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Bottom Line: General store seeks new commander as owners ship out to Korea

  • 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: 7/18/2020 9:37:37 PM
Modified: 7/18/2020 9:37:35 PM

The Upper Valley has lost a distressing number of general stores in recent years — Cornish, Tunbridge, Grafton, to mention only a few — and now it could lose yet another — unless someone steps up to the counter.

Rick and Lisa Arroyo, who acquired the Etna General Store two years ago, have put the 89-year-old Etna Road business up for sale because they are returning overseas, where Lisa has taken an education administrative job with the Department of Defense in South Korea.

“It’s been a great community. We’ve loved it and are really going to miss the people here,” Rick Arroyo said about leaving Etna behind. “But this opportunity came up and we’re going to finish off our GS (general schedule, the pay scale for civil service employees) positions there.”

The Arroyos are asking $60,000 for the business and “we’ll be closing Aug. 30 if no one buys it,” Arroyo said. Lisa Arroyo, who helped out at the store, also worked as coordinator of student services at The Ray School in Hanover.

The couple, who spent most of their careers working overseas for the government before moving to the Upper Valley, where Lisa Arroyo has family, bought the Etna store business in 2018 from longtime owners Victor and Kimberly Dube, who left Etna to run the Aldrich General Store in North Haverhill, closer to their Haverhill Corner home.

The building is owned by Etna resident Rick Dickinson, who also owns Hanover plumbing and heating company Dickinson and Son Inc.

Arroyo said he had no experience running a small business before he bought the Etna store — he worked in logistics and security for the military — but found ready customers for their deli takeout offerings after they introduced a “Latin flair” on the menu with tamales, empanadas, plantains and “afternoon lunches” of roast pork and Spanish rice.

The store also had a catering side business, selling its specialty Latin dishes to residents at Quail Hollow in Hanover and the Dartmouth equestrian team and for events at the Etna Library.

Despite what are often described as the impossible economics of running a small general store, Arroyo said they made it work.

“I’m not leaving because I wasn’t making any money. I’m not going to say we were getting rich. We were living comfortably. I had all my bills paid,” Arroyo said.

In addition to the staples like milk, eggs and bread, Arroyo made a point of stocking locally made and unusual products, such as maple syrup made at Tim Bent’s nearby sugar house on Ruddsboro Road, honey from Hall Apiaries in Plainfield and “4-foot-long skewers for campfires to roast marshmallows and hot dogs and look like giant toothpicks,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo said he has not received a lot of inquires from potential buyers yet, but he’s only recently started to advertise the business is for sale.

“We have one young lady coming in tomorrow,” he said Wednesday. “We’ll see what happens.”

Woodstock defiesretail trends

As a tourist town, Woodstock’s shops tend to be more protected from the apocalypse that has swept retail stores in recent years, now made even more challenging by the coronavirus pandemic.

So the opening in recent weeks of two new retail stores and the sale of a long-established Central Street apparel store suggest that shop owners have faith that Woodstock tourism will continue to be a cushion for business.

Suzi Curtis, the Etna resident who last year was going to open a “mountain lifestyle store” in the former Dartmouth Bookstore space but dropped plans because of construction delays, has opened Woody’s Mercantile in Woodstock in the former Whippletree Yarn Shop space.

And Mark and Maura Scully have opened Vermont Eclectic Co., a store that sells T-shirts designed by Vermont artists, in the space that had formerly been Zayas Jewelers adjacent to the Yankee Bookshop.

But perhaps the biggest news is that Carolyn and Charlie Kimbell have sold Elevation Clothing, the outdoor apparel store that they have owned and operated for the past eight years, to Kimbel and Jon Biele.

“My wife was ready to hand over the reins to someone else, and my job(s) are such that I could not be that person in the store,” explained Charlie Kimbell, who in addition to being involved in town affairs, represents Woodstock, Reading and Plymouth in the Vermont House. “We’d been thinking about it for over one year and then decided it was time — our lease was coming to an end so we had to either sell or liquidate.

“Luckily, we had an interested and enthusiastic buyer express interest immediately,” Kimbell said — turns out it was their next-door neighbors in Woodstock, the Bieles.

“They will do some really great things with the store as they have their own sense of style and some good energy to invest in the business. We’re really happy that a local resident has taken over our store, which has a strong following among locals, second homeowners and visitors,” Kimbell said.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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