SHAFTSBURY COUNTRY STORE - Location re-opens to smiles, hugs, fresh rum cake slices
Posted: January 7, 2024
SHAFTSBURY - The Shaftsbury Country Store re-opened Friday morning to a welcoming community that lined up early for breakfast sandwiches and hot coffee, and only grew as the lunch hour quickly approached, bringing local workers, residents, and plenty of folks wanting to stop by, look around, reminisce, or just say hello.
"Good to officially get it back open," Shaftsbury Country Store owner Lilli West said with a big smile.
The store was initially scheduled to open around Thanksgiving, but issues arose and it was closed after just two days. West and several workers, friends, and colleagues from her real estate business pitched in over the last month to put the finishing touches on the store before Friday’s official opening.
The new store has a distinctly nostalgic feel. The smell of freshly baked muffins and cake makes for a distinctly cozier, more feminine version of the historic general store on Route 7A in South Shaftsbury, exactly what owner Lilli West envisioned for the space when she first purchased the building in 2022. Shaftsbury memorabilia and antique photographs line the walls and shelves behind a beaming West, who greeted customers at the front door and accepted hugs and handshakes from several people coming in on the first day.
"I wanted it to feel like your old local country store, where you came in and you felt like you were with family and you could reconnect with old friends," West said. "So far, this morning has been just that. We’ve had people sitting here chatting, having a breakfast sandwich. We had some people standing over by the front, hugging each other. Everybody is so happy to see it open again. Driving by all these years that it's been closed, I've been saying, 'Hey, I wish that was open right now. I somehow made that statement come true.'" According to West, the plan is to be open six days a week, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with breakfast and lunch items – both hot and cold – available for people to take or enjoy. West said she hopes to introduce an outside seating area in the warmer months so people can enjoy their neighbors' coffee, food, and company. West also has her eye on expanding what the store can provide, including the re-introduction of BBQ offerings soon and the store's participation in community events in Shaftsbury, the kind of events that seldom happen anymore in the small town, the types of events that bring the community closer.
"It's filling a need in the community," West said. "I want this to become a staple again, what it was for the community many years ago. I have the goal and vision to support Shaftsbury in their goals of revitalizing the downtown. And that's one of the plans for opening the little park out back. How can we help support that by making food for events? In Lake Shaftsbury, they used to have dances under the pavilion back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. I thought, wouldn't that be fun to have family dances at the park, and we can prepare the food to help get that going."
West said she felt like a weight has come off her shoulders.
"It feels so good to get open and ready and then get hugs from all the community members coming in. We just had a big group of people from the Bank of Bennington come in and bring us some pens. They bought up half the baked goods to bring back to the bank. That was really sweet of them. I also had several past real estate clients come in. They said they couldn't wait to be here."
The store will have sandwiches and specials every day, salads, and sides like loaded baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, and lots of other good home-cooked foods to go along with dry goods and local products.
"We got some fresh rum cake that just came out of the oven," West said. "We have a local baker that lives right here in Shaftsbury. She came in and made some baked goods last night, and this morning, so we had muffins, cookies, and different specialty items from her. We've also got a lot of local products from a few vendors that have set up so far, with more coming in the next few days. We've got local-made candles and photography right now, and we're going to have pottery and jewelry coming, some homemade signs as well."
The shelves are currently stocked with all sorts of goods that people locally might need. Kid-friendly items for the young ones, bread, bagels, and packaged dry goods are also available for purchase. Beer and wine will be stocked as soon as they get the approval. In the meantime, sodas, milk, juice, fruit, and dairy products are stocked to purchase.
"Right now, we have maple coleslaw. It's to die for. You've got to try it," West said. "We're going to throw in some maple stuff here and there, but the signature items, like loaded sweet potato with pulled pork on it, that hopefully will be back at some point, too."
"It's great to have a friendly environment to come in to," said Spike Whitmire, a longtime Shaftsbury resident, as he left the store with a large cup of coffee. "I'm excited to be here on the first day. It looks like awesome food, and Lilli is such a friendly person. It's great to support local."
"I just want to say thank you so much for all your love, support, and warm hugs," West said of the Shaftsbury community. "I got flowers today from a local florist. I got a special gift from another local vendor. And you know, just the hugs and everybody believing in me, I couldn't thank them enough. I'm so grateful. Please come by and say hi."
Compliments of: The Bennington Banner
Posted/Author: Mike Albans