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Classic Vt. general store makes a comeback - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Classic Vt. general store makes a comeback

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PERU, Vt. -

Peru's hub of eating and conversation is back.

"The town had just not been the same without it. Having grown up here, I knew what it was like when the store was thriving," said Juliette Britton, who owns J.J. Hapgood.

J.J. Hapgood first opened 150 years ago and was the longest-running general store in Vermont until it shuttered five years ago. New owners Juliette Britton and her husband, Tim, said they felt their hometown needed their local general store back.

"Our goal was to restore the store as a gathering place and return that historical function to the community," Juliette Britton said.

It wasn't easy restoring the structure and getting the store back open again.

"There were various permit processes that we had to go through at the start of the project; those were major hurdles in the beginning," Britton said.

But locals and those just passing through were enjoying the original charm and new additions. Many of the old store signs are still displayed, and there's even a nod to the movie "Baby Boom," starring Diane Keaton, in which the store was featured.

Customers say it's a home away from home.

"This morning when I was here with someone from another town she said, 'oh my God, you guys are rock stars here.' You know everybody who comes in the door and I probably got five hugs; it was so great," said Tracy Black, a customer.

For many, the place is filled with childhood memories, yet they also are making new ones.

"Since I was 7 years old we always came here on our way to or from and stopped whether coming or going," customer Karl Pfister said.

Britton says she hopes bringing back the store will be something for those from near and far to enjoy.

"We hope to really be something that people think of as a go to destination to gather with friends. It could be a road trip for people," she said.

The Brittons say getting J.J. Hapgood back open was a community effort. They hired contractors and designers from Peru and used local raw materials for construction.

The Brittons say they hope they hope their reopening will spark a business revival for Peru and other similar general stores.

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