Valley News – Bottom Line: Seller ironing out deal for Lebanon mill site, former home of Kleen laundry

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A mystery buyer wants to redevelop a historic Lebanon mill site into a residential, office or retail complex.

A contingent sales agreement has been reached to sell the former Kleen laundry plant, once known as the Lebanon Woolen Mill, on the Mascoma River, according to Brown Commercial Realty, which is representing the seller, to an unidentified party that seeks to develop the property.

The 5-acre site at the top of Mechanic Street encompasses a 59,000-square-foot main building that was occupied by the laundry operation, as well as a separate 11,700-square-foot red brick warehouse and office building. The property also includes a 1.1 acre “island” located in the Mascoma River that runs adjacent to the structures.

The property is owned by a legal entity connected to members of the Gosselin family, who held onto the real estate after selling the Kleen laundry business to investors in 2006. Kleen was once a major Lebanon employer, but the investors shut down the laundry business in 2019 following several years of setbacks.

The sales price has not been disclosed, but the property had been listed for sale at $1.35 million.

Greg Gosselin, a member of the Gosselin family, declined to identify the buyer other than to say via email that they are “local or at least have a local presence.”

Chip Brown, of Brown Commercial Realty, also wouldn’t reveal the buyer because the sale is still in a contingency phase but said that “the people that are evaluating it have a lot of depth” in redeveloping properties.

While the main building, which has been vacant since the laundry shut down, features high-ceilinged former factory floor space that could make for a unique conversion into residences, offices or retail and artist spaces, Brown also acknowledged the property is “complicated by past uses” as a factory.

But he believes any potential environmental issues could be addressed, and its location in the heart of Lebanon on the river makes it one of the last properties of its kind in the city.

“It’s a really cool site,” Brown said. “It has great character.”

Riding in clover in Fairlee

Sarah Pushee has traded in her spud wrench for a pedal wrench.

Pushee, who graduated from Thetford Academy in 1993 and later spent 15 years working in the plumbing and heating industry, has opened Red Clover Bikes on Route 5 in Fairlee to sell and repair bicycles.

The bicycle store is a retailer of the Trek line of bicycles, although Pushee said for the present she only had children’s bikes and e-bikes in stock because supply chain issues related to the pandemic have made it very difficult to obtain adult road and trail bicycles.

“I began ordering in October. The other stuff will trickle in through the year. It’s going to be a challenge,” Pushee acknowledged.

Nonetheless, Pushee said she is undaunted and that she’s thought of having her own bicycle business since she got her first job out of college at Omer and Bob’s in Lebanon.

“I worked there for five years and really enjoyed it,” Pushee said.

Although she went on to work in administrative and sales positions at Lyme Green Heat, F.W. Webb Co. and ARC Mechanical Contractors — as well as serving on the Bradford, Vt., Planning Commission and a brief stint as the executive director of the Cohase Chamber of Commerce — Pushee said she’s always wanted to get back to the cycling community.

The Route 5 bike shop, in space that was formerly occupied by salon The Hair Shop, is in the heart of Fairlee directly across the road from the green and town offices. Pushee said the location is easy to reach from Lake Morey and bike trails and other seasonal spots where cycling is a popular activity.

Now living in Bradford — her father was a plumber, too, as is her husband — Pushee said she had a lot of free time at home during the pandemic to think about what she wanted to do once the world began reopening again.

“What gave me the get-up-and-go was, in COVID, I spent a lot of time riding a stationary bike in the entryway, and there was no bike shop near me, no place to get a bike fixed,” she said. “If you don’t go to Lebanon, then it’s St. Johnsbury, Barre or Plymouth (N.H.).”

Pushee described her bike shop as “my brainchild, my passion, my crazy idea,” and her choice was “to do it now or just kind of give up on it.”

“I want to be around cyclists, the cycling community, making things happen,” she said. “This is what I want to do.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.



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