Carolyn Lessard, Waitsfield, and business partner Karen Cetinkaya purchased the Waitsfield building that had housed Alpino Vino and Mad River Fiber Arts in May and are working on redeveloping the space as the Mad River Exchange.



Lessard is a journalist working remotely from Vermont. She came to Waitsfield with her best friend during the pandemic and fell in love with The Valley. She first noticed that particular property was for sale in 2020 but failed to secure it and it was purchased by Marc Crawford.

When the property became available again, she and Cetinkaya did not hesitate. In the interim she’d joined the newly formed Mad River Valley Women in Business and found it inspiring.

“There’s a lot of talent in The Valley; bakers, caterers, coffee roasters, brewers, but due to a lack of resources, these women are working out of their homes. Perhaps there was a way I could assist them,” Lessard recalled.

Hence the idea for the Mad River Exchange was born. The plan is to create space for independent businesses that create Vermont-made products. The plan is for the products to be primarily food items but space for gifts and souvenirs will also be included.

Lessard said that she and Cetinkaya are looking to partner with existing home-based businesses that are ready for a brick-and-mortar presence but don’t want the additional responsibilities involved with running their own store.

“By grouping these businesses in one space, we can combine resources that will allow these artisans to focus on what they do best, creating a quality product,” she said.

Right now their efforts are focused on cleaning and renovating the building which is now 100% empty. They’re giving it a deep cleaning and renovating, adding a commercial kitchen for which there’s a delay of several months. They anticipate construction in October and November with a soft opening for invited friends and family prior to Christmas week.

The pub space is being prepared to rent as event space for private parties and pop-up restaurants. The new owners would like to have space available for permanent or seasonal food trucks as well and have purchased picnic tables for outdoor seating.