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The Mad River serves as a scenic, gently gurgling border to the grassy lawn and gardens outside Mad River Massage, located on Route 100 in Waitsfield, adding to the business’ peaceful atmosphere.
But when the river came up over the banks during Tropical Storm Irene, it left two and one-half feet of water and a thick layer of mud and silt in the building’s lower level. The next day, “I couldn’t even open the front door,” Mad River Massage owner Trish Hopkins said.
Hopkins didn’t put out a call asking for help, but that same day, “friends, clients and strangers just started showing up,” she said. It took eight days for the volunteer work crew just to clean out the building’s lower level, which contained Mad River Massage’s front desk and small retail store.
Luckily, all of the business’ private massage rooms were located upstairs, so in the weeks of repairs that followed, Hopkins and her staff were able to keep working, despite some inconveniences.
“We were walking over a construction zone,” Hopkins said, “but people continued to come in—through the shop vacs, the saws [and] all the noise.”
And the building wasn’t the only thing being repaired. After the storm, the river ran at a different angle than before, threatening to take out the streambank that borders the property. The threat was large enough that it became one of few places in The Valley where the state allowed the river to be dredged and bulldozers dug for five days in order to put the channel back in place.
Although the flood damages left Hopkins “in awe of the power of the river,” she remains optimistic about its role in her business.
In rebuilding, Mad River Massage was also able to put in a massage room on the bottom floor, so it can now offer its services to people who might not be comfortable climbing stairs. And after the flood, “We got rid of a lot of things we didn’t need,” she said. “We have fresh paint.”