WILMINGTON -- Sitting about halfway between Bennington and Brattleboro, at the foot of Haystack Mountain in the Deerfield Valley, Wilmington is more than a stop along Route 9 for skiers and summer tourists. Less than three years after the rising Deerfield River flooded 48 of the town's businesses during Hurricane Irene, Wilmington has rebuilt with all of its Green Mountain charm intact.
"The whole town is coming back, actually better than it ever was. All of these buildings needed renovation, and it probably wouldn't have been done if not for the flood," said Lenny Chapman, owner of Chapman's Antiques. "It's like the whole town is getting renovated."
Chapman and his wife Diane started their antiques business 11 years ago after renovating an abandoned barn west of downtown Wilmington.
"The barn is huge," Chapman said, standing on the front porch of his downtown store. "If people can't find something here, we'll send them down to the barn."
Since opening the downtown shop two years ago, Chapman said, he has had a noticeable increase in business, especially during the winter, when skiers pass through downtown Wilmington on the way to Mount Snow or the private Hermitage Club on Haystack Mountain.
Sourcing his antiques from auctions as well as nearby estate sales and consignees, Chapman boasts unique furniture, decorations and housewares that sometimes date back centuries, like an ice box from the late 1700s that he now has in the store. Strolling through the crowded shop, you'll also see a collection of old telephones, a toolbox from the early 1800s and a bookcase that Chapman dates to about 1860 or 1870.
A few doors down from Chapman's, a rustic wooden house operates as the storefront and small-scale factory of the Wilmington Candle Company.
Owned and operated by local chandler Nancy Logan, the Wilmington Candle Company produces various sizes, scents and varieties of candles made with soy wax, a renewable alternative to traditional oil-based candle waxes, made from U.S.-grown soy plants.
Logan said she makes all of the candles herself on the premises of her Main Street store, using modified crock pots and double boilers to make her own fragrant, colorful waxes and her own cores for container-style candles.
"I started years ago," she said. "My mom was into it, and it started for me with the Brownie badges and the Girl Scout badges, way back when."
After years of making candles for friends and family members as gifts, Logan opened her business five years ago, filling her store with candles as well as soaps, lotions and homemade goods from other local crafters. Some of these crafts include scarves from Vermont Threadnecks, a company run by two women from the neighboring town of West Dover, and wooden signs made by Primitive Woodworks by KLD, a husband and wife-run business from Athol.
With mountains, rivers and lakes, Wilmington also has plenty to offer those who might prefer outdoor adventures to shopping. Trails like the Haystack Mountain trail are great afternoon hikes, and the newly opened valley trail connects downtown Wilmington to nearby West Dover for pedestrians and cyclists.
Located about two miles west of town, the Harriman Reservoir has seven miles of open water for boating, canoeing and kayaking, as well as 28 miles of shoreline open for the public to explore. Visitors can rent canoes and kayaks by the hour, day or half day at the Green Mountain Flagship Company, which sits just across Route 9 overlooking the reservoir.
From the water, boaters can cruise down the reservoir into Massachusetts or come ashore for a break at one of the picnic areas that dot the shoreline of the reservoir.
After a day of antiques, shopping, hiking and boating, Wahoo's Eatery is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a sandwich, burger or ice cream cone beside the serene Beaver Brook. Located on the eastern edge of town, Wahoo's is a quintessential roadside dairy stand with more than just your ordinary deep-fried snacks. Along with healthy options like veggie wraps and salads, Wahoo's serves hand-shaped burgers with Vermont grass-fed beef, like the Mallory with avocado, roasted red pepper and Wahoos' signature aioli.
Next time you're crossing Route 9, consider setting aside some time to stop and enjoy Wilmington for some relaxing small-town fun in the mountains.