SHAFTSBURY — In an effort to promote activities and businesses in southern Vermont, The Shires of Vermont will distribute 20 new brochure racks to establishments who sign up. The racks will be debuted on Tuesday at a cocktail reception in Shaftsbury.
It's not that anything is wrong with the existing racks, although the displayed brochures advertise attractions outside of the shires, according to Jonah Spivak, The Shires of Vermont member.
"I'm frustrated by the fact that we spend all this time and energy to get people to come to the area and they go into a business to find more information, but brochures on the rack are not representing local businesses. It's like saying 'Come to Bennington! Now get out!'" Spivak said. "It's too expensive for small businesses to get brochures distributed."
Commercial distributors charge more than $250 with an estimated four percent fuel surcharge per month. The Shires will charge a fraction of that, and revenue will be cycled back into the organization's marketing efforts, with the exception of a maintenance person to visit each rack every week.
The Shires of Vermont focuses on Bennington County between the Taconic and Green Mountains. The Northshire is considered Manchester and the Southshire is all of Bennington and North Bennington, according to The Shires website.
With the help of a $77,000 federal grant from the Department of Transportation and the National Byway Program, The Shires was able to get byway signage up and down Historic Route 7A, and interpretive signage at two junctures along the byway. One interpretive sign is on Route 9, the Molly Stark byway and at Route 11 and 30, the Stone Valley byway. At those spots sits a marble slab with a plaque about the history of the area. The brochure racks were the last objective that the grant supported.
The unique part about the new brochure racks is that there is a small, informative blurb pertaining to the area in which the rack sits. Tyler Resch, a historian and librarian and the Bennington Museum crafted 20 panels.
"Rather than looking at a brochure rack, they'll [visitors] see a beautiful rack with interpretive information about the region as a whole and get them excited to get off the highway and experience the area," Spivak said. "The location-specific blurb tells them what happened in the vicinity. It brings traveler into the history and feel of the area as a whole."
The racks and sign initiatives have been three years in the making. It will be first come first serve to purchase one through The Shires and so far four businesses are signed up. Even though there are 20 specialized racks, four additional generic ones will be used as well. Each rack holds 30 brochures. Also, if a business were to close or relocate, the informational blurb would be able to be swapped out and altered if needed.
"It's important to us because these things will be around for a while. We need to celebrate what we have here," Spivak said. "It's very low cost and to pays for itself."
Rack distribution will begin in May. Locations include: The Big Moose Deli in New York, Madison Brewing Co., Hawkins House, Better Bennington Corporation, The Apple Barn, Hampton Inn, Camelot Village, Bennington Battle Monument, Bennington Museum, Welcome Center, Bennington Airport, and the Bennington Center for the Arts in Bennington, Robert Frost Stone House Museum and The Chocolate Barn in Shaftsbury, The Arlington Inn, The Cheese House, and the Sugar Shack in Arlington, Village Peddler, and the Earth Advocate in Sunderland and East Arlington, Vanderbilt Equities Corporation, Crystal Palace, Marble Mill, Northshire Bookstore, and the Manchester Visitor Center in Manchester.
A reception will be held on April 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Clearbrook Farm in Shaftsbury. There will be light refreshments, a cash bar, and live music. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information on The Shires, visit TheShiresofVermont.com.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.