EDITOR’S NOTE: We welcome longtime Taftsville resident and businessman Charlie Wilson as our new town correspondent. If it’s happening in Taftsville, Charlie usually knows about it. But, occasionally we all miss something. So, if you have an event or item of interest, let Charlie know about it. Thanks again, Mr. Wilson for your community spirit and devotion to a special little village.
by Charlie Wilson
Many years ago, when Mildred Whitney relinquished her position as the local correspondent for Taftsville, I was asked if I would take on the job. I declined, for two reasons. The first was the amount of time I spent running the Country Store; I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make the time to do the job justice. My wife liked to point out that Chuck Gunderson seemed to have no problem doing it, to which I responded that it was unfair to compare me to Chuck, who I was convinced had super powers and was from another planet. The second, and most daunting, was my fear that I could not possibly fill the shoes of the person known, quite appropriately, as the matriarch of Taftsville. Mildred seemed to know everything; she knew things about my life that I appeared to be unaware of.
Well, today I no longer run the store, and certainly have the time to be the local correspondent. As for filling Mildred’s shoes…perhaps I can fill one of them. There will never be another Mildred.
Perhaps it would be fitting to write about the store in my first article. I was the proprietor of the Taftsville Country Store for the better part of 20 years, and they were undoubtedly the best years of my life. I look upon those years as a time of stewardship, when I was responsible for maintaining and enhancing a store that had over 150 of history before me, and when the time came for me to step aside, to find someone who would have the same sense of stewardship, and provide a continuity before passing it on to the next owner, and so on. Six weeks after I put it on the market, two people walked through the front door, walked through the store, and announced that they would be back with the broker for a formal visit. A few weeks later I felt I’d found such a person, or persons, and a month after that we had a purchase and sale agreement.
Vickie and Courtney have done an amazing job of slowly making the store their own, while avoiding the all to common mistake of new store owners who decide to “reinvent the wheel,” making radical changes in the store’s content and operation before getting the pulse of the local community and clientele. They have focused on the store’s strengths, such as cheese and wine, expanded others, such as handcrafted beers, and added new categories, such as prepared foods. Their soups during the winter were a big hit, and there may be sandwiches in the near future. Just the other day I saw Vickie bringing in an enormous tray of homemade baklava. Why didn’t I think of that? The response of the local residents has been very positive, their support of the new owners a marvelous thing to behold.
Last week the Brooks left the village, where they were renting a house, and moved into the apartment upstairs above the store. This meant that Annie Hastings, the tenant I had rented the apartment to six years ago, had to move out, and all of us were sad to see her leave Taftsville. But by moving in, Vickie and Courtney have fully vested themselves in the community. When the store closes for the day they don’t lock the door and drive away. They’re out in the yard while their daughters, Bella and Olivia, play in the neighborhood with friends from school.
I’m convinced I found the right people to continue the legacy of the Taftsville Country Store. And there was an unexpected bonus to all this: Liza and I feel we have gained two new friends. I’m sure many in Taftsville will feel the same way. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Welcome to Taftsville, guys.
This article first appeared in the July 21st print edition of the Vermont Standard.