Calais residents work to save community's country store

Published: Dec. 11, 2019 at 3:30 PM EST
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Like cows and maple syrup, country stores are a part of Vermont communities all over the state. But there has been a trend of country stores closing, forcing those who live in rural areas to travel even farther to get essentials. When one country store in Washington County hit the market, the community didn't want their story to be the same. Our Ike Bendavid went to Calais to see how they're rallying.

Just about a 20-minute drive from Montpelier, the pavement becomes a dirt road in Calais. That's where you will find the Maple Corner Store.

"This place is the hub of our community," said Jamie Moorby of Calais.

Inside are a few unique touches: action figures line the wall and candy fills the jars.

But this is more than a store. It's the local post office, a bar and even an apartment.

"It's just a local spot for people," said Catie Kaye who works at the Maple Corner Store.

"I come here because it's the center of town," said Darien McElwain of Calais.

But the store is for sale, leaving community members worried about what could happen to it and everything they love about it.

"It's basically the hub of town. And without this, I don't know what it would be," Kaye said.

"We would just be a small, rural town with no hub," McElwain said.

So the community decided to make a plan.

"We were sitting here saying, 'Who is going to save us? Who is going to save the store?' We have to do it ourselves," Moorby said.

Moorby is leading the charge and says the store will be community-owned. More than 150 people have bought a share to purchase the building, which cost under $500,000. Then, they have to buy the inventory.

Moorby says country stores are often brought down by debt, and says without debt, this model will be sustainable.

"The idea is that we raise the purchase price plus what we need to get off the ground and then we run the business with no mortgage payment," Moorby explained.

They're still working on raising the money. Shares cost a minimum of $500. But no matter how much money you put in, everyone gets one vote on what happens with this store.

"We didn't want somebody coming in and owning 50 percent stake and making the decisions," Moorby said.

The deal is not officially done yet. Moorby says they plan to wrap it up by the end of this year.