Vermont is a state which takes its nostalgia seriously. Covered bridges, antique homes, quaint downtowns - they preserve a lot of history. It's a very rural state and they have kept out most mass merchants. But country stores, often dating from the 1800s are everywhere, and they are a lot of fun to visit.
The first one I show is the Barnard Country Store, which is across the street from Silver Lake. It's a large store with a small dining area at the back. In front of this lunch counter are half a dozen tables, and you may well sit family style with strangers. This store was discovered by a group of our friends who like to ride their bikes here. It's about 20 miles (one way) from where we stay, and it's a mountainous ride. (Vermont comes from the French words for Green Mountains.) So my husband took his motorcycle and met them there for breakfast. (He claims the other men offered him large sums of money to trade vehicles for the ride home.)
He liked it so much he took the family next week for breakfast (via car, no I don't do 40 mile bike trips). The store is charming, crammed with food, odds and ends, original wide plank floors and a bathroom best avoided. But we were there to eat. I'm going to say it's probably not wise to eat at a country store founded in 1832. My back was to the grill, but soon after ordering, I smelled smoke.
"The toaster is on fire," my husband reported.
"My toast is in there," I said.
Sure enough, when we were "served", my toast was as black as sin. But, to make up for it, I guess, my scrambled eggs were raw. All part of the charm.
This wine room is from Gillingham's, a well-known country store in Woodstock. Woodstock is a resort town developed by the Rockefellers, and their descendants still own a large part of the town, including Gillinghams.
This is an amazing store with several different rooms each dedicated to its own specialty. In the back is a large, dark, hardware section - a place I don't venture. In front of it there's a bright and cheerful kids' room selling books, games and toys. Loads of fun.
Then there's a grocery section with lots of specialty foods, particularly Vermont foods. Finally, the wine room above and, in the front of the store, a nice home goods section where you can buy the perfect hostess gift. Everything is crowded together so it's a fun adventure to look around and see what you might find. The kids' room and the wine room are each guarded by large and lazy cats. It's a true general store.
These country stores are actually owned and operated by individuals. Sometimes I wonder how long they can maintain such individual businesses. There are no economies of scale, no computerized inventory systems, no lengthy hours of operation.