Business Women–Vermont

A tribute to 13 of the extraordinary women we've covered: Penrose Jackson, Nancy Lang, Hinda Schreiber-Miller, Lisa Lindahl, Linda Vail, Rosalyn Graham, Janice Ryan, RSM, Gretchen Morse, Mary Alice McKenzie, Melinda Moulton, Pamela Polston, Cathy Resmer, and Paula Routly.

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

Near the end of our October 2000 story on Seven Days publishers Pamela Polston and Paula Routly, the subject of their corporate name, Da Capo Publishing, came up. In musical terms, da capo means “to start over from the beginning.” Routly joked that they liked it “because it sounded vaguely Mafioso.”

She chuckled, telling about a recent dinner with one of her long-term “hippest” advertisers. After discussing an idea, he remarked, “So you’ll run that by Mr. Da Capo and get back to me.”

“They just don’t get it!” she exclaimed. “People are always assuming there’s a man backing us.”

Ask any woman in business and you’ll probably hear a similar story. Women continue to be underrepresented in all industry sectors. Much has been written about this situation, and we’re not here to whine. We have, though, included some links you can check for data on the status of women, both nationally and in Vermont.

We’re here to celebrate the Vermont women business owners and operators we’ve featured in the 35 years we’ve been publishing, first as Business Digest of Greater Burlington and now, as Business People–Vermont.

A quick survey of our coverage found that we’ve featured women in 27 percent of our stories, as owners, executives, heads of state government departments, or partners of couples running the shop. That’s not counting a flurry of “roundups” covering topics like executive directors in the arts, “Up ’n Comers,” super-brokers, the lake, and Vermont craft distillers, some of them appearing more than once.

We’re lucky that, according to the state’s website (www.thinkvermont.com), Vermont ranks third in the nation for female-owned businesses (7.98 percent female owners), accompanied by Maine (7.02 percent), the only two in the Northeast with scores over 7 percent. Nationally, only nine states scored over 7 percent.

Of course, every year since 1984 has been The Year of the Woman at Business People. Our founding editor, Edna Tenney, has made sure of that with her never-ending insistence on seeking out Vermont business women to profile. “We need a woman for this issue,” has been her ongoing mantra.

For our current issue, we’ve followed up on 10 stories about women featured over the years to see how they’re doing. We asked each of them for an update and an answer to one question: “If you could name one accomplishment or honor in your life you are most proud of — that makes you warm with pride — what would it be?”

You can read our original stories on our website (www.businesspeoplevermont.com/biblio.htm) beginning with December 1996. For those below that came earlier, we’re including a bit more background from the original pieces.

penrose-jackson-ron-redmond-and-molly-lambert0219Penrose Jackson (left) on the Marketplace with her successors, Ron Redmond and Molly Lambert.
Courtesy of Penrose Jackson

Penrose Jackson, 10/1984

Jackson, the magazine’s first “cover girl,” appeared in our fourth issue, October 1984. She wasn’t, though, the first woman we featured. Edna’s mantra in place, we profiled seven women before Jackson.

In fact, Edna wrote the story about Jackson, who, at the time, had been administrator of the Church Street Marketplace since 1980. The cover pictured her on the steeple of the Unitarian-Universalist Church at the head of Church Street. Jackson called it a breathtaking experience for all involved.

Jackson was the only staff member of the original Marketplace Committee. In 1984, the Marketplace budget was $350,000, the largest part of which was spent on promotion, and discussions were under way to join with other area malls for joint promotions.

In our recent conversation, she told us she left the Marketplace in 1991 to head up the nonprofit arm of the National Gardening Association, which published National Gardening magazine in Burlington. “I did that for a couple of years on a part-time basis,” she said, “because I was really tired.”

From 1993 to ’96, she served as executive director of the Intervale Foundation, now known as The Intervale. Then in 1996, she was named president of the Vermont Health Foundation, which included serving on The University of Vermont Medical Center board. “I ended up being director of community health improvement for the medical center in 2003,” she said, “and left that position in 2018.”

The list of 22 organizations under “past professional service” on Jackson’s resume reads like a “Who’s Who” of Vermont nonprofits, most of which she served as board member and chair. Currently, she’s in the Rotary Club of South Burlington (was president 2003–04) and the UVM Alumni Board (president 2016–2019). She also sits on the advisory council for the national Association for Community Health Improvement; is a member of the Vermont Health Foundation; and is treasurer of the Vermont Public Health Institute.

