BURLINGTON — Burlington Business Association (BBA) held its Winter Social on Dec. 1 at the new Alumni House at the University of Vermont (UVM). Farmhouse Provisions catered the event, and music from pianist Paul Webb added an additional touch of elegance.
Kelly Devine, executive director at BBA, said, “Some of our events are educationally based, but every once in awhile we like to have a little fun, too. Tonight is really about getting folks together and celebrating the season. We’re also excited to have this amazing opportunity to show folks this new UVM Alumni House — a great new addition to the Burlington community.”
BBA was founded in 1978, Devine said, and continues to represent businesses with a specific mission of making and keeping Burlington vibrant. She noted UVM is one of several hundred BBA member businesses and organizations.
“As anyone who lives in or visits Burlington knows, the relationship between UVM and downtown is a really strong and important one,” Devine said “Students and the university in general bring a lot of vibrancy to the city, and it’s important to who we are as a community. We are a college town, so it’s always important to look at the role the university plays.”
Devine emphasized the festive spirit and economic activity downtown Burlington generates during the holiday season. “I hope folks will choose to come down and spend time and enjoy it,” she said. “It’s a really important time of year for retailers, so if you care about local retail, it’s important to come down and support it — and then stay for something to eat and drink to support our restaurateurs.”
Once downtown, people will notice a bright new initiative from BBA, with help from Burlington Electric Department and sponsorship from Burton, Northfield Savings and Burlington Telecom. “Everyone knows about the beautiful lights on Church Street, but we’re also lighting up College Street with beautiful Christmas lights this year,” Devine said. “So when you come downtown, don’t forget to look down College Street.”
Andrea Van Hoven is director of sales for UVM Alumni House, a project she said was about 10 years in the making. “The Alumni Association has always wanted to have a central place for alums to come — on or near campus — so, first and foremost, it’s a home for them. We hope it will be a hub for alumni events, but also for the general community, and that’s what tonight is all about.”
Van Hoven said individuals, organizations and businesses can book event space through her office, with information available at www.uvmalumnihouse.com. The historic building, constructed in 1892, was completely renovated and is now connected to a brand-new 5,000-square-foot event space. Van Hoven said Bread Loaf Corporation served as the general contractor, with Conant Metal & Light doing the lighting.
“It has historic charm coupled with some modern touches. We have a business center, and five different rooms off the grand central hallway with fireplace,”Van Hoven said.
The building was home to Delta Psi Fraternity from 1924 until the early 2000s, Van Hoven said, and officially re-opened as UVM Alumni House in time for Alumni Weekend this September. She said the space is now ideal for conferences, reunions, retreats, business meetings, and particularly weddings.
“I really want to see that first wedding with two UVM alums,” Van Hoven said.
Jed Davis, owner at Farmhouse Group, said, “We recently launched Farmhouse Provisions, which is an office catering service where we deliver tasty meals to your office. You order and pay online, we drop everything off in compostable plates and spoons and you take it from there. We do for 10 or more — breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos and taco bars, lunch sandwiches and taco and burrito bars — anywhere from $9 to $18 per person.”
Mad River Distillers was also set up at the Alumni Center. Mimi Buttenheim, president, said, “We have two new releases — PX Rum, a rum aged in Pedro Ximenez Sherry barrels, and a limited-edition single malt whiskey called Hop Scotch, that was distilled from a wash that Sean Lawson brewed. It’s the first Vermont single malt whiskey.”
Buttenheim brought PX Rum to feature for guests. “We’ve never done one of these events before, so it’s nice to be here, and letting (people) know we’re literally four minutes away.” Based in Warren, Mad River operates a retail store in downtown Burlington at the corner of Main and St. Paul Streets.
“It’s a great place to shop for gifts, and we serve cocktails Thursday through Sunday,” Buttenheim said. “We’re also now selling Sean Lawson’s beer in growlers. He’s our neighbor in Warren.”
Jeff Nick, of NAI J.L. Davis Realty, lived in the building in the 1970s as a member of Delta Psi. “This is a great event every year, and I’m glad they chose to hold it here,” he said. “It brings back a lot of memories — it was a great place to live, and a lot of Burlington business people were members back in the day.”
On the work front, Nick said, “The business environment is great, especially in commercial real estate — and this is a great place for connections”
Peter Delaney, executive director of RunVermont, said, “Our first event of the calendar year is First Run, which is a 5k on New Year’s Day. That’s the first event in what we call the RunVermont Grand Prix.” Others include a half-marathon in April, the Vermont City Marathon in May, and a 10k race in South Hero in September. The half-marathon, which has grown to nearly 2,000 participants, begins in Colchester’s Airport Park, proceeds down the bike path, ending at Switchback Brewery in Burlington.
“If you run each one of those events, you become a Grand Prix member,” Delaney said.
Jeff Pierce of Crosshair Communications was helping promote an upcoming event for a client. “Barns at Lang Farm is throwing a New Year’s Eve party called Drink, Dance and Dazzle from 8 p.m. to shortly after midnight,” he said. “There will be music throughout; light, casual fare; a complimentary champagne toast and limousine service available for a small donation. A casually elegant event.”
Pierce said he is trying to help establish Barns at Lang Farm as more than just a wedding destination. “The New Year’s Eve party can help showcase the property and generate more traffic.”
Alexx Spannaus serves as assistant to UVM vice president for finance Richard Cate. “There’s always something interesting going on at UVM,” she said. It’s my first time here at Alumni House. They did a great job with it, and I wanted to be involved and get a feel for it.”
Spannaus said her office is deeply involved in the UVM community. “We help support the university as a whole — my boss does a great job making sure the university keeps its doors open,” she said. “I think ‘finance’ brings a lot of weird connotations, but we’re a group of people that are really focused on inclusiveness, and being a part of campus life. Surprising, but special and welcoming at the same time.”
Joe Doud, general manager at Vermont Lake Monsters, was talking baseball at the Winter Social. “There’s no off-season, we’re always on,” he said. “And we’re always looking for corporate sponsors and selling group tickets. The schedule just came out, and we’re already booking dates.”
Doud noted the team has a whole new line of merchandise and new designs for the coming season, as well as holiday gift packages. “Everything’s available online, or at our new kiosk by Applebee’s at University Mall,” he said.
Mike Reilly offers regular coverage of Chittenden County business networking events, with notes on events, hosts, and sponsors, with news and snippets from those in attendance. For events sponsored by Burlington Business Association, check the website at www.bbavt.org.