My article this week was supposed to be for our Nest column. You know… all things home and home décor. Then, an email came in about a new crowdfunding effort that desperately needs a boost. I know. We’re all just a tad crowdfunding weary right now but, wait! Hear me out. Here’s the first couple lines of the press release:
“BELLOWS FALLS, VERMONT: The Flat Iron Cooperative is a new worker-owned venture in downtown Bellows Falls that is hoping to raise money to open their doors - and hoping to enrich the community with art, music, coffee, and more.”
My ears immediately pricked up because of the Bellows Falls location of this effort. Growing up in Saxton’s River, VT, BF was just 5 miles away and it’s where I went to both middle and half of high school, so I have a strong affinity for the little old mill town. Saxton’s River was the bucolic teeny tiny hamlet I feel was a perfect place to grow up in the 70s. Bellows Falls was a bit bigger and always had a slightly gritty sensibility to it. Home to one of the first canals ever built in the US, BF sits right on the Connecticut River. An old town of once great industrial wealth, it prospered with rail and waterway utility. There’s beautiful architecture throughout the village which was first settled in 1753 by English colonists according to Wiki but the river and its falls had been fished for centuries by nomadic Abenaki tribes prior to that.
Decades of efforts to revitalize the little village have paid off with it now having much of its architecture and historic areas registered (and hopefully protected) while a tenacious arts movement has slowly taken hold. The historic Bellows Falls Opera House is now guided by Charlie Hunter and it’s where I saw Gone With the Wind for the first time as a class field trip and, later the original Amityville Horror which my friend, Patrick’s mother wrote us a permission slip to gain admittance to the R-rated flick. According to my friend and terrific Bellows Falls champion, Susan MacNeil, the ambitious efforts of the women creating the Flat Iron Cooperative will be joining other small venues of performance and/or libations such as Moon Dog Café, Rockingham Roasters and Stage 33. There’s a gorgeous antiques shop, Windham Antiques in what used to be Sam’s Army & Navy downtown, too. When you want to spend a leisurely afternoon admiring architecture, poking around shops and maybe stopping for a bite or drink, Bellows Falls is worthwhile. Now, let’s finish up with that press release:
“The Flat Iron Cooperative is located at 51 The Square, in the historic brick building at the intersection of The Square and Westminster and Mill Streets. It was co-founded by three friends: Larisa Demos, a board chair of the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives and a board member of the Springfield Co-op; Bri Johnson, the owner of the Flat Iron Cooperative who has a background in art and as a librarian; and Jana Bryan, a landscape architect and former owner of the Flat Iron Exchange Coffee Shop. With their ample experience, research, and passion, they aim to invigorate and bring together the community of Bellows Falls with a worker-owned coffeehouse, market, and community space. At its core, it’s a values-driven business that puts worker and community benefit at the forefront. It aims to be a space filled with poetry, art, music, coffee, healthy food options, and spirits, with plans for events and workshops aimed at kids, teens, and adults and collaborations with other local organizations. Overall, the Flat Iron Cooperative is for people of all ages of all interests and was created by and with the Bellows Falls community. Now, as new members of the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives, the Flat Iron Cooperative is moving full-steam ahead toward opening. However, in order to do so, they need support from the community that, in turn, they hope to support. The Flat Iron Cooperative is running a Kickstarter to fund elements of their opening, including equipment, furnishings, utility bills, etc. With a goal of $45,000, the project can only be funded if they reach their goal by Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 9 p.m. But, just like their business model, community members who donate to the Cooperative’s fundraiser benefit in return. Pledges between $25-$10,000 receive rewards such as personalized poems, limited edition prints, fabric collages, and much more.
As Bri Johnson expressed, “With your help, we can turn our vision for this space into something really special for Bellows Falls.” After nearly two years
of quarantine and isolation, there is no better time to come together with your fellow neighbor to laugh, converse, and drink a nice cup of coffee. With the Flat Iron Cooperative and the help of the community, all of that is possible -