The Elmore Store Looks to a Bright Future
July 31, 2021
The Elmore Store on Route 12 is where you can pick up the mail and buy everything from a cup of coffee to a quart of milk to sausage pizza.
Located across the street from The Elmore School—Vermont’s last one-room schoolhouse—the general store has been in operation since the early 1800s. Now there’s a grassroots effort to keep the store open for generations to come.
The Elmore Store has been owned since 1983 by Kathy Miller and her late husband, Warren, who died last year. As the couple began to think about retiring and selling the store, the Elmore Community Trust was established in 2020 with a plan to buy, preserve, and invest in the store’s future.
“The store is really the only business in town, and it’s the heart of our community,” says Blair Marvin, who chairs the Elmore Community Trust’s board of trustees. “It’s our hub.”
The town of Elmore is 22 miles north of Montpelier and 13 miles northeast of Stowe. With a population of about 860 residents, Elmore is home to Lake Elmore, Elmore State Park, and the Elmore Mountain Fire Tower.
The Elmore Store serves as the local post office and is home to Fire Tower Pizza. It’s also where visitors and locals can pick up sweet corn, fresh blueberries, beer, deli meat, and local bread.
Marvin says the Elmore Community Trust plans to purchase The Elmore Store early next year, make necessary building improvements, and lease the space to a new operator—who won’t be burdened by the expense of owning and restoring a 200-year-old building. The store’s new operator is expected to be announced soon, she says.
“The whole idea is to create a successful business and an insurance policy to the community and that the Miller’s legacy will be carried on,” says Marvin.
A Community-Supported Model
The Elmore Community Trust is working with the Preservation Trust of Vermont, which has helped about 20 general stores over the past two decades create community-supported models that help position them for a successful future. The Preservation Trust of Vermont guides communities interested in protecting their general stores through a combination of technical assistance, grants, and legal and fiscal expertise.
Vermont general stores that have organized grassroots efforts to raise money and save their general stores include The Barnard General Store, Albany General Store, Guilford Country Store, Shrewsbury Co-op Pierce’s Store, Putney General Store, and Castleton Village Store.
“What’s great about general stores is that they’re egalitarian. Everyone is comfortable at a general store, people feel welcome, and there’s something for everyone,” says Ben Doyle, president of the Preservation Trust of Vermont. “General stores are not just an economic investment, but they’re a social investment. They’re important to us and foundational to a healthy community.”
Doyle says his office receives about two calls a month from community members interested in learning how the non-profit organization can help residents save a struggling general store in their town.
“This model provides a level of sustainability—the store survives even if the operator changes,” Doyle says, adding that an increased number of communities are looking to find ways to save and invest in their general stores. “I think there’s a real sense in these communities of a can-do attitude. It’s exciting, and the enthusiasm is contagious.”
-The former Sheldon Store in Rupert. Photo courtesy of the Rupert Village Trust
Beyond the General Store
Doyle adds that the community model isn’t just for general stores. The Peacham Café was founded in 2014 by a group of residents who felt that people needed a place to gather and share a meal in Peacham, especially since its local general store closed in 2002.
In southern Vermont, the Rupert Village Trust was established about three years ago to purchase and convert the former Sheldon Store—which closed in the 1980s—to a community café and gathering space.
Deb Fuller, treasurer of the Rupert Village Trust, says federal grant funding and a Preservation Trust of Vermont grant will help her organization hire an architect and site engineer and pay for structural work on the building, which dates back to 1890.
“For someone to come in and purchase this building and run a business is a big ask. But we know that communities really value gathering places, and that’s something we don’t have in Rupert right now,” Fuller says. “Eventually, our hope is that the café will bring our community together.”
In Elmore, the town is rallying around the Elmore Community Trust project, and fundraising is on track. Still, the first question Marvin gets from most residents is whether they’ll still be able to get their mail at the store.
“The post office will definitely be there,” she says. “And our goal is to help the store thrive.”
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