Sidebar Sidebar Sidebar
Church Street Marketplace: Danforth in Burlington, VT

Church Street Marketplace: Danforth in Burlington, VT

Posted by Danforth Pewter on Jul 13th 2023

If you're walking down College Street in Burlington, Vermont, and then turn right on Church Street, you'll find yourself in one of the most iconic downtowns in the United States: the Church Street Marketplace.

The heart of Burlington is often abuzz with activity. It consists of a pedestrian walkway that on many days is filled with locals, travelers, professionals, musicians—people from all walks of life. Paved with brick and lined with local stores and restaurants, the Church Street Marketplace is the kind of walkable downtown that's rare in the U.S. these days. In a country where most cities are characterized by highways and acres of parking lots, Burlington is a great example of a thriving, community-centered downtown where people love to live and visit.

Why Is Burlington, Vermont such a Great City?

So many reasons, and many are intentional! One is that Burlington embodies (and cultivates) the concept of smart growth, a theory of urban planning that promotes dense, walkable city centers and aims to prevent sprawl. The city's robust public transportation system and network of bike lanes promote green mobility and minimize traffic (which in turn reduces pollution and stress). In 2015, Burlington became the first U.S. city to be powered entirely by renewable energy, a testament to its commitment to green energy. It's also a city where many people live, work, and recreate all in the same place—which, according to the aptly named sociological theory Live-Work-Play Paradigm—helps a city thrive by fostering economic growth, community engagement, and quality of life. On top of all that, Burlington is home to many passionate, community-minded folks, many of whom love to patronize the city's myriad local businesses, farm-to-table restaurants, and cultural and community events that run the gamut from preschool yoga to Music on the Bricks. (For a calendar of events, check out Church Street Marketplace's website.)

Local Businesses in Burlington

In July 2004, Danforth Pewter opened its doors right on Church Street. Church Street is full of small, local businesses, many of which are native to Vermont, so it felt like the perfect fit. With a vibrant mix of locals and tourists, especially leaf-peepers in October and skiers in January and February, the store has become a regular shopping destination and meeting place for many people over the years.

Church Street in Burlington VT

"Up here everything is slower-paced, more personable, community-based," says Julie, our store manager in Burlington, who moved here from Maryland in 2012. "We see a lot of the same people come in year after year, especially around Christmas. I know a lot of them by name. We also get a lot of newcomers, out-of-staters. The other day someone came in and said she'd just bought earrings from us online; she didn't know we had a physical store, too. She just walked by and recognized the name."

Pewter Gnome Birthday Party

Julie, now a resident of Swanton, initially worked in a gift shop in St. Albans, then switched to work in a corporate store in University Mall. She also worked for Hallmark for 11 years. "I moved around the retail sphere a bit, and it was quite a shock to me to move into the corporate world. They could barely care less about their employees. They need control. After three years, I was out of there. I saw the posting for Danforth and thought, I would love to get back into the gift business.

"Danforth gives us a lot of flexibility and creativity to do what we want in the store. We're not told what to do. The college students who work here are often really creative and they love making new displays, especially using the gnomes, and they have the freedom to do that. It makes it fun to work here.

"Also, the products are great. People say 'Do you make all this stuff here?' and I tell them how it's all made in Middlebury. The interaction with the customers is one of my favorite parts of the job. It's not just ring-it-up-and-out-they-go. There are lots of personal connections and interactions. I hear different stories from the customers, from the other employees, etc. It's a wonderful product and I get to interact with it every day, and to develop relationships that continue over time."

One day Judi Danforth (one of our founders) walked in to the Danforth store. "I used to work at a maternity store," Julie said, "and she remembered me from when she came in when her daughter was pregnant with twins. Danforth is so much more personal than other businesses I've worked for.

"I love telling customers the history of it, how everything is made in Vermont. The person is more important than the business."

The Danforth store is located in an historic building that used to house a camera shop, which some people remember. "They'll come in and say 'Oh, I remember when I used to come in here...' We keep our door open when the weather's nice and we'll have different animals come in. Birds and squirrels and pigeons like to come in and visit."

Of course, you can't talk about Burlington for long without mentioning that it's a college town. "If there's a bad snow day, or a storm overnight," Julie says, "I can't always make the drive. I never have to worry, though. For one thing, the company is so understanding; they'll call me and tell me to close if the weather's bad. Second, I usually have college students working here, and they live a ten-minute walk away, and they'll come in even at ten below."

If you're in Burlington this summer (or fall or winter or spring), we hope you'll stop in and say hello!

Thank you for supporting small, local businesses, both online and in person. Your support truly makes a difference in our lives, our families, and our communities.

View a full list of our retail store locations and schedules.