“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed, when asked what makes her proud. “I’ve had such a wonderful career. I said this when I had the job, so it must be true — being the director for community health improvement at the Medical Center was the most rewarding in the sense I was working, not as a medical person, with a huge swath of people dedicated to improving the health of the community, internally and externally. That was a pretty good ride.”

john-and-nancy-lang0219Nancy and John Lang
Courtesy of John and Nancy Lang

Nancy Lang, 4/1986

Nancy Lang was the founder of Lang Associates, a real estate firm with headquarters in an 1883 Victorian house on upper Main Street in Burlington. It would eventually become the largest real estate firm in Vermont.

Lang had launched her company in 1969 with $15,000, one associate, one secretary, “and a very supportive husband,” she said. That’s John Lang, an Air Force flight engineer she had left college for and married. They had returned to Vermont from Long Island at the request of John’s father, who asked him to come run the family dairy farm in Essex.

By the end of Lang’s first year in business, sales had reached $1.6 million and she had become the first woman in Vermont to be designated a Graduate of Realtors Institute. The next year, she was the first Vermonter to become a Certified Residential Broker Manager. Lang Associates was the first agency in the state to use a computer.

At the time of our story, the firm had won First in Highest Volume MLS so many times the award was discontinued. In 1974, Lang was named Realtor of the Year. Accolades kept coming, with Small Business Person of the Year in 1981, the presidency of Greater Burlington Industrial Corp., designate to the White House Conference on Small Business, and the first woman director of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce.

By 1986, Lang Associates had 25 associates, John had dropped his role of dairy farmer to put on the hat of a developer, and work had begun on 450 acres of the family farm to erect an 80,000-square-foot shopping center to be called The Center at Essex. It would contain 20 stores anchored by a Martin’s supermarket.

It’s now known as Essex Experience (a recent name change from Essex Shoppes & Cinema), with more than 25 local and national shops plus dining and café options. And Martin’s is now called Hannaford.

Lang sold the real estate firm to Staige Davis in 1993. A brain aneurism forced her to retire, but she’s now fit and enjoying winters in the Florida Keys, where they built a house in 1992. Summers they spend in their cottage on Coates Island.

Her answer to What makes you warm with pride? was simple: “Being Mrs. John Lang for 61 years.”

hinda-miller0219Hinda Schreiber-Miller
Ashley Grant, www.sultanas.biz, courtesy of Hinda Miller

lisa-lindal0219Lisa Lindahl
Courtesy of Lisa Lindahl

Hinda Schreiber-Miller and Lisa Lindahl, 9/1986

Hinda Schreiber-Miller and Lisa Lindahl gained national acclaim by inventing the Jogbra. An artist, Lindahl was a runner whose sister joked once in conversation, “Why isn’t there a jockstrap for women?” Schreiber-Miller was a theatrical costume designer teaching at the University of South Carolina at Columbia when, on a trip to Burlington in 1977, she met Lindahl.

Their talk turned to a bra designed specifically for runners, and continued over that summer. When Miller returned to Burlington the next year, the two of them got serious. They created a prototype: two jock straps sewn together. Lindahl wore it running and liked it.

With a $5,000 loan from Miller’s family and a Small Business Administration loan from Merchants Bank, Jogbra Inc. was born. Miller was president, and Lindahl was CEO.

The pair at first worked out of Lindah’s living room, hiring a struggling, new North Carolina firm to manufacture 40 dozen bras, which they proceeded to sell — Miller in the South, Lindahl out West. Evidence of their neophyte approach occasionally made for humorous moments, like Miller’s story of being so excited about making a sale that when the retailer asked, “Is this 2/10 net 30?” she replied, “Yeah.” She had no idea what that meant, she said, and had to call the business school to find out.”

By the time of our story, the office had moved into the Chace Mill, the company had 27 employees, and its name had been changed to JBI to reflect the fact that it had expanded its product line beyond bras to women’s sporting briefs and men’s briefs. Like Kleenex, Scotch Tape, and Xerox, Jogbra had become a generic term for a sports bra.

JBI was sold to Playtex Apparel in 1990, and to Sara Lee Corp. in 1991. Miller continued to serve as president until 1994, when she became CEO of the Champion Jogbra Division of Sara Lee, then vice president-communications, from 1996 to 1997, when she left the company.

