ESSEX JUNCTION — A perfect summer evening set the tone for celebration and networking when The Barns at Lang Farm hosted a Summer Garden Party on Aug. 18 in Essex Junction. The event served as a networking event offered by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce (LCRCC). Event sponsors included Comcast Business, Farrell Distributing and Top Hat Entertainment.
LCRCC members and guests were treated with appetizers from Catering By Dale and craft beers from Zero Gravity. For many guests, it was a first look at Lang Farm’s beautiful new Garden Barn.
Proprietors Jon and Debbie Lang were happy to welcome LCRCC members to their new facility, and to see years of hard work coming to fruition. “My wife Debbie and I have been working on this for three years this November,” Jon Lang said. “It was a total re-do, with a new foundation. The whole bit.”
The previous barn had served as a garage, warehouse, workshop and retail store. The Garden Barn serves as a venue for weddings, music, retreats, and a host of other special events. “We can accommodate almost anything, but weddings are our bread and butter.”
That said, Lang added,” We’re very flexible and want to work with a lot of different people and events.” He said events could be customized to best serve the needs of the client.
Lang said he is a fourth-generation owner for a property that has seen varied and still-evolving uses. “My great-grandfather bought this in 1919,” he said. “I ran a landscaping company out of here, and grew it rather large. We did high-end work, commercial and residential.” in the late 1990s, he said, he decided to step back from that and, along with longtime friend Steve Kolvoord, purchased some of the land from his parents and launched The Links at Lang Farm golf course.
“The retail nursery business has really declined, and we’re always looking for other interests, other ways to generate income and survive,” he said. The Garden Barn project is another result of that search, and has already hosted weddings, fundraisers, community events and music performances.
“This place is heated, too, so it’s a year-round facility,” Lang said. The facility includes more than 3,000 square feet, and Lang said he served as project manager and designer for the construction.
Lang said there is more change to come. “We’re transitioning — slowly and thoughtfully — into some food items,” he said. “And we really want to make this a place for music, maybe host our own music series with a light tapas-inspired menu and finger foods during the shows. A lot of people don’t want to go to a bar for music. They’d rather go out to a nice place, listen to music, and see people from their community.”
Cari Kelley is executive director of the Leadership Champlain program, in addition to other hats she wears at LCRCC. The next cohort of leaders begins its nine-month journey in September at Mountain Top Inn in Chittenden.
“This is our 28th year, and we have a big class — 44 people,” Kelley said. “Leadership Champlain is a community development program that was started by the chamber. It’s really designed to help people who are interested in getting involved in the community figure how and where they should get involved. It has a leadership development component, but it’s really more about helping them understand what’s going on in various sectors — criminal justice, health care, energy — and how to engage the one that most interests them.”
Kelley reports Davis & Hodgdon Associates, CPAs and Burlington Sunrise Rotary offered vital support for scholarships. “We had a lot of scholarship applications, so that was huge in helping small businesses and nonprofits send people,” she said.
There’s a new sports team in town! Tim Viens owns the Vermont Bucks arena football team. “We’re a brand-new arena football franchise,” he said. “Our first season starts the second week in March in 2017, and we’ll be playing home games at Gutterson Fieldhouse. We’ll play eight home games plus playoffs.”
Bucks head coach Ervin Bryson said the team held its first tryout at the field house at Shelburne Athletic Club, drawing about two-dozen hopefuls.
“We found three good ball players we’ll bring into camp,” he said. “We’ll have about 40 players in camp, then 21 on our roster. Some will be local, but most from outside the state of Vermont.” He said the Bucks are competing in a brand-new arena league that will feed players to a more senior arena league, as well as the Canadian Football League and National Football League.
Ryan Chaffin of Farrell Distributing said, “We’re in the beer and wine business — it’s always great. But it’s been a great summer, with nice weather, and we’re seeing a lot of activity — increased events and weddings — all across the state. We love sponsoring these events, and tonight we’re partnering with our friends from Zero Gravity craft brewery.”
Cole Grant of Comcast Business said, “I work with small businesses to help them improve their telecommunications services. My territory is basically South Burlington to Middlebury, or outside that with a referral.” Customers who refer others can gain a $100 credit on their bill, Grant said.
As an event sponsor, Comcast Business also had a booth to talk with guests.
Tim Plante, a Comcast sales manager for Vermont and Western New Hampshire, said, “Tonight I’ll be talking with folks who stop by about how to make their Internet, telephone and television services quicker or better.”
Matt Mullen of Cotton Candy Connection and B&M’s Famous Frys said, “We’re getting ready for the Champlain Valley Fair. It’s been a great summer so far for the French fries and cotton candy business, and with cotton candy we’re looking forward to the fourth quarter and Christmas season.”
Jessie Swetel is owner and engraver at Vermont Trophy and Engraving.
“We offer a full line of employee recognition, awards, and other gifts and products, primarily corporate,” she said. “Recently, we added sand carving to our capabilities, so we’re able to do glass at a higher quality. It looks beautiful and goes deep, but it also means besides an awesome process for glass, we can also do stone. I’ve been doing granite cutting boards and a lot of architectural pieces.”
Swetel said her company could offer photo-quality grayscale images for memorial or other stones.
Tom Pollard, who recently moved to Vermont from St. Louis, is branch account manager for Orkin Pest Control in South Burlington. He works with a wide range of commercial accounts, from small businesses to large companies.
“It’s a great company, with great benefits,” he said, noting he owned his own company in the same field in St. Louis. “Once they were my competitor, now it’s the best team I’ve ever worked with.”
Peg Haas Slagle is an educator and nurse at VNA.
“At VNA we can care for people in their homes — where they are and want to be,” she said. “If you’re a nurse and can go assess someone where they are living, you are more likely to have a positive effect on them. I teach the LNAs — and there’s a big shortage right now — they are out there every day working really hard. They really care about their patients, caring for people at home, where they’d prefer to be.”
Coach, speaker, author and television host Morella Devost is gearing up for a retreat she is co-facilitating with Dr. Julieta Rushford, Sept. 16-18 in Stowe. She said Mending the Heart is, “A retreat for women who are ready to rewrite their past, and to be at peace with the painful events of their lives.” Find more information at www.thrivewithmorella.com.
Rick Blount, vice president of development at Greater Burlington YMCA, said, “Most people have a YMCA story. As a kid near Chicago, my Dad hit a rough patch. He’d disappear, but when he would resurface, he would call us from a Y. They always had a pool, so my brother, sister and I would meet him there, at a pool at a Y, and be a family. That’s what a Y is — it meets people wherever they are and makes them feel like a whole family.”
Business Vermont roving reporter 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 Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, check the website at www.vermont.org.