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Bottom Line: General stores, diner up for sale as owners move on

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 6/27/2020 9:28:39 PM
Modified: 6/27/2020 9:33:24 PM

To say that 2020 has been crushingly difficult for Mary Dan Pomeroy might still be a understatement.

Mary Dan Pomeroy owns three general stores along Route 113 — Village Store in Thetford Center, Baker’s General Store in Post Mills and B&B Cash Market in West Fairlee. She ran them with her late husband, Mike Pomeroy, who put up a courageous fight against leukemia and died from a heart attack at his home in January.

Now with her husband gone and the challenges in running the stores by herself, Mary Dan Pomeroy said she’s looking to sell all three of them.

The Pomeroys bought the stores in 2004, and Mike Pomeroy threw himself into the life of the Thetford and Post Mills communities by volunteering on numerous town boards, serving as justice of the peace and coaching his daughters’ sports teams.

“Because Mike had been sick for a long time, we had talked about what would happen if he died,” Mary Dan Pomeroy said last week, holding back tears. “The first was I was not supposed to cry. I told him that wouldn’t happen.

“The second was to sell the stores either individually or in a lump sum. The third was for me and my daughters to be happy and live full lives.”

Six weeks after her husband died, the coronavirus pandemic struck, forcing Pomeroy to close the West Fairlee and Thetford Center stores due to lack of staff, except for the occasional sale of gas at the pumps.

Baker’s, the Post Mills store, remains open for business, but Pomeroy said she has now permanently shut the West Fairlee store and is still undecided about whether she will reopen in Thetford Center.

“As COVID unfolded, I needed to consolidate my resources at the (Post Mills) store,” Pomeroy explained.

Rural general stores were already closing at a steady clip before COVID-19 caused massive shutdowns in businesses. Just in the past four years, the Upper Valley has lost general stores in Cornish, Grafton, Quechee, Taftsville, Tunbridge and Chelsea as they are overtaken by discount chains like Dollar General, big box stores and online shopping.

Yet for the Pomeroys, their three small-town general stores along Route 113 provided an idyllic life.

“They were his dream and it provided us with a way of life where he was so much more engaged with the family and our children than he if had if continued with the computer firm,” Pomeroy said, referring to a Maryland computer business in which Mike was a part owner before the family moved north 16 years ago.

Pomeroy said she will try to keep the Post Mills store going until she can find a buyer for all three stores, either individually or together (buildings and land included).

But she’s ready to move on.

“I need to sell the stores so I can go on and heal,” she said. “I don’t want the responsibility now. ... I’m a motivated seller.”

Windsor Diner for sale

Health reasons and the challenges presented in running her diner near single-handedly has motivated Theresa Taylor to put the Windsor Diner up for sale.

“The main reason I’m selling is because I want to work on my health,” Taylor said. “I love cooking, but it’s been tough on me the last two years. I want to eat everything and I can’t. ... My doctor said, ‘No more.’ ”

Taylor’s father, Fred Borcuk, bough the distinctive red diner on Windsor’s Main Street in 2004; Taylor said she’s been putting in 10- to 12-hour days behind the counter ever since and is ready to hang up her spatula.

“It’s been fun juggling, but it’s time to stop,” said Taylor, who bought the diner from her father 12 years ago, even though he still comes in “to answer the phone and turn the key in the morning.”

Taylor has been operating the diner with reduced hours, curbside pickup, limited seating inside and two picnic tables outside because of restaurant rules related to COVID-19. Customers are beginning to come back but, “for three months there almost wasn’t anybody,” she said.

Although some diners are old train dining cars, the Windsor diner is a “1952 Worcester lunch car.”

“(It was) built to resemble a train but is not really a train. A lot of people are confused about that,” Taylor said.

Taylor, a 1992 graduate of Stevens High School who still resides in Claremont, said she plans to focus on her property investment business — she owns a handful of apartment buildings that she acquired in foreclosure sales in recent years — which will be less physically demanding and not require her to stand at the grill for hours at a stretch.

But Taylor said right now she plans to continue working at her diner until a buyer surfaces. She’s asking $135,000.

“I’ll tough it out,” she said. “I really enjoy working.”

Quechee store scooped up

The closed Route 4 General Store in Quechee has new owners and a new name.

Marianna Iskandar and her husband, Rafik “Rick” Anton, bought the property on Route 4 near Exit 1 off Interstate 89 at auction earlier this year and have renamed it Modern Country Store.

Iskandar and Anton reopened the store recently with a drive-up ice cream window — both hard and soft serve — and are offering free ice cream cones or cups to Upper Valley health care workers until the Fourth of July weekend.

Anton reported that they’ll have 27 flavors of hard ice cream and six flavors of soft serve with nine different toppings.

For now, Modern Country Store will serve only ice cream. Anton said they hope to begin serving food and other items beginning in August or September.

Anton said he was never a big ice cream person but since sampling all the flavors in the run-up to opening, “I’m getting to like it.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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