She joined some boards of directors, “went back to doing yoga, and just finding out what it was like to be in my middle age. Had a hip replacement. Then the summer of 2002, I became a citizen [she was born in Canada] and ran for office as a senator in Chittenden County.” She won and would serve until 2012, when she had another hip replacement.

She also wrote a book, Pearls of a Sultana: What I’ve Learned About Business, Politics, and the Human Spirit, and has sat on the board of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters for 15 years.

Miller then launched the Sultanas Group. “You could say I became a business coach. I got a certification from the Gestalt International Training Center in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, and started coaching female entrepreneurs. Sultanas are women of a certain age, moving into our third and fourth acts, recalculating and inventing ourselves. I’m a founding member and sit on the board of SIMBA: Sustainable Innovation MBA at UVM.”

What makes Miller warm with pride is “sewing two jockstraps together. The pride is that we provided a product of great value for women. The Washington Post said that the passage of Title IX and the invention of the sports bra were the two elements that allowed women to participate in sports and fitness.”

Lindahl did not stay beyond her employment contract with the new owners of Jogbra. “When mine was up, I knew that I was leaving. Hinda stayed. I wanted to see what else life had to offer.”

She returned to the art studio, which is where she started. “I had been really married to the business all those years, and I wanted to have more of a life.” Her website, www.lisalindahl.com, has examples of her creations.

She, too, has written a book: Beauty as Action: The Way of True Beauty and How Its Practice Can Change Our World.

“Another thing I did after leaving Jogbra was worked with the Epilepsy Foundation for nine years, on their board of directors. I’ve had epilepsy all my life, so it’s an issue near and dear to my heart. I worked with them to create the Women and Epilepsy Initiative, calling out gender differences in epilepsy.”

She chuckled as she mentioned starting another company. “For five years in the early 2000s, I teamed up with a very talented physical therapist to create a chest and breast compression garment for breast cancer survivors who develop lymphedema. It’s sold under the name of Bellise and is being distributed by Jobst.”

Five years ago, Lindahl tired of Vermont winters and moved to Charleston, South Carolina, but she still spends summers in Vermont.

What makes her warm with pride? “A few years ago I would have answered that differently,” she said. “It’s become very clear to me over the years how big an impact the sports bra has had. But it’s my work at the epilepsy foundation that I’m very proud of. And that’s not anything my name is hitched to.”

linda-and-burr-vail0219Linda and Burr Vail have taken a Viequense man, Iván Torres, under their wing, and after three years’ work to get a building, licenses, and capital, he is now producing Crab Island Rum in the first Vieques distillery.
Courtesy of Linda and Burr Vail

Linda Vail, 10/1987

When we wrote about interior designer Linda Vail in 1987, she and architect Peter Gutting were just a year into their architecture and interior design business, AIDA (Architecture/Interior Design Associates).

Vail had learned quickly, after graduating from UVM in 1974 with a degree in elementary education, that teaching was not for her. “UVM had an interior design program, an area that had always been a hobby of mine, so after my daughter was born in 1975, I took some courses.”

By 1979, she was hired by Freeman French Freeman Architects, where she met Gutting. In 1980, she left to do freelance design as The Lone Arranger Inc. This led to consulting for another architecture firm, Alexander Truex deGroot. But by 1996, she and Gutting were considering joining forces.

Examples of Vail’s design work included such edifices as the Flynn Theatre, the Shelburne Museum cafeteria, the offices of United Way, and several Ben & Jerry’s Homemade franchises.

By March 2005, when Business People published a 20th anniversary retrospective of its March 1985 issue cover (a zany piece picturing nine area restaurateurs in full Medieval regalia), Vail’s husband, Burr, the former owner of Carbur’s Restaurant, was one of those pictured. Vail was the principal of Vail Design Group in Colchester, and divided her time between here and the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, where the couple own Hacienda Tamarindo, an oceanfront inn. That’s where we caught her for a short interview.

“Burr and I moved to Vieques in 1995,” she said, “and turned a restaurant and dance hall property into a 15-room hotel. Burr had worked at the Tollhouse inn in Stowe — he’s a Cornell hotelie — so for him, it was what he knew. And for me, I got to design the project. Since, I’ve learned a lot about a lot.”

