'Visionary' Vermont Entrepreneur Will Raap Dies at 73 | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

News + Opinion » News

'Visionary' Vermont Entrepreneur Will Raap Dies at 73


Published December 13, 2022 at 3:18 p.m.

Will Raap at Earthkeep Farmcommon - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Will Raap at Earthkeep Farmcommon
Updated at 5:31 p.m.

Will Raap, an influential Vermont entrepreneur best known for founding Gardener’s Supply and the Intervale Center, died on Monday night, according to his family. He was 73.

His family attributed his death to a “long term illness.”

“He was a guiding star and instrumental in the lives of many of us,” read an email from his three children — Kelsy, Addison, Dylan — and his wife, Lynette. The family asked for space to grieve and said they would provide information about a celebration of his life in the coming months.

Raap founded Gardener's Supply in 1983 and grew the now-employee-owned business into a go-to shop for plants and gardening gear. The company employs 260 people across four stores — two in Vermont, one in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts.

He also started the nonprofit Intervale Center, a 360-acre campus of farmland, trails and open space in Burlington that has spawned dozens of Vermont farms and advised many more in its mission to expand local food access.
Raap, who lived in Shelburne, had recently turned his attention to Earthkeep Farmcommon, an ambitious project at a former dairy farm on Route 7 in Charlotte. He hoped to build a collective of environmentally sustainable farm businesses that could one day be replicated on other defunct farms in Vermont and beyond.

Friends and family who spoke to Seven Days for a May cover story
on Raap’s latest project described him as a "visionary" and determined leader.

"There's a force that is Will," longtime Intervale Center executive director Travis Marcotte said at the time.

But for all his success, Raap’s moral compass never wavered, according to Alan Newman, a fellow entrepreneur and close friend.

“The thing that stood out most for me about Will was his intelligence and his humanity,” Newman said in a phone call Tuesday. “I just don’t know him ever making a decision that was based on his need over what was the right thing to do.”

Cindy Turcot, who was among Gardener's Supply’s first employees, shared a similar sentiment. She recalled how Raap, determined to give her a raise even though the company didn't have much money in those early days, took a pay cut himself.

“It was never about just the bottom line or the money,” said Turcot, who now serves as the company's CEO. “It was about taking care of people.”

Raap underwent quadruple bypass surgery in July 2021, when doctors inserted new heart plumbing they hoped would work for another decade. Lynette, his wife of more than 40 years, told Seven Days earlier this year that he was back on email days after the procedure.

"He told me, 'I want to go out spent and burned up and contributing to the max,'" she recalled.

This story will be updated.