In Barnard, A ‘Real Push’ To Save Store
Near the conclusion of a community-wide meeting at Barnard’s Town Hall Monday, about 100 local citizens broke into applause and cheers when Ralph Ward said, “when people work together, they can do anything they want to do.”
The stage was set for an all-out effort for Barnard residents to save their beloved store which was forced to close May 8 after 180 years of continuous operation. It had been the only retail business in the community which provided food service and household supplies and it was a popular gathering place for residents and crowds of visitors alike.
The meeting was co-hosted by the Preservation Trust of Vermont and the Barnard Community Trust.
Two weeks ago, the Barnard Community Trust signed an option to purchase the real estate, including the now-vacant store, located at the intersection of Route 12 and Stage Road. It’s current mission, according to the Trust’s president, Rick Carbin, is to return the facility to its original role as a community store, and not use the property for any other purpose.
Five years ago, the nonprofit trust was formed to help out the failing Barnard General Store, one of Vermont’s oldest. Money was raised and used to purchase needed equipment. Even so, when income could no longer keep pace with expanding debt, owners Carolyn DiCicco and Kim Furlong opted to cease operations two months ago.
Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, whose organization is partnering with the Barnard group to bring the popular local store back to life, shared his experiences with similar Vermont operations which faced extinction, but were saved and became profitable businesses.
Bruhn offered several operating models for Barnard to consider, saying “none of the options are easy, but it is important to preserve community stores like this and when you at last succeed it not only benefits the community, but it is personally tremendously rewarding.”
Currently the two main objectives of the Barnard Community Trust is to determine what sort of business model should succeed the recently failed one and to determine the fundraising required to purchase the real estate and operate the store.
Carbin said in the past two weeks $76,000 had been raised toward an initial goal of $500,000, due in large part to a $25,000 donation received just last Sunday.
“But, the real push is about to begin. We have a long way to go but I know we can do it,” Carbin said.
Carbin said if the group could not raise the funds needed to complete the project, money would be returned to known donors.
Initial fundraising has taken on many forms. The otherwise empty store is open seven days a week from 7 to 10 a.m. to provide an environment for conversation and to serve coffee and pastries, both of which are provided free, but with a request that a donation for the refreshments be made. In two weeks the trust’s coffee and conservation project has brought in about $3,000.
In another means to both raise funds and to engage people in the rebirth of the store, the trust is promoting memberships in Friends of the Barnard General Store. For $10, individuals help raise money but also receive regular updates of progress being made and can also have an active voice in the project’s ideas and decisions. In the first week, more than 100 people signed up.
Even 12-year-old Armand Johnson, a summer visitor, got into the fundraising. Armand came to the store and handed over $3 — the profit he generated from the lemonade stand he had set up to raise money to help save his Barnard Store.
More information on the BGS project can be found at friendsofbgs. com.