Hurricane Maria was not kind to them, Vail said. “It was pretty devastating, but we managed to put the hotel back together pretty quickly to accept aid workers from the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, the SBA, some of the power workers, that sort of thing. But we lost the roof on our apartment, so we lost our living space.”

Fortunately, in the intervening years, they had bought a house on an adjacent property, where they lived until repairs were completed. They moved back to their apartment in the hotel just before Thanksgiving last year. “It’s still under construction, but it’s workable.”

What makes Vail warm with pride? “You’re making me cry here!” she exclaims. “Actually, I think coming to Vieques and my commitment to hiring local people on the island, and since Hurricane Maria, that’s become very emotional for me, because a lot of our employees lost a lot more than we did. And becoming part of the culture and the community here — that’s just been incredibly special.”

rosalyn-graham-adj0219Rosalyn Graham, shown with her Dalmatian, Nico, who’s also pictured on the Shelburne Farms dog notice sign.
Courtesy of Rosalyn Graham

Rosalyn Graham, 6/1989

In 1989, Rosalyn Graham was president of Graham Communications, a public relations firm, and the publisher of The Shelburne News. She had, she said, always divided her career between journalism and public relations work. The story followed her efforts in bringing the fledgling nonprofit publication from a mimeographed newsletter to a semi-monthly, advertising-driven tabloid newspaper.

By July 1999, we learned in a “Ten Years Later” story in Business People, The Shelburne News had moved out of Graham’s home to offices on Shelburne Road, become a weekly newspaper, and given up its nonprofit status.

The publishing company was owned by ETF Inc., a corporation with Graham as president, where she worked while continuing her public relations consulting. The company had just embarked on a new project, BTV Destination Press, a monthly airport newspaper aimed at travelers and visitors to Burlington.

Graham left the ownership and publisher’s position at The Shelburne News in 2003, but continued her engagement in community news coverage as editor of the Vermont Times.

All along, from the time she and her family moved to Vermont from Canada in 1976, was her strong connection to Shelburne Farms. A daughter of Ontario dairy farmers, when she moved here, she immediately became involved as a volunteer there.

“Then I was an independent contractor doing press releases when they were needed, while working at The Shelburne News and Vermont Times as an independent contractor,” Graham said. “So I suppose it might have been 2005 that I became an actual staff person with a desk and phone and everything.”

Shelburne Farms invented a title, director of community relations, “sort of a catchall, because that did involve things like Vermont Attractions Association — a statewide outreach as well as local media stuff.” She was there until October 2017, when she retired.

“Retired” might be an overstatement, she confesses, quoting her husband, Tom, who said, “She never met a committee she didn’t like.” Graham continues to be active in the community, serving on the boards of Wake Robin and Champlain Housing Trust, and as an active member of the Charlotte Shelburne Hinesburg Rotary, the Shelburne Village Dog Park, and Shelburne Business and Professional Association. In a way she’s come full circle, as she’s also writing regularly for the newest owners of The Shelburne News.

In answer to our question, she’s quick to say that she’s proud of making The Shelburne News into a real community newspaper 40 years ago.

janice-ryan0219Janice Ryan, RSM
Courtesy of Vermont Community Foundation

Sister Janice Ryan, 9/1990

When we profiled Janice Ryan in 1990, she was in her 11th year as president of Trinity College. The writer, Gloria Gibson, described her as “a Sister of Mercy who does not appear to be at anyone’s mercy.” That was and is an apt description of this oldest of six children who grew up on a farm in Fairfield.

Ryan became aware of her mission in life during her senior year as a boarding student at Mount St. Mary’s Academy. She joined the convent in 1954. It took her 10 years to earn her college degree going part time to Trinity College because, as a Sister of Mercy, she was teaching fourth grade or junior high at the same time. In 1967, she earned her master’s degree in special education from Boston University.

By 1975, Ryan was a lobbyist in the Vermont Legislature for the Parents Association for Retarded Children. She joined the staff at Trinity in 1967 and was instrumental in creating the avenues for women who had not completed college to combine past credits and life experience with courses there and complete their degrees.

She became acting president in 1979, at a time when women’s colleges were thought to be dying, and made it thrive. By 1990, Trinity had had a 30 percent increase in traditional enrollment and an 88 percent gain in nontraditional students in weekend and evening programs.

