Craig Taylor, Facilities Director and Chris Towne, Chief Strategy Officer stand outside the Caplan’s Building. Photo credit: Brynn Evans
Courtesy of Caledonian Record (May 12, 2023)
Article by Dana Gray, Staff Writer
ST. JOHNSBURY — The conversion of Caplan’s Army Store into a downtown express health care clinic continues, and owner Northern Counties Health Care plans an August opening.
What was a wide open floor space on which to shelve, stack and hang merchandise in the long-time Caplan’s footwear and clothing store is now a series of walled-off spaces forming offices, exam rooms and a waiting room.
The outside has not substantially changed. The large letters once affixed to the Railroad Street-facing facade that spelled out CAPLAN’S ARMY STORE are gone, but letters noting “CAPLAN’S EST. 1922” on the north-facing exterior remain. The two street-front entrances and the large front windows used by Caplan’s to showcase merchandise remain, but the windows are new and double-paned.
And that’s just two-thirds of the first-floor renovation.
The second street-front entrance leads to a space that NCHC wants to lease to someone. It’s an open floor plan with a wall separating the clinic space that offers about 800 square feet. The lessee’s rent will include the space, heat, water, and electricity. There’s flexibility in the lease terms, said NCHC Chief Strategy Officer Chris Towne, in both lease length and lease rate.
“We are seeking proposals that will provide a community benefit or assist with a community need in line with our vision to build healthy families and thriving communities,” notes NCHC.
Towne said the tenant can be a non-profit organization or a for-profit business.
He said NCHC doesn’t need the entire space the Caplan’s building provides for the clinic. Walling off a space for a tenant still left NCHC with about twice the space of its current home further south downtown at the corner of Railroad Street and Eastern Avenue.
Towne said NCHC will consider any idea for a tenant, but sharing the building with a retail tenant would be a good way to offer a use that reflects what the building once was. He said when Caplan’s closed, there was a hope that a retailer would step up to fill the space.
“The town had a desire to have retail,” he said. “If there is a desire for a small retail space, we’d like to hear from people about what they’re thinking.”
NCHC bought the building from Dave Caplan in October 2021. By then, it had been closed as a retail store for ten months.
The timing of the project, coming out of the pandemic with worker shortages and supplies pricier through inflation, has meant a higher cost and a need for NCHC to reach out for community support.
“As for the budget, with increases in labor and materials we would really appreciate the community’s support,” said Towne.
The renovation cost is $679,080.
A capital campaign is underway with a goal to raise $179,000. Local banks – Union, Community National and Passumpsic – have each contributed $25,000.
NCHC is inviting any level of support; donate online here.
Supporters who make a donation by June 15 will be recognized at the grand opening set for Aug. 10. Donors contributing $250 or more will be honored on a donor wall at the Caplan’s Building. Towne pointed to the wall in the waiting room where the listing of donor names is expected to be located. He said they’d find a bigger wall for the listing if the number of donor names is especially long.
Among the enticements for people to give is the effort by NCHC to honor as much as possible the building’s past. This includes the placement of the original Caplan’s sign letters inside, referring to it as the Caplan’s Building and putting a sign out front that notes that, the use of the original flooring (sanded and refinished) and a tribute to long-time Caplan’s Army Store employee Gary Ely.
“We’re trying to preserve as much of the building as possible,” said Towne.
NCHC’s Director of Development, Marketing & Communications Brynn Evans said, “Knowing just how much a part of the community this was, we want to do this right.”
The grand opening with ribbon-cutting is set for Aug. 10. The next day the clinic will welcome its first patient. Graves Builders in Barnet began work on Feb. 6. Between Graves’ crew and subcontractors about 20 people have been at work on the Caplan’s conversion.
If interested in occupying the Caplan’s Building next to the Express Clinic, submit a letter of interest via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop it off, or mail it to Northern Counties Health Care – Rhonda Gilman, 165 Sherman Dr., St. Johnsbury, VT 05819. The deadline for submitting a letter of interest is May 31, 2023.