When Valerie Beaudet learned Flowers by Emslie & Co. was for sale in 2002, she bought the business with an $80,000 SBA-guaranteed loan plus funding from personal resources and immediately turned her attention to customer service and expanding her product line. The business was successful, and Beaudet began looking for another space in 2005.
Because the Barre City Fire Department had outgrown its original quarters, built in 1904, it relocated to a new public safety complex on the north end of town. Subsequently, the Barre City Council placed the historic firehouse on the real estate market, hoping the new owner could generate tax revenues, offer local employment, and retain the building’s historic character. Potential purchasers were asked to submit bids for review by the Council. Beaudet's bid was the only one to outline a plan which more than satisfied all three City Council parameters.
“From the very beginning, Valerie’s offer stood out,” said Mayor Thomas Lauzon. “Her vision of what the firehouse could be was extraordinary – a true community gathering place housing a café and several local businesses.”
Beaudet co-purchased the firehouse with her husband, Richard Beaudet, in 2006. “I couldn’t have done it without Richard,” said Beaudet. “He’s been right there beside me all the way.” Dedicated to preserving the firehouse as an historic resource, she undertook renovations that would honor the past by integrating it with the future. More than 200 historic firehouse photos adorn the walls throughout the building, and the Beaudets paid $4,000 for a replica of the original weathervane, valued at $1 million and housed at the Vermont Historical Society. “The firehouse just didn’t seem complete without it,” said Beaudet. “When I’d drop my son at daycare, I’d see the hose tower as I came down the hill and I’d think ‘it really needs the weathervane.’”
Three months after purchasing the building, Beaudet moved her staff, which currently numbers eight employees, and Flowers by Emslie & Co. into the firehouse. The store occupies roughly one-third of the ground floor with three different businesses occupying leased space in the upper story. Beaudet leased the remaining downstairs space to two different restaurant tenants over a two-year span, and when neither was successful, launched her own restaurant, Ladder 1 Grill, in July, 2009.
Ladder 1 Grill, open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., offers steaks, seafood, pasta dishes, pizza, salads and more than 25 appetizers. Since opening, Beaudet has tripled the Grill’s seating capacity, increased her employees from six to fifteen, and expanded the wine and beer selection to a full liquor bar. According to Beaudet, the Grill served roughly 4,500 customers last month and anticipates even more with the arrival of summer.
Today, Ladder 1 Grill is a vibrant hub of activity in Barre City. “People say it’s the hottest place in town,” Beaudet said. Asked if she thought the renovated firehouse had helped revitalize the downtown area, Beaudet responded, “Absolutely. We’re like the poster child with the City of Barre Planning Commission.”
“Under Valerie’s stewardship, one of Barre’s most significant landmarks has new life, houses 4 operating businesses, and has become a center of community activity,” said Stephen Gurin, Jr., Regional Vice President, Community National Bank, Barre.
As a volunteer, Beaudet directed Barre’s first downtown Oktoberfest in 2009 and has served on the Barre Partnership, a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to creating a thriving downtown. She currently serves as a board member of the Barre Area Development Corporation.
For her unwavering support of and contributions to the revitalization of downtown Barre, Valerie Beaudet, owner of “Ladder 1 Grill” and “Flowers by Emslie & Co.”, Barre, was chosen by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as the recipient of the 2011 Vermont Community Spirit Award. She was honored at the 2011 Small Business Awards ceremony on June 16, 2011 at the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn, Shelburne, Vermont.