In our pursuit of hiking the hundred highest mountains in New England, Ethan, Smoky and I packed up the car and headed to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont for the long weekend. What we found were not only beautiful views, vast farming landscapes and friendly hikers but also some great teachable moments. Here are a few of them:
Lesson #1: Have fun with your skill set.
On one of the days we were completely rained out. We were traveling up the shore of Lake Champlain and found ourselves near the Magic Hat brewery. If you have been there you know what I’m talking about when I say this brewery is FUN! Right as you enter, all around you there are silly wall hangings and sculptures, posters and Magic Hat memorabilia. While wandering around the brewery on a brief self guided tour we saw the usual bit on how beer is made, but we also enjoyed how they approached the subject. The silly and fantastical nature of how Magic Hat approached the widely available information on how to produce excellent beer was as refreshing as the end product. We recognized that quality doesn’t always mean you have to take yourself so seriously. Magic Hat beer is a solid product, but they don’t need to romanticize their struggle. To us, they shine by showing us they can have fun with their skill set, which in a pleasant way exudes a nice confidence of its own.
Lesson #2: Animals sell.
I know, it sounds silly but with their cuteness, they do! We saw a storefront display in Manchester and right in the front window there were these cat hammocks with different cats laying in them. We took some time to stand by and watch and every time a person walked by the store they had to look at the cats in the window. We even looked up what kind of business it is, without the cats we wouldn’t have been that curious. If they found some way for window watchers to feed quarters into a catnip dispenser, they could make a fortune. Another example is all the dairy cows that color the Vermont highways. The sheer amount of cows we saw made us really want some locally made milk and cheese. Ok, this is subliminal and not intentional by the farmers but with our innate human love for animals we somehow felt closer to nature and the Vermont farming community. Attracting more business could be as simple as working an animal into your marketing budget. I’m not certain if you will be able to write that dog food off though.
Lesson #3: Friendliness is a community treasure.
Camping is just about an every weekend occurrence for us in the hiking seasons but sometimes there just isn’t a real need to rough it. We had one rainy night where we just weren’t up for tenting it and we wanted to stay somewhere warm and dry. The only trouble was we were in a really remote part of the state. Once we found some cell reception we began to call around to a few places within a 20 mile radius with accommodations. One bed and breakfast stood out, they answered the phone at 8:00 at night, were overly kind and very accommodating to us and our dog. When we arrived they had left a note on the front door saying to just go ahead in and head upstairs to find our room. This gesture of welcoming and hospitality will stick with us and made us realize that our experiences can be so much richer when people around you are friendly.
Lesson #4: Be memorable with good art and design.
I think this photo says it all! We were driving through Jeffersonville and came across this giant silo with this painted mural. Once we passed the mural we drove another few feet ahead and saw a sign for Smuggler’s Notch Distillery. I think it’s a happy accident, I’m not so sure that these silos are part of the distillery but because they are so memorable we won’t forget the town or the location of the Smuggler’s Notch Distillery. Investing in art and design to improve your business or your surroundings will put you over the top and help you to stand out.
Lesson #5: Eat local whenever possible, especially in Vermont.
Being in Vermont it is clear to us that there is a strong eat local movement there. We had some delicious meals made up of simple ingredients that were locally grown. The meals we tried were not full of fuss or revolutionary in any way. We never found any fusion this or fusion that. No imaginative substituted tomfoolery. We simply found one meal to the next, that the high quality of the local ingredients used took common dishes to new heights with textures and flavors. That pickle on that burger made with beef raised a block away will be the best pickle you’ve ever had. There are no garden salads, only farm salads. The world is not even ready for that tomato vegetable bisque. The take-away is many of these Vermont chefs are making the best food with what ingredients are available to them. You don’t have to be a chef to benefit from this philosophy.