Local, Quirky and Old School: Erskine’s Grain & Garden in Chester
April 20, 2022
Inside Erskine’s Grain & Garden, a fixture in Chester since 1952, customers will find flower seeds, chicken feed, farm tools, and everything in between.
The store, started by the Erskine family, is now owned by Janessa Purney and her husband, Burleigh Sunflower. The couple, who live in nearby Bartonsville, purchased the store in 2020 from Mike Erskine. Sunflower manages winter sports at Vermont Academy, while Purney works most days at Erskine’s and manages a handful of employees.
For Purney, who previously worked in the ski industry, running Erskine’s is a dream job. An avid gardener and homesteader, she loves talking to customers about flower seeds, growing tomatoes, beekeeping, and raising chickens.
“This job feels more like me than any other job I’ve had in the past,” she says. “I talk to people all day long, and I like it. It’s just conversation. There’s no pressure, no expectations. It’s just talking back and forth, and it works. It’s usually about something I’m interested in, and it doesn’t feel like work.”
-Employee Matt Walasewicz works at the check-out counter at Erskine’s in Chester.
Baby Chicks, Creaky Floors and Fun Stories
Erskine’s sells everything from barn tools to honeybee kits to baby chicks. You’ll even find offbeat items like coyote urine, used as a repellent to deter smaller animals. There are also cow magnets for sale at the store. The magnets prevent hardware disease in cows (caused by cows inadvertently eating metal like nails, staples, and baling wire).
The building, located in Chester Depot, is a reason alone to visit. With its creaky floors and sliding wooden doors overlooking the railroad tracks, Erskine’s is one of the more quirky, old-time grain and garden stores you’ll find in Vermont.
“We have cowbells on the doors. The screen door slams loudly,” Purney says, adding that former owner Mike Erskine “can point to the ceiling near the front of the store and tell you that’s where such-and-such electrician fell through while fixing something.”
Learn more by visiting erskinesgrain.com.
Happy Vermont Podcast: Erskine’s Grain & Garden
In this episode of Happy Vermont, Janessa Purney talks about her decision to buy a hardware store, her love for gardening and homesteading, and Erskine’s old-school vibe. Listen on Podbean or wherever you find podcasts.
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