Vt. general store gives community closure ultimatum

MONKTON, Vt. (WCAX) A Monkton town staple may be going under. The owners of the Monkton General Store say they have three days to come up with a cash infusion or they may be forced to close.

"The people that we meet, the services that they provide -- it's just, it's our life blood, and I'm gonna cry," said Holly Tuck. The Monkton resident's love for her local country store runs deep. "I've been here 22 years. Monkton General's always been here for us, and I just can't imagine not having a general store."

But that's the prospect the town of 2,000 residents is facing as the century-old store struggles to survive.

Darcee Alderman and her husband have owned the part gas station, part deli, and part chocolate shop since 2007. But years of financial troubles following the Great Recession are now catching up. The Aldermans owe $20,000 in state taxes and if they don't come up with the money by Monday, the Monkton General Store will be no more.

"We got behind on a lot of things just to stay open. You know, we have four kids and we needed to keep a roof over our head, and we didn't want to be a statistic," Darcee Alderman said. A statistic in an ever-growing number of closed country stores in Vermont. "We can't compete with big stores. You know, you've got the Jolly's and the Maplefields and Jiffy Marts. We can't get the pricing that they get, and we're not new, we're not shiny."

When news of the potential closure reached state reps, Alderman says they immediately called and asked, 'what can we do to help?' Now, they're working together to keep the store's doors open, and its legacy alive.

"I was definitely dismayed, but not surprised. We're in the era of chain stores, Blue Apron and Amazon," said Rep. Mari Cordes, D/P-Lincoln. Cordes spoke to the Commissioner of the Tax Department and Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman Thursday. She says they all agreed it's in everybody's best interest to keep country stores like Monkton General afloat. "Like schools, I think general stores are the heart of the community. Having village central areas and economic hubs, I think, are critical to that so that people can get their needs locally and not be driving long distances to purchase things."

Now the Monkton community is banding behind the Aldermans to encourage just that -- shop local and save the beloved town staple.

"Come in, come in, and buy your coffee on your way to work," Tuck said.

"I'm humbled by how much people really care. I didn't realize that," Alderman said.

If the Aldermans make the $20,000 by Monday's deadline, they'll set up a payment plan with the state to pay off the rest of their debt.