A staple of the Castleton community, the Gilmore Home Center building supplies and hardware store burned down Jan. 15. The hardware store, located along Route 4A, was a go-to for contractors and residents alike.
Town Manager Michael Jones, who’s also a volunteer firefighter, was second to report on the scene. He said the call came in as a car fire around 11 a.m., but when he got there he saw smoke coming from the eaves of the building.
The fire was hot, and a dozen fire departments from the surrounding area turned out to help fight the blaze. Heath Goyette, Castleton’s fire chief, said it took a little over seven hours to extinguish the fire.
Residents mobilized to deliver beverages and food to the firefighters all day. The American Legion, across the street from the hardware store, set up a warming station.
Suppressing the fire wasn’t the only goal of the day, however. Employees of the hardware center approached Goyette to ask for help in reaching the prized weathervane that perched on top of the store. West Rutland’s ladder truck was able to reach it and one of its firefighters brought it down.
The copper and brass weathervane, made by John Finley, sat atop the store for about 30 years.
“So it was just pretty darn cool that a.), it survived with all that heat right behind it, and then b.), that they were willing to go up and save a piece of history for us,” said Mark Flynn, Gilmore’s business manager.
In the aftermath of the fire, Flynn said the outpouring of support from the community has been amazing.
“Even to the point where one business was asking if any of the employees were going to be displaced. And I said I don't know at this point. … They said you know what, give me a call if you get in a position like that and we might be able to take them on at our business,” Flynn said.
In many ways, the offers for help are simply returning the favor, as Gilmore Home Center has a reputation for helping out in the community with charities, raffles, and any type of community service project.
“We try to do as many as we can and give to the community, and it's kind of tough to start accepting it back and, yeah, like, ‘Well, you're always there to support us’ and I'm like, ‘Well, I know, but it's tough to accept it,’” Flynn said.
The Castleton Fire Association’s pancake breakfast on Sunday, Jan. 29, will donate all proceeds to support employees of the Gilmore Home Center. Goyette said some employees might be looking at little to no work as a result of the fire, and the association voted to help them out.
“And over the years … every time there's a fundraiser or something like that, it seems like Gilmore's are one of the first ones to step up and say, ‘Hey, I can do this for you.’ So it's our turn to do that for them,” Goyette said.
Plus, the Gilmore business is a key supplier of all kinds of hardware and building supplies. Jones, the town manager, and Goyette, the fire chief, noted that various town departments — the wastewater treatment facility, highway department and fire department — have relied on Gilmore for supplies and equipment.
Since the fire struck the business, town employees have been “coming to me, saying, well I really miss being able to go to Gilmore's,” Jones said. “Now they have to go somewhere else and just the convenience of it and having a friendly face when you walk in the door that knows you … right now we're missing that.”
There are two hardware stores within a 10-minute drive of Castleton, Aubuchon Hardware in Fair Haven and Williams Hardware in Poultney, but Gilmore Home Center is right in the heart of Castleton.
“You're dealing with somebody new now that doesn't know you, doesn't know your business. … So yeah, that's certainly creating an inconvenience,” Jones said.
Parts of Gilmore Home Center are still up and running — the lumber yard, Collaborations Kitchen and Bath, and the Windows and Doors showroom are all open for in-person business on the property. And, to support the business through online purchases, customers can order hardware store items from the ACE Hardware website and select Gilmore Home Center as their store.
Flynn said the business is trying to open a temporary hardware store within the showroom on the property to cater to contractors in the area, and is working with ACE Hardware to get an extra truck of hardware supplies every week to meet the demands of the community.
“Our intentions are to rebuild. It's just still really in the early stages,” Flynn said.
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