She left Trinity in 1996. “I took time off and went to Australia for a month,” she said. “Then when I cam back, I went to Washington, D.C., as director of the national Catholic Campaign to Ban Landmines at the Conference of United States Bishops. I had an incredible time doing that; I went to Vietnam, Cambodia, just a very powerful experience.”

When that campaign was finished, she was asked by the late Sen. James Jeffords (R-Vt.) to become his education person in Vermont, which she did for a couple of years. From there, she joined the Justice Project, focused on the organization’s work to allow DNA testing for people already in prison.

“Then I got a call in 2003 inviting me to come and be the deputy commissioner of corrections in the state of Vermont. I did that until 2008, at which time I retired.”

Since then, she said, she’s done some volunteer work for the Department of Corrections. In the fall of last year, the Vermont Community Foundation presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award; earlier, in the spring, the New England Board of Education honored her with an Award of Excellence.

Warming Ryan’s heart is seeing the graduates of Trinity College “and the many wonderful accomplishments of them. When I was in state government, I was so pleased and grateful with the number of them who had chosen to use their powers in the various departments. So many of them I had taught in special education and seeing them at their work. I was with a group of three of them and was just shocked that they were already retired. They hastened to tell me, in a loving way not to use my energy finding volunteer work for them.”

gretchen-morse0219Gretchen Morse receiving her Help Is Here award from Howard Center.
Courtesy of Gretchen Morse

Gretchen Morse, 12/1994

Gretchen Morse had been executive director of the United Way of Chittenden County for three years when we covered her in 1994. At the time, the $3 million operation funded 80 programs through 30 agencies, serving 100,000 people, with a staff of 13.

The job was far from her first foray into community service, having already been involved with the Lilliput Children’s Theater when her daughters were young, the League of Women Voters, and the PTO. She’d even been a United Way volunteer.

In 1976, Morse was elected to the Vermont Legislature and was re-elected five times. She served on the Health and Welfare Committee, chaired the Education Committee, and in 1982, became chair of the Health and Welfare Committee, which was developing the Hospital Data Council.

When Madeleine Kunin was elected governor in 1984, she appointed Morse secretary of the Agency of Human Services, where she remained for the entire six years of Kunin’s administration.

In 1991, Morse needed a break, so when she was contacted by Faith Post, a longtime United Way volunteer who suggested she fill in for the executive director who had recently left, she declined. “I wasn’t ready to make that leap,” she said. An interim director was appointed. “By the time June 1 rolled around, I was ready to adopt the position, both personally and professionally.”

Looking back, Morse said that her most difficult challenge was to manage in an environment of constant change, something she believes politics prepared her for.

“Things have also changed since I retired in 2011,” she said. “The one thing about the United Way that was so much fun was that it was a place you could try things, and if they worked, someone else could pick them up. For example, we established 211, the information referral service for the state of Vermont.”

After leaving, she joined the board of The University of Vermont Medical Center, serving when the UVM Health Network was formed. “I am just retiring — my last meeting at the Medical Center was in December, and I have one more year on the Network board.”

Recently she’s involved in “some very grass roots work to help local candidates get elected, not only in Vermont but across the nation. I’m involved as a result of the Women’s March. Also I’m very interested in the mental health system, and from time to time will work on a specific issue around them. I’ve really enjoyed retirement. I’m very engaged with my grandchildren and spend a lot of time with my family.”

Regarding what warms her heart with pride, she said there are a lot of things that do that. “A recent one was the Help Is Here Award in November 2018 from the Howard Center. That really pulled a lot of things together for me.

“In the Legislature, I crafted and managed a bill for the Health and Welfare Committee that created the structure for mental health in the state of Vermont, for planning and coordinating mental health services. One of the things that came out of that is this Street Outreach program in Burlington. A lot of people around the country have adopted it. It reduces court time, police involvement, emergency room services, and helps people who need a little help to get to the services they need. It was a partnership between the Marketplace, Howard Center, Spectrum, and the United Way.

“But I’m also very proud because I got two doctorate degrees: a doctorate of laws from UVM, my alma mater, and that was a lot to do also with my work regarding deinstitutionalization of mental health. And then a doctorate of humanities from St. Michael’s College for all my community service.”

mary-alice-mckenzie0219Mary Alice McKenzie
Courtesy of Mary Alice Mckenzie

Mary Alice McKenzie, 1/1995

In 1995, it had been 10 years since we featured Mary Alice McKenzie’s father, John G. McKenzie, the third generation owner of the John McKenzie Packing Co. At the time of our story, Mary Alice was at the helm. She was a licensed attorney working in Illinois, when her father asked her to come home and run the company.

