waiting at the end of the Visitors Center's driveway. Since then, says Mead, the brewery has become something of a mess hall for relief workers and for area residents who have lost everything.
By Tuesday, the pub had reopened, selling burgers, dogs and plenty of beer to those who could afford it. When Seven Days spoke to Mead on Friday, Long Trail's chef, Matt Pond, was preparing meatloaf and spaghetti and meatballs as part of a free buffet that has become a daily occurrence at the center. He said that much of the food being served was donated by distributor Reinhart Foodservice, which filled the brewery's walk-in freezers and refrigerators. That company is currently offering 10% off all food to restaurants damaged in the storm, whether or not they're current customers.
Long Trail was also feeding folks who couldn't make it to the Visitors Center. Employees mounted ATVs to bring supplies to Plymouth residents marooned by closed roads. Now, says Mead, there's plenty of grub to go around for people, but pet food, baby food and diapers are scarce.
Further south, in Bennington, owner and pastry chef Natasha Garder (above right, courtesy of Alex Martin) is running a coordinated effort out of her business, Crazy Russian Girls Wholesale Bakery. The bakery suffered no ill effects of its own beyond a power outage that lasted only a few minutes. "We were very, very lucky," says Garder. "Just like other Vermonters, we’re all looking for some way to help. We know how to feed people."
Garder, is doing just that, sending roasted chicken, lasagna and other comfort food to battle-scarred Wilmington and Woodford. The efforts have taken such a life of their own that the Bennington Interfaith Council Emergency Food & Fuel Fund has provided full time help to take calls, coordinate scores of eager volunteers and post on the Crazy Russian Girls Facebook page. So many people have volunteered, says Garder, that the greater effort is now finding those in need. "Vermonters are independent and strong and like to take care of themselves," Garder explains. "They’re not asking for help, and saying 'If I take that, we’re taking away from people who need it more.'"
That's not just true of Vermonters — it also applies to Jonathan Bombard of Man of Kent Tavern & Café, just across the Vermont border in Hoosick Falls, New York. His restaurant was flooded but reopened on September 1. However, Bombard was no longer able to attend the Annual Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival in Bennington this past weekend. He donated the 400 Crazy Russian Girls garlic rolls he had commissioned for the occasion to other flood victims. Bennington Pizza House baked pies to feed volunteers stationed at Crazy Russian Girls, too.
Through all of this, Garder is also running her bakery as normal, selling rich "Better than Brad Pitt" and chocolate-chile "Hotter than Angelina Jolie" cookies. "I can’t help people if I’m not doing well with the business," she says. "I’ve gotta take care of both ends."
This couldn't be more true for the folks at the Muddy Paw. While Muddy Paw Coffee in Waterbury's Cabot Annex Plaza is running as usual, Muddy Paw Coffee, Creemee and Grille at South Main Sunoco on Waterbury's South Main Street, was gutted by flood waters. The restaurant is unlikely to re-open sooner than October, says manager Charlotte Wimble, so the large stock of food needed a home. "We had all this product and we had to either give it away or throw it out," she says. The Muddy Paw's solution was to share it with equally devastated neighbors. "You feel kind of silly handing people soda and chips and they’re on their front lawn going through their family photos," says Wimble.
She adds that, like much of Waterbury, the Muddy Paw is still trying to figure out its next move. For now, the now out-of-work staff of 10 simply welcomes any help they can get.
More fortunate restaurants and customers are helping out in tasty ways, too. Eric Warnstedt and his team at Hen of the Wood at the Grist Mill donated 100 percent of the proceeds from last night's gnocchi dinner to the Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund. The event sold out in just a few hours and raised $3600.
This Wednesday and Thursday, Kitchen Table Bistro is donating $15 from each $45, three-course dinner to the Vermont Farm Fund and American Red Cross. Five or six choices will be available for each course. Much of the produce will be food saved from Half Pint Farm and other Intervale farms before their crops were destroyed in the flood. The Intervale Center Farmers Recovery Fund has been established to help those farmers prepare for next season. Each week in September, the Burlington Farmers Market is organizing a silent auction to benefit farmers; until September 16, 1 percent of all money made at City Market of Onion River Coop will go to the fund.
Tuesday, September 13, Michael's on the Hill is serving a $50 prix-fixe menu ($25 for kids under 12) including beef brisket with smoked cheddar mashed potatoes, sweet corn succotash and buttermilk biscuits. Staff members are donating their time and gratuities, so absolutely all money made will go directly to the Vermont Irene Flood Relief Fund. Stay tuned for more ways to help with a healthy appetite.