(This story was first published in the July 3, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
READING — After 18 years, Shaughnessy’s Reading Country Store is getting a new name and new owners.
With the long work week,the low pay scale and the difficult economy, the previous owner, Bill Shaughnessy decided to sell.
“I’ve always worked a lot of hours because that’s what a country store is,” he said. “It’s not what you do, it’s who you are. You have to be there. You have to be there for customers, you have to be there to keep labor costs in check and you have to be there because there is lot of dishonest people out there.” Shaughnessy bought the store almost 20 years ago because he liked dealing with people, but he never anticipated the extent of the devotion involved.
“I love the people, I love the community, I love what I do and I don’t mind doing it,” he said. “But I never planned on doing it 100 hours a week.” Zonia and Robert Watroba are ready for the challenge. Robert, the former manager of a CVS Pharmacy in Massachusetts and Zonia, who is bilingual (she speaks Spanish) and has a master’s degree in finance, officially opened Watroba’s General Store June 28. The couple knows the long workweek well.
They previously owned a similar country store in Brandon before they sold it in 2008 and moved to Massachusetts. They were looking for a way to come back to Vermont, be their own bosses, set their own schedules and get back to the lifestyle they knew before.
“It’s a different type of customer compared to the previous experience,” Zonia said. “These customers are more refined, more knowledgeable, more middle income so you have to plan according to that.” Changes to the store, if any, will be slow and gradual. Zonia wants to add a health and beauty section and eventually a new roof. Decorations will stay the same — as will the sandwiches and salads.
The only employees will be their two sons,Clement,19,and Austin, 20, who will commute from Massachusetts to work part-time.
In their second day of ownership, the Watrobas were slowly learning their customers’ names while Shaughnessy was showing them the quirks of owning a 100-year-old building.
“I like the fact that you get what you put into it,” Robert said. “You build a personal relationship with customers, not just from a business standpoint but also a personal standpoint.” Shaugnessy isn’t sure what he’ll do in his future, but he said owning a business isn’t in the cards. He has no regrets.
“The new owners are very motivated, very nice people and I think it’s a good thing for the town and a good thing for the store,” Shaughnessy said.
But leaving behind a community that helped raise his children won’ t be easy for Shaughnessy.
“It’s a great community,” he said. “I’ve never seen a collection of local people who have been there for families…Everybody gets along, everybody helps everybody out and everybody speaks to each other.
It might take time for a community that has known the store affectionately as Bill’s to get used to new ownership.
“Everybody had a relationship with Bill so it will take time to build that relationship again,” Laura Chrisinger said. “I’m sad to see him leave, but I know he’ s doing other things with his life.” Watroba’s General Store will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Robert and Zonia Watroba are the new owners of the former Shaughnessy’s Reading Country Store.
Katy Savage Photo
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