Guilford Country Store ready for a new century

With renovations complete, a town fixture will re-open on June 28

GUILFORD — Three years ago, following the sudden death of her husband, and with her health not what it was, Pat Good, owner and proprietor of the iconic Guilford Country Store for nearly three decades, approached the fledgling organization The Friends of Algiers Village to take on ownership.

She explained to them that she feared that if a convenience store chain should purchase her business it might tear the historic building down. The Friends agreed this was a possibility, and so bought the The Broad Brook House from her to protect and renovate it.

An investment of $800,000 and three years of renovations later, the store is reopening for business June 28, leased by and under the management of professional caterers Marc and Suzanne Tessitore.

The Friends of Algiers Village was founded in 2004, charged with making the village of Algiers, located at the crossroads of Guilford Center Road and the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Highway (the formal name for Route 5), a better place.

At the time, there were three or four properties for sale in the village center alone, which the organization purchased. One was sold early on to the Vermont Land Trust to renovate into low-income housing.

New life for a village fixture

The Broad Brook House was built in 1817 as a tavern for the then-bustling village of Algiers. Complete with stables and a springboard-floored ballroom upstairs, the building soon became an integral part of the town.

It was converted into a general store about 75 years ago, and remained so until closing for renovations following the purchase from Good in 2009. In the spring of 2011, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Those who visited before the renovations will certainly recognize the store's exterior, which hasn't changed much. But the inside has changed radically.

Windows that were blocked and painted over now let in abundant natural light; there are new ceilings and floors; the kitchen has been remodeled and an entirely new solid maple wraparound counter, donated by Allard Lumber and planed by Kerber Farms Lumber Co., allows for both a takeout section and a cashier's station.

There is a new café area complete with donated fine china tableware, the first handicapped-accessible public restroom in the town, a new heating system, and all-new wiring.

The building is also one of the first in Guilford to tap into the new public water main coming from Brattleboro.

The store's big-game station, which operated until the store's closing, will reopen in time for deer season.

Many of the renovation materials are both locally sourced and donated, as has been much of the labor. Marc Tessitore himself has worked on the project 12 hours a day, five or six days a week, for the past few months.

Here for the community

The Tessitores moved to Brattleboro seven years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y., home of their then-13-year-old private catering business.

Before that, Marc Tessitore had worked for another catering company operating out of Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan. As their two kids reached school age, the couple looked further afield for stronger and less intensely competitive educational opportunities for them.

Brattleboro was exactly what they were looking for.

“We love the community,” Tessitore said. “Our kids love Brattleboro, and take part in many outdoor activities that they wouldn't have otherwise been able to.”

Above all, Tessitore said, he is happy to be part of something that people are passionate about. Several Friends of Algiers board members themselves have donated hours of their time toward the renovations – whether it be painting floors, dumping tractor loads of gravel for the parking lot, or cleaning windows.

“It's been a long process and they have worked incredibly, incredibly hard,” he said.

It was this same spirit of kindness that Tessitore said meshed very well with the hopes of the Friends of Algiers as they waited whom to name as the new manager of the store. “Basically we said we're going to go in and we're going to be really nice,” he recalls.

Four other employees have recently been hired, each of whom either lives or has lived in Guilford. The store will be open seven days a week for at least 12 hours a day.

According to Fred Humphrey, Friends of Algiers vice-president and co-founder, the renovated Guilford Country Store is dramatically different from what stood for decades, particularly in contrast to the decay that had settled in.

“The store was losing money; it was dark, dank, and so forth,” Humphrey said. “If I had known what was ahead of us, part of me wouldn't have voted for [taking it on], and part of me would still want to go through with the renovations.”

The store secure, renovations of the building as a whole have only just begun, Humphrey said. Above the store, which occupies only the first floor of the house, are three un-renovated apartments, two of which are vacant. Humphrey estimated renovations of the upstairs would likely cost upwards of $500,000.

“It is a continuing saga that will probably go on for the next 20 or 30 years,” he said.

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