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The Putney General Store in downtown Putney.

Town and Village

With Putney General Store closed, historical society searches for new proprietor

For more information, or to contact the Putney Historical Society, call 802-387-4411, or visit

PUTNEY—Since the beginning of the year, hopeful visitors to the Putney General Store have been met with disappointment: locked doors, darkened windows, and a sign announcing the store is closed until further notice.

Store owner and pharmacist Jim Heal, who ran the store with his wife Jane, died of lung cancer on Dec. 30, leaving the shop without a proprietor.

Now, members of the Putney Historical Society, the nonprofit group that bought the property in November 2008, are trying to find another tenant.

“We didn’t spend all that money to rebuild it after two fires just to do nothing with it,” said Lyssa Papazian, who serves on the society’s board.

Early 2008 saw the first of two damaging fires to the building; the next came in November, 2009, just as renovations were almost complete. The general store burned to the ground the second time, but after a successful community fundraising campaign, a new structure went up and the store reopened in December, 2011, under the management of Ming Chou, who ran a small community market in Sterling, Massachusetts. He signed a 20-year lease with the historical society, but in March 2013, Chou announced he would be stepping aside from running the store for health reasons.

Not long afterward, Heal, who had been director of the pharmacy at Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend, proposed putting a pharmacy on the second floor of the store that he would run, and having other people run the general store and cafe on the first floor.

The historical society OK’d the idea, transferred Chou’s lease to Heal, and the store got a second life.

The historical society is unsure what the next use for the building will be, Papazian said.

“We’re trying hard and we’re not going to let it go away,” she said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #391 (Wednesday, January 18, 2017). This story appeared on page C1.

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