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Ideas Put Forward For Cornish Store

Cornish — A group who met at the site of the closed Cornish General Store on Monday night was told it could be a viable business provided the next operator could negotiate a modest rent and some investors step up to the plate.

George Edson, who led Monday’s night’s informal discussion on the possibility of reopening the Route 120 store hopes some of the 50 people who came out to listen to his ideas would contact him later about pursuing the idea.

The store closed Aug. 31 when owners Bob and Shirley Bladen decided to retire. It is now for sale.

Monday night’s gathering lasted 40 minutes and was held to assess how many people in the community would seriously consider becoming involved in re-opening the store, which had been operated by the Bladens for 13 years.

Edson said there are a few different options for reviving the store, including a co-op. But he believes having a public entity own the building, establish that it can only be operated as a general store and lease it to someone to run as a private business, would make the most sense financially.

“That is the premise,” Edson said.

Requiring a modest rent from the store operator instead of expecting that person to buy the property would increase the chances of a successful operation, Edson said, because it would enhance cash flow and capital could be plowed back into the business. Otherwise the initial capital investment would be too high for most.

“(If they don’t buy the building someone) can put together money for inventory and working capital,” Edson said.

One suggestion Edson offered for buying the building was to sell shares, maybe at $10,000 each, and the investors would become the owners. The store is on the market for $375,000.

“The theory is you do it as an investment,” he said.

The building currently has one tenant in a small space next to the former general store in addition to two apartments on a second floor. Edson said the space is too large for a general store and suggested erecting a wall and creating a second, smaller area to rent.

“I think it could be more successful with less space and with rental space it would a better investment for the owners,” Edson said.

One person thought lowering the cost of the shares to $1,000 or $2,000 would attract more investors but Edson cautioned that the end result could be an unmanageable group of perhaps as many as 200 owners.

At the beginning of the meeting, Edson mentioned the general store in Barnard.

The Barnard General Store was reopened at the beginning of the year when a nonprofit trust raised $500,000 to buy the property, which is now being run successfully by a young couple.

“This is really an opportunity,” said Colleen O’Neill, pointing out that the former owners of the Cornish General Store ran a profitable business and closed it only because they wanted to retire. “It needs new blood.”

According to the Department of Transportation, in 2012, an average of 2,200 cars travel Route 120 each day.

Resident Judith Kaufman said the process needs to be done in stages and one of the first steps is to form a legal entity.

“It would help people to become investors,” Kaufman said. “You need to have structure.”

Edson reiterated that the Monday night meeting was intended only to gauge interest and see who may want to take the next step. Though he said there are still “a lot of questions and a lot of unknowns,” Edson sounded confident that, if done correctly, the store could be a great investment for the owners and profitable for the operator.

“I think the whole thing is doable,” he said.

Paul Bruhn with the Vermont Preservation Trust has spoken to the group but was not at Monday night’s meeting. A story in the Sunday Valley News incorrectly stated he would be at the meeting.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.