The Mountain Times

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Once upon a time in history: Remembering Jack Giguere’s legacy

The Killington Access Road boasts some of the ski world's most famous après spots, including restaurants, lodges, and nightclubs. Although the road existed prior to the ski area's founding, it was a sparsely settled dirt path that possessed none of the jump-and-jive zest for life for which it became famous, starting in the 1960s.

The "Access Road," officially called Killington Road, starts at the intersection of Route 4 and winds its way four miles south to the resort.

Today, après-ski activities extend to soaking in a hot tub, getting a massage, ice skating, tubing, or any number of activities-sleigh rides, snowmobile tours, snowshoe jaunts, and groomer rides among them. But the après-snow activities for which the Killington Access Road became famous and that national magazine articles consistently tout continue to be the après-ski restaurant venues and nightclubs.

When it comes to rankings, the Access Road hot spots invariably show up in the Top Ten and the Access Road itself is often regarded as "après-ski personified" with SKI Magazine often ranking it number one in the East.

In talking to locals, there is agreement that (the late) Jack Giguere more than any other single individual put "the road on the map."

But that story actually begins with Giguere's fraternity brother Tom Standish, who recalled that he had invested in Killington stock in 1961 and familiar with the Baggy Knees in Stowe saw a need for a large nightclub in Killington. (The lounge at the Red Rob and Skol Shed were smaller venues in 1963.)

Standish was managing the Ski Bunk for Gene Stiles when he discussed the idea with Jack Giguere and they decided to do the Wobbly Barn.

Phoebe Standish, Tom's sister and Jack's first wife, recalled that George Stevenson also invested as a small partner in the Wobbly. Stevenson had created the Ski Bunk Lodge in 1959 and sold to Stiles, a skier who won the Irish Sweeptakes (a NJ horse race) twice, enabling him to move to Killington.

Phoebe noted that their grandmother lived in Bridgewater and that their family skied. Tom and Jack had met in college (UCONN) and Jack had tagged along on ski trips, she said, explaining his route to Killington.

So in 1963 the partners bought the old red Bates farmhouse (home to Pres and Sue Smith until 1962) and an adjacent parcel of land on which they built the Wobbly Barn.

Phil Camp, Killington's first public relations director, recalled that there had been a significant effort to bring a large restaurant and evening entertainment to the area, and that Smith worked hard on getting someone to build it. "Smith and Giguere were negotiating a contract and Smith was driving as hard a bargain as he could. Suddenly, Giguere said, 'It's time to bring this to a head.' With that there was a tremendous thunderclap as the heavens shook the mountain, and Smith signed with lightning speed," Camp recalled.

Tom recalled that the Proctor Trust "loaned us money with very little equity on our part" as they were also Killington's bank, he said noting Killington had gone to bat for them to get the loan.

Designed by a Connecticut architect, the Wobbly Barn is an authentic replica of a New England-styled barn with the boards coming from ten old barns that the partners found by driving around New England. The restaurant and lounge opened December 20,1963, and many a "ski bum" began his or her career waiting on tables or tending bar there. The quintessential ski-bum couple to meet working at the Wobbly was (the late) Ted Bridges, who was a bartender and manager there, and Sally Bridges, who waited tables.
Phoebe, who also worked at the Wobbly recalled the days when it was first a supper club bound by "blue laws" that mandated if anyone moved from their table to another table, a waiter or waitress had to carry their drink to the next table for them.

The sixties were the days of offering music of the Joe Paige Trio, a popular jazz group, as well as rock n' roll. With its rustic atmosphere and rollicking fun, skiers clamored to get in, making it a popular nightspot and well worth the $4,000 that was paid for both the farmhouse and the land!

In 1964 the adjacent farmhouse was converted to the Farmhouse Lodge, which Phoebe ran for a year. Jack Giguere bought out his partners in 1965.  (Today, Judy Storch, who established Killington Valley Real Estate there in 1972, owns the farmhouse and Killington Resort owns the Wobbly Barn.)

3--jack-Giguere-USE--taken-at-Wobbly-Barn,-1963.-Photo-by-Pat-Linnemayr

Giguere also developed The Pickle Barrel into a popular nightclub. It was originally built as the Sugar Shack in 1964 by Gene Stiles. Billy Shea was running it as a nightclub known as Showcase East when Giguere drove his car into it one day. Preferring to buy the damaged building rather than repair it for its owner, he purchased it (November 1972) and started the Pickle Barrel.

Chris Karr, who got his start at the Wobbly in 1981 as a barback and doorman, took on a management position at the Pickle Barrel in 1984 and bought the club from Giguere's estate in 1999. He re-energized and re-branded the nightclub as a concert venue -"The House That Rocks Killington.")

In 1971, Giguere built Charity's 1887 Saloon and Restaurant, which features an authentic ambiance with ornate antique bar from West Virginia and rustic décor. (Charity's is now owned and operated by Phoebe's and Jack's son Scott). Known for a lively happy hour with ski movies and good food, the restaurant was very popular, giving Giguere three of the most acclaimed nightspots and après-ski restaurants in Vermont!

One of the more astute and financially successful businessmen in town, Giguere also owned the Fireside Lodge, Pasta Pot, and Alpine Inn (restaurant) at one time.

Judy Storch recalls that Jack was "an incredible wheeler dealer" who even convinced her to sell a lot she owned. She laughed as she recalled that he called her one busy day to ask if she would sell a lot she owned and she said no. He called again, asking if it were for sale, what was it worth. She told him $5,000 to $6,000 but she wasn't selling. The tenacious Giguere called again, admitted he was looking for a lot for a friend, and somehow wore her down so she agreed to sell it for $4,400.

But, she called him back and said, "We haven't signed a contract yet; the price is $5,000, take it or leave it," adding, "I learned this from you Jack."

"He really was an incredible wheeler dealer and you just had to learn from him. He was so funny, too," Storch said, noting his many other talents and lamenting that he died young from illness in the 1990s. She noted his nightclub legacy as well as "the experience so many others gained from working at his establishments."

Giguere didn't build the first night spot in Killington - the Skol Shed was the first and only establishment in the basin with a liquor license in 1959-60 (now an office). Nor was he the only one to build a nightclub -Jeff Gehris opened the Nightspot Nightclub in 1981 (now operated by Casey Compton as Outback Pizza & Nightclub).

Additionally, there are many venues that offer live entertainment now. But it was the legendary Giguere who first made the Access Road synonymous with après-ski and nightlife. That is a legacy that complements the contribution of the pioneers who built the ski area and that continues to attract people to the mountain and for which he is fondly remembered.