Solar firm pops into town for a month

By Gina Conn | December 22,2015

Since Nov. 28 and continuing through Wednesday, SunCommon of Waterbury Center has hosted a pop-up store — a short-term lease space — at 13 Main St. The storefront most recently housed a Verizon Wireless outlet.

Pop-up retailing is a modern business phenomenon also known as flash retailing.

“It’s a fun way to work within the community and participate with local businesses in ways that we don’t always normally get to,” said Joel Rhodes, solar community organizer for the Montpelier area and coordinator of the pop-up shop.

SunCommon’s monthlong stay in Montpelier hasn’t been solely about solar, but instead has helped promote local art and other businesses from the region.

On Dec. 4, for example, the space was highlighted in the Montpelier Art Walk, with SunCommon collaborating with a dozen central Vermont artists to display their works. The artworks that were hung in the storefront for the Art Walk event have remained on display during the entire month of SunCommon’s presence at 13 Main St.

“We wanted to make the space beautiful with local artists,” said Rhodes. The works include landscape photography and local clay sculptures, and some of the artists featured are solar homeowners themselves. One of them writes about the experience with solar in a piece that remains on display along with examples of SunCommon projects that include both residential installations and community solar arrays.

Other events that have been held in the pop-up space include well-attended tastings with Caledonia Spirits of Hardwick, Vermont Creamery of Websterville and Dunc’s Mill Rum of St. Johnsbury.

The monthlong pop-up presence has also been a bonus for the city. Ashley Witzenberger, executive director of Montpelier Alive, said, “We love having (SunCommon) downtown. They brought in some really great partnerships, which brought even more people into our downtown.”

SunCommon also hosted a pair of solar workshops — an introduction to solar basics and a workshop on solar heating.

“We believe that everyone has the right to a healthy environment and safer world, and clean energy is where that starts,” said Rhodes.

“Our mission is to tear down the barriers to renewable energy by making it easy and affordable to go solar,” he added, noting that one of those barriers is education — hence, part of the purpose of the pop-up.

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