GUILFORD—Listen to the sweet sounds of renovation banging and bouncing from the Guilford Country Store.
The Friends of Algiers Village, a nonprofit civic group, has entered the early phases of renovation after a year of fundraising culminated in purchasing the historic building in August.
According to Anne Rider, a member of the store renovation subcommittee who serves on the Selectboard, Friends of Algiers Village is in phase one of construction.
The old shelving and antiquated equipment have been removed. FOAV has also hired architect firm Williams & Frehsee, Inc. to draw up new plans for the space. In line with a historic easement, the organization must preserve a Count Rumford fireplace and beadboard on the ceiling.
Everything else inside the store, says Rider, is up for grabs.
Phase two will entail renovating the two apartments, currently occupied, above the store.
Rider said members of the nonprofit FOAV, with the mission of revitalizing the triangle at the junction of Route 5 and Guilford Center Road, want to recruit a store operator preferably with retail experience.
It’s okay with FOAV if the potential proprietor has never owned a community store; however, says Rider, retail experience is “helpful and a knowledge of the food industry or retail grocery would be a big plus.”
The operator would lease store space from the FOAV and have free rein to set up the store to his or her specifications beyond a few requirements, based on community feedback: a café area, public restroom and basic groceries.
The operator would be responsible for start up costs relating to inventory and payroll but, at this stage, FOAV plans to purchase most of the equipment, such as an industrial stove and coolers.
“We’ve gotten a lot of interest [in the operator position] and have done three interviews so far,” says Rider.
FOAV sent a copy of its RFP to the Vermont Grocers’ Association and Associated Grocers of New England.
Lyssa Papazian, project manager for the Putney General Store revitalization project, recommended word of mouth to get the information out as well. Rider says a few inquiries have also come as a result of local news coverage.
“We were working with a potential store operator for quite a while and then he decided it wasn’t the right time for expansion (he owns another store), so we have re-opened the search about a month ago,” says Rider.
In addition to the internal renovations of the store, Rider says FOAV is looking to some external renovations.
FOAV hopes to open the building’s front windows and increase the light in the space, for example. Conversations are ongoing with the town about moving the recycling station, currently in the store’s parking lot, back from view and making the surrounding area more pedestrian friendly.
Brattleboro Savings & Loan has “stepped up” to establish an ATM in the store, says Rider.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office and the Preservation Trust of Vermont provided FOAV with seed money for the renovations through a $65,000 grant from the Village Revitalization Initiative program.
According to FOAV president Eric Morse, Leahy secured these funds for immediate renovations to the retail space so the store could open as soon as possible.
Rider says The Preservation Trust of Vermont and The Freeman Foundation have also stepped in with a matching $25,000 grant, which opens up another potential $50,000 in renovation funds for the 1817 Broad Brook House, which houses the country store.
Members of FOAV credit generous private donations and community support with ensuring the project’s ongoing success.
Rider says FOAV is aiming to reopen the Guilford Country Store by winter 2011.
The FOAV continues to raise funds toward the renovation and opening-related costs of the Guilford Country Store and welcomes donations of money, time, or services. Contact Eric Morse at 802-254-8477 or Fred Humphrey at 802-257-7306 for more information or visit FOAV’s Facebook page: Preserving the Guilford Country Store.