Vermont country stores are part of the charm of Vermont, every bit as recognizable as the famous red barns and country church spires. Although country stores in various small towns throughout Vermont have closed over the years, due to competition from chain supermarkets and mini-marts, many are still alive and well.
A well stocked Vermont country store can often fill a niche that it’s competitors would have a difficult time contending with. Local service and products are often in greater supply than what bigger chains can offer. Fruits and vegetables, often produced locally, are often fresher and tastier than those found at big name supermarkets. A good example is the Shelburne Supermarket which despite the name, is closer to being a traditional Vermont country store than a “supermarket”. But, the Shelburne Country Store just around the corner is probably the most atypical Vermont country store that you will find anywhere in the state.
The antiseptic environment (and some not quite so antiseptic) of the huge chain stores lack the personality of a Vermont country store. The wooden floors and 19th century feel of a country store is somehow familiar and comfortable.
There is usually a slightly old, musty smell which is not unpleasant and actually adds to the character of the traditional Vermont country store. It’s often a peculiar mix of old time Vermont cash registers and contemporary ATM machines and DVD rentals. With any luck, the beer cooler is stocked with icy, cold beverages on a hot summer day. You’re most likely to find custom made sandwiches, soups and local baked goods. A coffee station with the usual variety of flavored coffees is a must, though you may have to dig through the milk and dairy cooler to grab an open container of half and half. The Vermont Lottery and Powerball machine is probably the most modern item within the country store with the scratch tickets sitting coiled up nearby.
Many Vermont country stores are struggling, while the more successful ones have found creative ways to stay afloat. The Vermont Alliance of Independent Country Stores hosts a large list of stores throughout Vermont. There are over 100 independent country stores in Vermont with at least 55 being members of the VAICS.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons