This story by Linda Radtke was first published in the Montpelier Bridge on Nov. 1.
The newly restored 1850 East Calais General Store once again became a social hub for the community — and beyond — when it officially reopened Friday, Oct 27.
“We read it in the paper and we wanted to see what they’ve done,” said two friends from Orange and Williamstown, as they filled mugs of 802 Coffee. They also were interested in inspecting the first fossil-free general store in Vermont, they said. The 1850 store has been restored through the East Calais Community Trust.
At the register, U-32 students Bree Tetreault, 15, and Ethan Wichrowski (it was his first day on the job) mastered the complexities of a new system as they chatted with customers. A man in blaze orange with his dog dropped in for a coffee and a fresh-baked cider donut.
For Sara Prentice, the store is welcome, particularly after the closing of the Woodbury store created a food desert from East Montpelier to Hardwick.
“This is my first time here. It’s awesome. You can actually buy miso on your way home from work.” She mused on the convenience of dropping in for a gallon of milk or a take-out meal for the family. Her daughter Winnie asked, “Are they going to have creemees?”
The store offers fresh focaccia bread, hot cider on Saturdays and pick-up dinners ready at 5:30 p.m. with menus changing daily. Several shoppers shared ideas for the day’s offering — cottage pie: is it shepherd’s pie with beef instead of lamb? Is there cheese on top?
Local resident Jaime Davis carried milk, snacks, ravioli and sauce. He remembered coming to the old store every day and had missed it. A young couple bought snacks and beverages on their way to Hardwick to get their COVID boosters.
Craig Line of Kent’s Corner Sugarhouse set up a maple syrup tasting station at the big table in front — bourbon-barrel-aged syrup from the fifth generation sugarmaker. He swapped stories of his mentor, fellow sugarmaker Burr Morse, and of old Goddard College days. The wood stove and rocking chairs in the corner looked inviting on the chilly fall day.
All the customers took a moment to admire the woodwork and the spacious plan of the new store and connect with neighbors as they shopped. Many seemed to recognize each other and nodded, smiled or stopped to chat.
The East Calais General Store is open weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, and is closed on Sundays. Fresh flowers are delivered every Friday afternoon from Amy Thornton of Mama Tree Farm and the store is a pickup site for Pete’s Greens community-supported agriculture.