The Craftsbury General Store is where many of my small town’s groggy souls fill up their cups and take their first slurp of coffee. For instance this morning, Barb stopped by on her way to work at the Academy, followed by Paula who works at the Flower Shop, then Sarah who runs the Art House, then John, who sometimes works the counter here on Saturday mornings, then Jeremiah, fresh off the milking shift at the Jones Farm, then Kelsey stopping by after her chores at Sweet Rowen Farm, then somebody none of us knew, then Sam, our district representative in the legislature, then Rick who teaches agriculture up at the college, then Norma delivering the newspapers…and in they came, cup after cup, neighbor following neighbor, till it was way beyond the break of day and fully climbing toward midmorning.
By the time 33- year- old -owner Emily McClure shuts her 163- year- old store fourteen hours later and calls it a day, somewhere in the vicinity of 100 cups of coffee (that’s an unofficial guess, which factors in refills) have been carried over the threshold. But of course, as anyone smart enough to open a sugar packet knows, the commerce based out of this historic place goes far beyond caffeination– it’s social exchange.
The Craftsbury General Store is like a country club (because indeed it is in the country) that anyone can belong to. Dues cost the same as a bag of Fritos or a bag of Kale Chips, and that’s the beauty of this giant water-cooler masquerading as a miscellaneous comestible emporium: there is something for everyone here. The store is riddled with hundreds of rich juxtapositions, which in many ways mirror the mix of folks who shuffle, swagger or stride through the door: There are original oil paintings you can buy right next to DVDs you can rent. The soda cap earrings made by a grade-schooler dangle next to a display of cigars, which are next to the baseball bats signed by our local retired Red Sox/Expos pitcher. Shelves abound with organic Vermont-made baby food and Duncan Hines Cake Mix. You can order a Korean pulled pork pizza as well as pick up some maple candy, Cabot Cheese and a growler (a 64 oz. jug) of Long Trail Ale, and all the while, you can find something to cackle or commiserate about with Emily who lives above the Craftsbury Country Store, and who will be down in the morning to start the coffee again.