Laura Sibilia was at home on Aug. 28, 2011 when she heard that Dot’s Restaurant in Wilmington was gone. Tropical Storm Irene had pummeled Vermont with heavy rain and flooding that day, devastating the Mount Snow region.
Dot’s, a favorite among locals and visitors, was knocked off its foundation and destroyed by the rising Deerfield River. The news of Dot’s demise rippled across the state, and its destruction quickly became a symbol of Irene’s wrath.
“I worked at Dot’s for eight years. While I was there, I made lifelong friends, got married, was pregnant with my son, and kissed my baby brothers goodbye on their deployments,” said Sibilia, of East Dover and the director of economic development for the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation. “On the day of the flood, my husband wisely wouldn’t let us leave our house, but the road crew would come down to check the bridge by our house. The first time they came by they told us, ‘We lost Dot’s.’ I don’t remember much else from that day until we made it out.”
Dot’s, owned by John and Patty Reagan for 30 years, reopened for business in December with the help of fundraising, donated services, loans, and grants. Customers are flocking to the rebuilt restaurant to show their support.
“We were jammed over the holidays, and it was awesome,” said Patty Reagan. The Reagans were featured in a recent New York Times article about the reopening of Dot’s, and the struggles they’ve faced along the way.
Even though it’s been more than two years since Irene, the return of Dot’s is a turning point for the community.
“It’s hard to put into words what it is like to have Dot’s open again. I think we took for granted what a constant Dot’s was,” said Lisa Sullivan, owner of Bartleby’s Books on Main Street and a longtime Dot’s customer. “Dot’s was always open, and you could always rely on it. For the two years that Dot’s was closed, it always felt like something was missing. Having Dot’s open again is like a return to normal, and it’s a symbol of moving forward.”