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Bottom Line: Tunbridge getting a general store, more room for brewer to brew

  • 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: 11/14/2021 12:28:13 PM
Modified: 11/17/2021 10:37:56 AM

Running out to pick something up at the store was once easy for Tunbridge residents: They had their choice between popping into the Tunbridge Store across from the fairgrounds on Route 110 or heading 1.9 miles north to the North Tunbridge General Store.

But with the Tunbridge Store closing in 2019 and the North Tunbridge General Store closed since 2016, residents have either had to drive north to Chelsea or south to South Royalton for everyday sundries.

Some relief is at hand. Tunbridge residents Lois and Mike Gross have purchased the North Tunbridge General Store, which they acquired in a foreclosure auction on Oct. 19. They hope to have it reopened and serving customers again with homestyle food by January, “depending on where COVID is,” Mike Gross said recently.

Is running a small-town, rural general store in the era of convenience chains and online shopping a good idea? The Tunbridge couple isn’t fazed, especially given their familiarity with the business and longtime community ties.

“Our town used to have two general stores. Neither one has been open. Our town really needs it. Hopefully, we’ll not be a typical store. We’re going to try and keep prices low so people won’t have to drive as far to do their shopping,” said Mike, adding “the heart of that store has been and will continue to be prepared food.”

The Grosses — both SoRo natives before moving to Tunbridge 15 years ago — will not have much of a learning curve: Lois first went to work as a cashier at the Tunbridge store when she was 16 and later ran the two stores and pizza restaurant that were owned by Eric and Stacey Flanders before they closed amid problems with the Vermont Department of Taxes.

Mike also hails from a line of store proprietors: His folks once owned the Crossroads Trading Post general store in Corinth, where he worked as a teenager, and his great-grandparents owned a general store in Greensboro, Vt., “way back when,” he said.

He said he understands the vital role a general store plays in a small, rural community.

“We have a K-8 school. We have a church. But there’s nothing like this,” Mike said. “Every town needs a gathering place.”

Lois formerly ran her own bakery, Sticky Buns, in South Royalton from 2008 to 2012 and says that fresh-baked breads and other oven-fresh items will be a feature of the Tunbridge store, where Mike, a contractor, will be adding a baking space in the kitchen. (Lois has sold her oatmeal and molasses bread at farmers markets for several years, and it was such a hot seller “we couldn’t make enough of it,” she said.)

The store will carry “regular groceries, beer, wine, soda, snacks, deli, meats and fresh cuts of things, possibly a hardware section and we may add animal feeds as well,” said Mike, who is getting the building in order with repairs and painting as it has been unattended for more than four years.

“We live in this community. We know a lot of people. We are going to cater to them,” Lois said.

The Grosses purchased the North Tunbridge store just as the Tunbridge Store and building in the heart of town has gone on the market with an asking price of $349,000, pitched in the listing as a “unique opportunity to own a quintessential Vermont general store.”

The Tunbridge Store, which dates back to 1850, was acquired by Kathi and Scott Terami in 2010.

In recent years the store had been closing during the winter but has been shuttered since the fall of 2019.

Messages left for the Teramis seeking comment were not returned.

’A little more beer’

Given that the Tunbridge area will again have a general store, a world-famous fair and is also the home to its own brewery, Upper Pass Beer Co., there may never be an incentive to ever leave town again.

The Tunbridge micro-brewer, launched in 2015 and which has a tasting room in South Royalton, is seeking to amend its Act 250 permit to build a $700,000, two-story addition and facility to increase brewing capacity to 40 barrels per week from 10 to 15 barrels per week at its brewery on Ordway Road.

“The building we started in is an old sheep barn. We’ve modified it quite a bit over the years but instead of adding one (addition) at a time we wanted to do one project,” said Chris Perry, co-owner of Upper Pass Beer Co.

Upper Pass has since its beginning brewed the majority of its beer, in particular its best-selling First Drop American Pale Ale and Cloud Drop DIPA under contract at von Trapp brewery in Stowe, Vt., and utilized the Tunbridge location to brew small-batch releases and develop new recipes.

“That’s not going to change,” Perry said, explaining he expects to continue brewing the majority of Upper Pass beers in Stowe. “We’re not going to mess with success up there,” he said.

Upper Pass produces 600 to 800 barrels per month at von Trapp and the company’s beers are now available in both cans at stores and on draft at restaurants in eight states.

Perry emphasized that increasing his brewery from 593 square feet to 2,093 square feet and constructing new roads and parking at their 11-acre property does not presage opening the brewery to the public.

“It’s not going to be a traffic jam on the road,” Perry said, seeking to allay any neighbors’ fears and explaining the expansion only means he intends to “continue what I’m doing but just make a little more beer.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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