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Supporters of Schoolhouse Market rally to save the store

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10/25/2007

By Kara Herlihy

Supporters of the Schoolhouse Market got no relief from the Warren Select Board this week when they showed up hoping to stop the market's imminent eviction from the East Warren School.

The select board heard comments from about 40 people at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening, October 23. The Schoolhouse Market leases the first floor of that building from Rootswork which leases it from the town. Market owners and the Rootswork board have been unable to negotiate a new lease. The market is owned by Larry and Linda Faillace and Bruce Fowler.

Community members had hoped that the Select Board would consider splitting the lease with Rootswork into two leases, one for the Schoolhouse Market to lease directly from the town and the other for Rootswork/WRMR. Other options discussed included extending the Faillace's lease so that supporters may attend the Rootswork meeting scheduled for the first Monday of the month.  The next meeting of that board is Monday, November 5.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Supporters of the market were heard during the public comment period, and were left with little explanation by the board, before members moved onto the next item on the agenda.

Warren resident Rita Brown said she was "very disappointed that the select board isn't trying to save the Schoolhouse Market."

Linda Faillace and supporter Robert Riversong told the board that they had a 15-page petition with 385 signatures, 180 of which were from Warren, in support of the market. Select board chair Mac Rood noted that the board had received 25 letters in support of the market as well.

EIGHT YEARS

The select board meeting followed a special meeting held last week. Friends of the East Warren market  came out in droves Wednesday evening, October 17, to express their discontent with Rootswork's decision to evict Linda and Larry Faillace from the location they've run their local business from for eight years. They have until the end of the month to be out of the building.

The Warren Town Hall was full of about 50 Valley residents including Rootswork members and the Faillaces, who spoke on their own behalf. Linda Faillace said that [Rootswork] "is determined to have nothing more than an empty building and a radio station."

Rootswork member and event organizer Robert Riversong opened the meeting and read e-mail correspondence from other community members outraged by Rootswork's decision.

EVERY HURDLE

"The Faillaces have jumped through every hurdle put before them by Rootswork and have gone the extra mile by offering an escrow account of six months advance rent, but the Rootswork board has refused to renew the five-year lease that any business needs in order to get small business loans and have the security to make continued investment and has seemed determined from the start to move the store out," Riversong continued.

Faillace disputed the heavily circulated rumors that she hadn't paid the rent on the town-owned building to Rootswork, who had been leasing it for $600 per year. She also denied ever filing for bankruptcy, as many community members had reported hearing from Rootswork board members.

Rootswork is a nonprofit organization whose mission (according to their website) is "devoted to protecting, promoting, and nurturing agriculture in the Mad River Valley."

HEART OF ROOTSWORK

Members of the public were upset that Rootswork had "lost sight of its goals" and "forgotten their mission." One member of the audience said that the Schoolhouse Market 'is the heart of Rootswork.' Others added that the store's East Warren location is ideal for its purposes. It sits near the community garden and now has a root cellar.

No members from the nonprofit Rootswork board of directors, save Barry Simpson, were present at the meeting to represent the organization. Warren Select Board member Burt Bauchner said that the board members would probably say nothing per their possible legal advisement.

"My guess is that they have hired lawyers that are telling them to stay quiet until the eviction goes through," he said.

SAVE OUR STORE

The open meeting was organized so community members and supporters of the market could brainstorm ways to "Save our Store" as the flyers read. The meeting quickly became a series of public outcries, where words like "vigilante," ''boycott" and "crusade" were used liberally.

"The Warren community and the Mad River Valley is about to lose an important small business at the eastern entrance to The Valley, one which offers basic staples, locally grown produce, artisan cheeses, and Vermont value-added products," Riversong said.

Previously rumors have circulated in East Warren that Rootswork desires to turn the Schoolhouse Market into a co-op. Due to the Rootswork board member's failure to appear at either meeting, it is unclear what their intentions are for the store.

Linda Faillace did receive a letter from the Rootswork lawyer asking her to dismantle the market's walk-in cooler which anyone can assume is necessary to run a food-oriented business of any kind.

Faillace is most upset over the secrecy of the Rootswork board and the rumors that have been circulated, whether they prove true or false. She is not ruling out the possibility of suing but has relented saying, "We're going to be out by the end of the month."

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