She did not know his health was failing, but come home she had, even though she never grew up wanting or expecting to work for the family business.

She came in as a recession loomed and the industry was entering a period of great change. After her father’s death, the company had initiated a strategic partnership with a new specialty food holding company to take McKenzie’s in a new direction, repositioning it as a specialty food company with nationwide distribution. That included changing the company’s name to McKenzie’s LLC.

McKenzie had high visibility, partly because of her media presence in the company’s ads and partly because she was married to Bill Sorrell, then secretary of administration for Gov. Dean.

At the time of our story, the company had partnered with three local business people to form Waterbury Holdings Vermont. It had two components: the McKenzie business and an entity called Fresh Connections. “We sold the McKenzie business to Kayem in late 1999, early 2000,” said McKenzie, and the Fresh Connections piece we closed in 2000-2001.”

After the sale, McKenzie joined Vermont State Colleges as general counsel, a job she held until 2006, when she joined the law firm of Paul Frank + Collins. A year and a half later, she joined the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington as its executive director, where she would stay for the next 10 years.

“The club had always been a place where kids could get help with their homework,” McKenzie said. “What the board, the staff, and I recognized was that in order to really help kids on a very foundational but sustainable level, we had to step up and help them with their education. That was really a big change in priority. I would say by any measure it has been successful.”

She left her position as executive director a year ago and has been doing consulting projects with the Boys & Girls Club of America, but she confessed that she’s ready for something new.

She’s serves on the board of trustees and is vice chair of Northfield Savings Bank, and chairs the bank’s charitable foundation board. She’s also on the State Police advisory committee and was just asked to join the boards of the Vermont Bond Bank and the Vermont Pension Investment Committee. She laughed as she added that she’s also “happily half way through a yoga teacher-training program.”

Without question, she said, “what makes me warm with pride is participating in helping so many young people obtain a decent education after high school through the Early Promise Program at the Boys & Girls Club: kids who otherwise, without the help of the club, wouldn’t be able to go there. It’s a feeling beyond joy. And those kids have good jobs now — good jobs in Vermont — but there’s still much work to be done.

melinda-moulton0219Melinda Moulton
Gillian Randall, courtesy of Melinda Moulton

Melinda Moulton and Lisa Steele, 10/1996

Lisa Steele and Melinda Moulton had worked together on redeveloping the Burlington waterfront for 14 years when we wrote about them in 1996. Steele, the financial power of what was then the Alden Waterfront Corp., had begun buying property there in 1982; Moulton came on the scene the next year when she answered a newspaper ad for a director of operations.

Mayor Bernie Sanders had supported their ambitious plan, which included museums, marinas, parks, and shops for tourists. However, out of options after voters turned down a $7 million bond proposal, the corporation prepared to sell off the land and wind down. That left only Steele and Moulton .

In the late 1980s, Mayor Peter Clavelle approached them to consider some private development to complement the open space created by the city’s newly developed Waterfront Park. They designed a mixed-use project of retail and office space, apartments, and artists’ studios, and formed Main Street Landing Co. Moulton, as CEO and co-founder, is the public face; Steele is the president and owner.

Speed and a high return were never their focus; environmental and social concerns were. By ’96, they were into Phase I, which included the Wing and Cornerstone Buildings, with an addition to Union Station slated for completion the next year, and Phase II under consideration.

By our 2010 feature on real estate space sales, they were, in Moulton’s words, “kickin’ butt.” They still are, having created 250,000 square feet of built environment, including the Lake and College Building, a true community space with an independent film movie theater, black-box performance space, a restaurant, and daily rental spaces for meetings, receptions, and performances.

“The state of Vermont has now secured the downstairs of Union Station,” said Moulton, who’s hoping to run an Amtrack train through there in three years. “Occupancy is around 95 percent, and we have some very cool, progressive tenants. We give away 10 percent to local nonprofits and a 50 percent reduction to all nonprofits who rent our daily rental space. ”

For 18 years, Moulton has hosted a TV program on Channel 17 where she interviews nonprofit leaders. Keeping track of corporate or small business issues in the Legislature is an important part of what Moulton and Steele do. Moulton’s currently involved in passage of an equal rights amendment for the state constitution.

