GUILFORD—Ali West and Wayne Warwick, partners in Warwick & West, LLC, plan to reopen the Guilford Country Store on Feb. 1.
“I’ve always loved the Guilford Country Store, and growing up in Guilford, it was a pretty big fixture in my life,” says West, of Vernon.
She said that she and Warwick “have talked about other business opportunities, but none of them ever felt just right.”
But when Marc and Suzanne Tessitore, who owned and operated the store for a decade, decided to close it at the end of 2022, “we simply knew it was time to take the leap and we are so excited we did,” West says.
When the store reopens its doors next month, some changes will be in store.
West announced expanded hours: Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“The other major change will be the menu; we will continue to create excellent homemade food, as the Tessitores did; however, menu items will change and the grab-and-go selection will expand,” West says.
The store is located in the historic century-old Broad Brook House, owned by the nonprofit, all-volunteer group Friends of Algiers Village, Inc., which announced the reopening on Sunday.
The store has been a fixture in town for generations, providing food, goods, and a place for people to gather.
The Friends of Algiers Village purchased the building in 2010 from the store’s longtime proprietor, Pat Good.
“When we completed the renovations on the store in 2013, we were eager to return The Guilford Country Store to its place as a community hub,” says Anne Rider, Friends of Algiers Village board of trustees chair.
“Marc and Suzanne were committed to relaunching the store and re-establishing a place to bring the community together,” she said. “For the past 10 years, they helped achieve our shared vision, and the store has returned to its central role in the community.”
“We are so grateful for their years of dedication and involvement with the Guilford community and wish them luck as they move forward with their lives,” Rider said.
A gathering at the store celebrated the couple and their work over the years to create the community space just before the store closed. Rider said that the Tessitores “graciously returned the business” to the Friends of Algiers Village after trying in vain to sell the enterprise.
During their time here, the Tessitores offered prepared foods, sandwiches and soups, Vermont craft beers and wine, local art and gifts, basic grocery staples, hunting/fishing licenses, a weigh station, and a recycling center in the parking lot.
“The board of Friends of Algiers is very excited to have found new operators with plans to reopen the doors so quickly,” says Rider. “We are impressed with the extensive experience that Ali and Wayne bring to this venture.”
She called it “a wonderful bonus that Ali grew up in Guilford and knows the community well” and pointed out that for years, Warwick, of Brattleboro, has also volunteered “countless hours” at the Guilford Fair.
“We are confident the store will be in very good hands,” Rider said.
A welcome history of community know-how
West brings decades of experience in food service and management to her new role. Most recently, she served as food services director for the Windham Southeast Supervisory School District.
In that role, she received widespread recognition for her leadership response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when she quickly developed a plan to feed district children with food delivered by bus.
As a farm-to-school champion, West was honored in 2022 by the School Nutrition Association of Vermont and Hunger Free Vermont with an Outstanding Achievement Award for “directors or managers whose efforts exemplify positive attitudes, creativity, and expertise regarding the challenge of providing nutrition services to Vermont students, especially in times of elevated standards, fewer resources, and recently, a pandemic,” according to the two organizations.
While with the WSESU, West created the Where in the World Are We Eating program, a monthly program designed to engage a school community in celebrating diversity through dining.
She collaborated with teachers of English language learners in the district to compile a list of the 22 countries students hailed from. Each month a different cuisine from one of the countries on the list was featured on the menu.
West has also been part of a group helping welcome Afghan refugees to Brattleboro. As part of her effort, she marked all cafeteria pork items and translated school menus into Dari for new students’ easy understanding.
She has also managed kitchens in other general stores and cafés, bakeries, and delicatessens.
Warwick, a Brattleboro native, has been senior manager of service delivery at C&S Wholesale Grocers for almost 15 years.
Historic preservation, adaptive reuse
Since 2004, the Friends of Algiers Village has held the goal of guiding the socially responsible development of Algiers Village in the absence of zoning. The group previously revitalized the 1819 Tontine Building across the street.
Work on acquiring the Broad Brook House began in 2008, when 7-Eleven approached owner Patricia Good that year to buy the building. She and her late husband, Jim, owned the building and operated the store there for 22 years.
When the Dallas, Texas-based chain of convenience stores would not guarantee to use the Broad Brook House rather than leveling it, Good contacted the Friends of Algiers Village.
It took two years for the group to raise the funds and purchase the building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.
“Pat deserves credit for saving the store for us rather than selling to a chain,” board member Fred Humphrey told The Commons at the time.
“We have been extremely successful in our efforts to revitalize this village with the goal of protecting its historic resources and using them to create a strong, self-sustaining village center,” she says.