New businesses coming to ‘green block’ in Wilton
WILTON — Eric and Nicki Girard have been renovating the “green block” since purchasing it about a year ago. Now two businesses will be opening there soon and more rental spaces are available upstairs.
The couple sold their house in Livermore Falls to purchase the block, Nicki said. They first saw the For Sale sign on the block two years ago and were interested but couldn’t buy it because they were in the midst of remodeling their current home, she said. A year later the sign was still there so Eric called and found out it hadn’t been sold although Nicki thought it probably had.
“We were really excited,” she said. “It put a fire under us to get our house done and sold because [the realtor] was willing to give us a couple of months to sell the house. Somehow we pulled it off. I absolutely love it.”
The Girards moved into the only vacant apartment in the block, remodeled it, then after renting that apartment moved into another one and are remodeling that, Nicki said.
“We are living out of boxes in a very small apartment we weren’t prepared for,” Nicki said in an interview July 7. “It is an adventure.”
She plans to open Nicki Lynn’s, a furniture shop in the space where Brookside Gym had been. The couple’s insurance agent said the gym would have to go if it wasn’t staffed, she said. Nicki once sold furniture at flea markets and said she was ready to work for herself.
“I love vintage things, furniture, things that have had a life before, been neglected,” she said. “We had this space that was sitting empty. It is kind of a disaster right now. I am getting there slowly. I have pieces in progress, a lot of furniture in waiting. I am going to be open in some capacity before the Blueberry Festival.”
It’s always been Nicki’s dream to have a shop and live upstairs, Eric said.
Nicki’s first plan was to have her shop and workshop area in the same large space. She soon learned that wouldn’t work because of sawdust and other factors. She has moved most of the furniture to be worked on downstairs.
Vera Johnson approached Nicki about space for rent. Johnson, who first opened Vera’s Iron and Vine on Front Street in Farmington then moved to Broadway will be relocating her store to the end space in the green block. Johnson lives in Wilton and purchased the former Belle of Maine canning factory where she offers classes and does metalwork.
“I live in Wilton, my studio is there,” Johnson said in a recent interview. “I fell in love with Wilton when I first came to Maine. I love that old building, it is so cool.”
Johnson said a lot has been put into the downtown.
“There is a community aspect to that that I really value,” she said. “I am very grateful to be able to move to Wilton.”
Some construction work was needed in the space Johnson is renting, Nicki said. “There was a wall here and the ceiling had been dropped on one side,” she said while showing the space. “We are on schedule with this one. I am really excited about Vera coming because she is going to be a great addition to downtown Wilton and I want to see these storefronts filled.”
There are several apartments in the green block.
“Some of the apartments had already been renovated, were very nice,” Nicki said. “Others needed a lot of attention.”
The Girards have rented to visiting nurses working at Franklin Memorial Hospital.
One unit was changed to an Airbnb, which offers better income and allows the Girards to keep rents low on other rentals, Nicki said. Other people locally have had success with Airbnbs, she noted. Another unit was changed to an Airbnb after the former renter left, she added.
“Our oil bill is literally four times what it was, our water and sewer has gone up twice, our taxes are expected to go up significantly,” Eric said. [Airbnbs] allow the couple to make up for the difference without having to raise rents for long term renters, he noted.
The Girards charge about $600 for a two-bedroom unit, about half the price of a similar rental in Farmington, Eric said.
Nicki said the charges would increase as people moved out. She said there is a lengthy wait list.
The couple has already put a lot of time, work, and money into the block, spending $14,000 to upgrade their former apartment with new bath, kitchen and appliances. Circuits in the building are from 1979-1980, it is time they were updated, Eric said.
“This is our home, our tenants are our neighbors,” he added.
Wilton is a beautiful little place, the downtown is starting to come back, Nicki said. “I love watching people walking up and down the streets,” she noted.