As for what makes her warm with pride, Moulton quickly replies, “the opportunity for 35 years that I’ve been able to work side-by-side with Lisa: our friendship, woman power, bucking trends, all the things we consider are the right things in developing a business, because Main Street Landing came out of our hearts. What we said in the beginning was that we were two women with a vision and wanted to create a space for all people. And I think we did that.

pamela-polston-cathy-resmer-and-paula-routly0219Pamela Polston (left), Cathy Resmer, and Paula Routly are pictured in the hallway leading to their conference room, which they call “the West Wing.”
Kirsten Cheney, courtesy of Seven Days

Pamela Polston and Paula Routly, 10/2000

In our 2000 story about Pamela Polston and Paula Routly, co-publishers and -editors of Seven Days, the weekly had grown from 28 pages in 1995 to between 52 and 72 pages, and the classified section had grown from a half page to 14 pages. Today, every issue runs over a hundred pages.

In 2000, they employed 11 full-timers and 2 part time, and revenues were growing 20 percent a year. All the writers were freelancers, and the mainstays were syndicated features such as “Astrology” and “News Quirks,” plus Polston’s weekly music column, “Rhythm & News,” Polston’s “Back Talk” bi-weekly mélange of arts news, and the late Peter Freyne’s political column.

All that has changed, they said in a recent interview. “The only thing still true is we still run ‘Astrology,’ ” said Polston. “Peter was all the politics we had for a long time: just Peter. We have slowly grown our news department from Peter to five editors and seven to eight writers.”

That’s just the news department. The total number of employees has risen to 65 (40 full time and 25 part time, which include 15 drivers who deliver the paper around the state). And three associate publishers, each of whom owns 5 percent of the company, have joined the masthead: Don Eggert (creative director), Colby Roberts (sales director), and Cathy Resmer (deputy publisher).

“In 2010, we were thinking about succession planning and identified people who might want to stay here for the long haul,” said Routly. “The three had already emerged as leaders in their parts of the company.”

Resmer, who started as a freelancer in 2001, joined the staff in 2005, and became a co-owner in 2010. Sharing an office with Polston and Routly, she oversees human resources and benefits, is co-publisher and executive editor of Kids VT (purchased in 2010), and manages the Vermont Tech Jam and other initiatives. She created the Good Citizen Challenge, a youth civics initiative. Resmer also managed the syndication of Alison Bechdel’s award-winning comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For while Bechdel was completing her graphic memoir, Fun Home.

The company now publishes seven original, free publications, produces several annual events and the Stuck in Vermont video series, and hosts a ticketing website, job board, and dating service. It has been named Business of the Year by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Burlington Business Association, and was chosen by Editor & Publisher for inclusion in its annual “10 Newspapers That Do It Right.” The award-winning staff has been recognized by the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the Parenting Media Association, the New England Newspaper and Press Association, and the Vermont Press Association. And in 2015, Polston and Routly were inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.

“There’s different kinds of pride,” said Routly in response to our question. “The collective accomplishment that represents all that work over the years. There’s looking at people at the Christmas party at the end of the year — pressure’s off a bit, people with their spouses — and recognizing that we’ve created this family, and the members take care of each other in a really neat way, and it’s not a normal corporate culture at all.

Polston, agreeing with everything Routly said, added a personal note for them both: “Being elected into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame. And the reception of Seven Days in the public — none of us can go anywhere without someone telling us how much they love the paper.”

“And it’s not always who you’d expect — like the postman or at the Converse Home. That’s like a publisher’s dream come true, when a high school kid is reading and so is his grandmother.”

Said Resmer, “I think that you can see the company culture on display pretty well this week with the passing of our beloved staff photographer, Matthew Thorson, on our cover.

Nobody these days asks to talk with Mr. Da Capo. •

We’ve put up a list of links on our website (www.vermontguides.com/womenresources/) you might want to check out. It’s hardly an exhaustive list, but you’ll find interesting data and resources.

And if you know of a site we should include there, we’d love to hear from you. Just send me an email at editor@businesspeoplevermont.com, and we’ll check it out.

Virginia Lindauer Simmon
Managing Editor