By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
BROWNSVILLE — After 22 years, the Brownsville General Store is now under new management.
Owner Amy Yates has sold the store to Kathy Frazer, a Hartford resident, who planned to officially take over December 2.
“The store is in good shape, it’s stabilized and it’s time to move on,” said Yates, who bought the store in 1993 after working there part-time in high school. “It’s been my life.”
Frazer had a contract after just two days of the store being on the market.
“It was meant to be,” she said.
Frazer had been looking at a handful of general stores, but none of them felt right — until she set foot in the Brownsville store.
“I felt the community warmth here, I really wanted to be part of it,” said Frazer. “Just being here the last week, everybody knows everybody.”
It will be a fresh start for the store that has been struggling for the past four years due to a recently stagnant West Windsor economy. It’s been difficult for Yates, who has been working up to 14-hour days to save money.
“I worked a lot more, I really crunched numbers and found economies with what I was buying,” she said.
Yates doesn’t know what she’ll do for work after the store. For now, she wants to take a vacation, but she doesn’t plan to go far.
“I’ll be able to sleep at night instead of worrying about things,” Yates said. “I’m just tapped out, can’t do it anymore.”
The hard work doesn’t scare Frazer.
Frazer, who was in networking, lost her job a week before Christmas last year and has been searching for a perfect store since.
“I decided…to do what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.
Frazer started working at the store last Wednesday, learning the store’s ins and outs. This will be her first time as a storeowner, but entrepreneurship appears to run in the family. Frazer’s uncle owns Mr. G’s in Ascutney, her cousin owns Frazer’s Place in Windsor and her family also owns Frazer Agency, Inc.
The Brownsville village has always had at least one store and at one point, in the 1960s, it had two. Yates bought it from former owners Rodney Dimick and Paul Kelly.
It’s located across from the Albert Bridge School and many view it as the glue of the community.
“There are examples of communities that have lost their general stores, it does not bode well for the community,” said select board member Tom Kenyon, who is also a Standard town news correspondent.
All nine employees will stay on board, including Christina Rathburn, who has been working at the store on and off for 15 years — during the closure of the ski area on Mount Ascutney.
“Once the mountain closed it was a 180 (degree) change, it’s been hard for sure, but hopefully a new outlook and some new thoughts coming in here will be positive for this place, because it needs it,” she said. “If this town lost the store, we’d be in deep trouble.”
She’ll miss Yates.
“I know she’s put a lot of her time into this place and I think it will be a relief to her to not have so much stress on her head every day,” Rathburn said. “It will definitely be hard. She’s like family to me at this point.”
Frazer’s mother is going to run a consignment shop in the back of the store and her father is going to help cook breakfast in addition to selling Christmas wreathes. She wants to sell Vermont-made products and even spoke of one day starting a doggy day care in the large basement.
This article first appeared in the November 26, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.