Rebuilding effort aided by mild winter
By Matthew Rice
A new Dutchies Country Store is on the rise inWest Pawletand it doesn’t look anything like the old Dutchies
Store owners Eric Kuban-Swanson and Will Swanson-Kuban said they were looking for an appropriate appearance for the new storefront, one that matches the area and blends with the neighborhood and looks nothing like the building lost the night of the tragic fatal fire that claimed the life of (Gary) Cary and two beloved pets.
The result is part sugar shack and part barn.
“We wanted to keep itNew Englandstyle; to replace the building would have been just a monstrous project,” Swanson-Kuban said.
Kuban-Swanson said that rebuilding the store as it was would also have cost an estimated $1 million given the three-story structure that burned little more than a year ago,March 26, 2011. And after the trauma the two suffered, neither could imagine working every day in a look-alike building.
“If it looked like the old building I don’t know if I could go back there,” Kuban-Swanson said.
The plan includes parking along the front of the store as well as a large porch, 14 feet deep and all the way across the front, reaching out towards the road with another smaller porch wrapping around the side of the building.
The floor space will echo the store as it was when it was lost.
The plan is to reconstruct the interior to make it just like it was before the fire. “The depressing thing about it is we just got it to where we wanted it,” Swanson-Kuban said.
The open floor plan’s second story will feature a balcony all the way around. “You’ll walk in and it will fly right up to the cupola,” Kuban-Swanson said.
“For now,” Swanson-Kuban said.
Although there is a plan, that plan is somewhat in flux they say as they try to keep rebuilding costs reasonable.
Kuban-Swanson said the store is the exact same square footage as the old building just turned 180 degrees from the original position.
“The old structure was right up on the road, so we’ve taken the opportunity to move it back a little bit,” he said.
The owners say the deck is expected to be a popular place when they reopen. “It was a hot spot in the summer, for the deli, we had a lot of people coming by, bike riders, hikers, horse people” Swanson-Kuban said.
Horses and the people riding them turned out to bring a big piece of business. “They’d get snacks and the horses would get apples and carrots, we’d always have apples and carrots,” Kuban-Swanson said.
In the winter snowmobilers, cross country skiers and snowshoers were frequent guests expected to return when they reopen.
“It was a pretty hoppin’ little area so we plan to put in an actual hitching post and watering trough,” Kuban-Swanson said.
Nearly dying in a fire and getting injured jumping to safety out a second story window in the middle of the night is going to have an impact on anyone. As a result the store will have a basement apartment.
“So now we’re going to walk up to work,” Swanson-Kuban said. “Our time jumping out of windows is over.”
“Now we can just open the window and walk out,” Kuban-Swanson said.
Although the fire that changed their lives took place nearly 10 months ago, both men say they are reminded of it often.
“We still wake up in the middle of the night and could smell smoke, really smell the smoke,” Swanson-Kuban said. Following the fire friends and family came to town to help support them and work through the loss.
“They talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it really was complete depression and anxiety,” he said. It took time before they could even be comfortable around fire of any kind from bonfires to the gas grill.
“Then we kind of got bored with stressing, bored with the drama of being afraid,” Swanson-Kuban said.
After months of avoiding the site and not being able to look at the property, once digging began it was like a new space.
“Once they dug it changed,” he said.
Despite all that the have been through, rebuilding was never in doubt, the pair said. “The community stepped in so fast, you know? They were pretty much saying ‘we’ve got you’,” Swanson-Kuban said.
After the spontaneous outpouring of support following the fire, the two said they could not have walked away from the site.
Estimates very, but some say as many as 3,000 people went through the area of the benefit April 10 when more than 1,200 meals were sold at the benefit.
Since the rebuilding started nervousness has replaced fear left after the fire.
“It’s exciting and scary at the same time. It’s like, every time you turn around now we’ve got to think of this or think of that,” Kuban-Swanson said.
“Now we’ve got to be thinking two or three steps ahead,” Swanson-Kuban said.
The construction is proceeding at a good pace due to the mild winter with the ground floor walls going up the end of the week of January 2. Earlier this week, the second floor was going up.
What the two said they are most concerned about now are having all of their regulars return and not being able to remember their favorite sandwich orders and names.
“We’re hoping April, so probably May and it could even be June we just don’t know. We’re just looking forward to the future, being a community center again,” Swanson-Kuban said.