Tax-deductible donations may be sent to Marlboro Alliance (please write “Community Store Fund” in the memo line), c/o Pam Burke, Box 42, Marlboro, VT 05344. Funds used to remove the property from the market will be applied to its purchase.
Originally published in The Commons issue #180 (Wednesday, November 28, 2012).
MARLBORO—In Vermont, a key element to a successful village center is having a place where the community can gather.
In many towns, that place is usually a general store — a place to get coffee, a newspaper, and any last-minute ingredients for dinner, along with a helping of town gossip.
And Sweetie’s Deli and Market, the town’s only store, about a mile south of the town’s center on Route 9, closed in September, leaving Marlboro without its only market and gas station.
That void has led residents to explore the possibility of forming a community store and initial efforts to raise $5,000 for a commercial appraisal, legal fees, and what organizers describe as “a nominal amount to remove the property from the market.”
On Nov. 5, about 75 people turned out for a meeting at Marlboro Elementary School.
Attendees heard from representatives of three other community store projects in Vermont, as well as from Paul Bruhn, head of the Preservation Trust of Vermont.
“It was made clear at the meeting that if there wasn’t enough support to move forward, the effort would end that night,” said Marlboro resident Gail MacArthur.
But that didn’t happen.
“Many people stepped forward and signed on to one or more lists of ways in which they might help,” MacArthur said. “It was enough of a show of support for the original group of interested townspeople to agree to take it forward to the next level with the help of those who had signed up.”
Marlboro resident Ani Schaeffer agreed. She has been one of the biggest backers of the proposal.
“There is definitely community support around the project, from ‘Yes, I’ll shop there’ to ‘I’ll help do what it takes to make it happen,’” Schaeffer said.
“People seem very positive about the idea of maintaining our local gas station and having a small grocery,” she added. “In addition, people are also really excited about the possibility of having something there that serves the community in more comprehensive ways.”
She said those ideas range from a small library to a space for poetry readings, “pop-up” restaurants, or other community-oriented events.
The store was started as Sweet Briar General Store, run by Bob and Jerome Gutt, who came up from Connecticut in 1993. It later became Sweetie’s Deli & Market, when Amy Taliaferro and Joyce St. Jean purchased the market in 2005.
Schaeffer said she realizes that the former Sweetie’s space, as a modern building with little historical significance, “is not ideal in terms of location or layout, but it is what we have available to us, and is grandfathered in under current zoning restrictions.”
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