GUILFORD — The Guilford Country Store is for sale, and the Friends of Algiers Village, the nonprofit that owns the building in which the store is located, is looking for new owners who will maintain the village business in the iconic, century-old tavern.
The store, on Route 5, is currently a country store and fully-operating gourmet delicatessen. The country store has been a fixture in Guilford for generations, providing food, goods, and a place for people to gather.
The nonprofit Friends of Algiers Village bought the building in 2010 when Pat Good decided to sell the business and approached the nonprofit. After three years, lots of community support - financial and otherwise - and an unbelievable amount of work rehabbing the building, the Friends group began the search for someone to take over the store.
Current owners Suzanne and Marc Tessitore took the raw space provided by the rehabilitation and transformed it into a warm, welcoming store offering 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.
After running a successful catering company in Manhattan for 10 years and the country store here for nine years, the Tessitores are ready to transition from the food industry in a new direction while staying in the community.
The Friends of Algiers Village will continue to own the building, and Anne Ryder, the organization's president, says the board “looks forward to working with new operators of the store.”
The nonprofit ownership of the building is one of a number of examples of a model for preserving and supporting general stores in Vermont which was the brainchild of the late Paul Bruhn, longtime executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont.
Bruhn explained to The Commons over the years that, for communities, general stores provide shared spaces to gather, speak, and exchange ideas. Without them, he said, a sense of community begins to fragment and eventually will disintegrate.
The Preservation Trust has assisted communities throughout the state, including Guilford and Putney, in splitting the real estate from the business.
“When the entity owns the real estate, they own the coolers, they own the cash registers, they own the deli counter, they own the chairs and tables,” Lisa Ryan, the organization's grants manager and field service representative, told The Commons in 2019.
Once operators are free from the stress of expenses such as a mortgage, they can funnel their resources into the business side of the operation, Ryan said.
“If one operator decides its time to leave, the community still owns the asset and can find another,” she said.
A storied history
Built in 1817 by Solomon C. Pratt, the building housing the store - the Broad Brook House - has had more than 20 owners over the years and has operated as an inn, barbershop (with 50-cent haircuts), livery stable, tavern, and general store.
The second-floor ballroom saw many plays, parties, dances, and evenings of storytelling. A Masonic lodge met there from 1819 to 1824.
Allegedly, the infamous Guilford card players, who prompted players from other towns to refer to the Guilford players as “a bunch of Algerian pirates,” played in the building, thus giving East Village the name that persists today.
It's said that during its time as a tavern during the Civil War, Army officers needed to run a horse and cart south to Algiers to round up recalcitrant troops, especially on nights before regiments marched from the encampment (now the site of Brattleboro Union High School) to the train station to head south to the battlefront.
'A really good relationship'
“They've built up the business since 2013 and have inventory, assists, a steady stream of customers, and a loyal clientele,” Ryder says.
The organization does all the building upkeep.
“It's been a really good relationship,” Ryder said. “We have every intention of continuing to operate as a country store. Guilford lacks kind of a central center, but this has really created a community gathering place. And we absolutely want it to continue.”
The Country Store occupies part of the first floor of the building. Several apartments and offices take up the second floor and the rest of the first level is Top Tier Bakery, owned by Britani Christianson.