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New owners for three Upper Valley convenience stores aim to remain core of their towns

  • The former Sharon Trading Post, purchased by Maplefields last winter, is undergoing a renovation in Sharon, Vt., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Andy Palmer, of EC Fiber, right, runs to deliver supplies to a coworker while hooking up a new customer from a utility pole in front of the former Sharon Trading Post in Sharon, Vt., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. The Trading Post was purchased by Maplefields last winter and is being renovated. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • An artist’s rendering reflects R.L. Vallee Inc.’s plan for renovating the Sharon Trading Post, including adding an entrance to the side of the building. (Courtesy R.L. Vallee Inc.)

  • An artist’s rendering reflects R.L. Vallee Inc.’s plan for renovating the Sharon Trading Post, including adding an entrance to the side of the building. (Courtesy R.L. Vallee Inc.)

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 10/24/2020 10:03:03 PM
Modified: 10/24/2020 10:03:00 PM

Rural general stores, given the number that have closed across the Upper Valley, are generally not considered hot growth businesses.

But several well-known general stores in the region recently have been taken over by new owners who apparently see a future in selling household staples and homemade sandwiches.

The general stores in Post Mills, Thetford Center and West Fairlee formerly owned by Mary Dan Pomeroy and her late husband Mike Pomeroy all have new owners. A former employee of the Etna General Store is working toward renovating and reopening the store, which closed this summer. Maplefields, the Vermont-based 40-location convenience chain that acquired the Sharon Trading Post last winter, is undertaking a rehab of the building and property along Route 14 in Sharon.

Cameron Gregory and his wife, Kathleen Gregory, the nephew and niece of Mike Pomeroy, a selectman and volunteer in Thetford who died in January, have acquired Baker’s General Store in Post Mills and Thetford Village Store in Thetford Center, from Mary Dan Pomeroy.

Mary Dan last month sold the third store, B & B Cash Market in West Fairlee, to Erin Cilley, the store’s former manager, who has renamed it Erin’s General Store.

Meanwhile, Aaron Stocking, who worked for nine years at the Etna General Store when it was owned by Victor Dube, has taken over the business and plans to reopen the store, once the building’s owners, Rick and Marilyn Dickinson, finish renovating the inside. Previous Etna General Store owners Rick and Lisa Arroyo had acquired the store from Dube in 2018 but left for jobs overseas and closed the business in August after listing it for sale for $60,000.

And the Sharon Trading Post — now known as Maplefields Sharon Trading Post since the St. Albans, Vt.-based Maplefields convenience chain acquired it in January from longtime owners Rob and Cathy Romeo — has been closed since last month as it undergoes extensive interior and exterior remodeling. (The gas pumps remain open.)

The $1.5-million “site upgrade” calls for what the company describes as a “historic rehabilitation” of the 19th-century building through the installation of “historically accurate front (bay) windows,” installation of a handicap access ramp, upgrades to the on-site wastewater system, installing a new entrance into the store on the side from the parking lot and reconfiguring the parking lot, according to the Act 250 application Maplefields submitted to the Vermont Natural Resources Board.

The convenience store chain acquired the property, along with an adjacent residence, for just under $2.1 million, according to Sharon town records.

Maplefields owner Skip Vallee said via email that the remodeling envisions indoor cafe seating (adjusted for state rules under COVID-19 guidelines) like that at Maplefields stores in Lebanon and Woodstock.

“Still shooting for year-end open,” Vallee said.

In Etna, Dube said Stocking should be the right person to operate the general store, given his long prior employment there.

“And he knows everyone in town,” said Dube, who now with his wife, Kim Dube, operates the Aldrich General Store in North Haverhill.

The Gregorys have moved from Virginia with their two dogs, a Great Dane named Whiskey Tango and a shar-pei/bull mastiff mix named Ranger, and bought an 1850s farmhouse in Post Mills and are now settling into becoming general store proprietors. Cameron Gregory previously worked in IT project management, and Kathleen still works remotely with a firm that provides sign language services.

But Cameron Gregory said it was not until a few months ago that he and his wife had contemplated running his uncle’s general stores. The idea was broached one night during a “Facebook family game night” when “someone joked about me buying the stores,” Gregory said.

The Gregorys at first were not sure about taking the idea seriously, but the more they talked about it, both between themselves and among family members, the more intriguing the it became. The young couple — Cameron is 30 and Kathleen is 28 — are accustomed to embarking on the unknown: They lived for several years in Alice Springs, Australia, a town smack in the middle of the continent where temperatures during the winter months typically soar above 100 degrees.

Cameron Gregory — his stepfather is Mark Pomeroy of Springfield, Vt., — draws similarities between himself and his late uncle: They both moved to Vermont at 30 from south of the Mason-Dixon Line (Mike, who was returning to his home state, from the Eastern Shore of Maryland; Cameron from Virginia), they both worked in the computer industry before becoming store owners and they’re both “entrepreneurial.”

“I’m following in my uncle’s footsteps,” Cameron Gregory said.

In particular, Gregory said he and his wife want to continue the example set by their uncle in becoming rooted in the towns which the stores serve.

“We’re used to small towns and we definitely want to keep Mike’s legacy in being actively involved with and supporting the community,” Gregory said.

Right now Gregory said they are “busy getting our feet wet, finding out what customers want and don’t want, dealing with vendors.”

Ben Balch will continue to operate The Little Deli, which he leases inside Baker’s General Store, and the Thetford Center store will reopen in a few weeks, Gregory reported.

“Everyone in the family has supported us and helped us get here. I think Mike would have loved it,” Gregory said.

But how will the Gregorys feel in February during a dark, bone-chilling Vermont winter with parking lots to plow?

“We’re excited for snow,” Gregory assured. “After six years in the desert, we’re ready for it.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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