Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Death Of A Country Store

When we were planning our move from Maryland to Vermont, we asked the man whose house we were buying if there were any motels nearby where we could spend the night before attending settlement the next morning.  "No, but I'll have moved out by then," he said,  "and you can stay in the house if you like."

We were amazed.  This was our ninth house purchase, and we had never been treated with such courtesy and trust.  There was one snag, however:  the house key.  "We won't be getting in until late," we said.  "How will we get the key?"  He laughed, "You won't need a key.  We've never locked our house."

And that's the way things were in our micro village, in the halcyon days a mere six years ago.  People didn't lock their houses or their cars.  Some exceptionally trusting souls even left car keys in the ignition.  But in the last several months, things have happened that are making life here somewhat less halcyon.  It began late last summer, when the village store was robbed of a couple thousand dollars of cigarettes.  It seems that nearby New York state had increased the cigarette tax, and a lot of country stores in Vermont suffered the same fate.  Still, it was scary--a night-time robbery right in our midst--and everyone felt terrible for the two nice guys who ran the store.  Neighbors took up a collection, and peace descended once again.

But didn't stay.  In the winter, two summer residences--houses that had stood empty and inviolate during the cold months year after year---were burglarized.  Then Friday night the village store--the same one that suffered the summer robbery--burned to the ground.  The owners escaped physical harm, and so did one of their three dogs.  But the other two perished, as did the homeless man who broke into a building next to the store and, accidentally or intentionally, set the fire.

The effect of something like this on such a tiny community is enormous.  Needless to say, this was the only store in the village, a center of social life as well as a convenient place to get a sandwich.  When the present owners bought the failing, decrepit business a few years ago, all eyes were on them.  Would they make a go of it?  Would you be able to get good coffee there?  Would they be "nice folks"?  The answer to all these questions was "yes."

Not surprisingly, then, neighbors began organizing relief efforts on behalf of the store owners before the ashes had cooled.  With remarkable speed and efficiency, arrangements have been made so people can donate on Facebook, and in the coming weeks there will be a pig roast at the firehouse, a silent auction, a bingo benefit at the library....and before long, we hope, the store will be rebuilt, and the men who run it will get over their appalling trauma and find goodness in life again.

Because we're human, however, as we donate money and buy raffle tickets and eat roast pork we're hoping in our heart of hearts that if we all hang together and help each other we will somehow keep future evils at bay.  This is magical thinking, of course, an attempt to maintain control over uncontrollable forces.

But I think it just might work.

P.S.  If any of you would like to make a donation, here is the link to a page where you can donate by credit card.  Scroll down below the paragraph under the photo and you'll see the "donate" button.

10 comments :

  1. That's so sad. That store was just what it should be. I hope it works out and let me know the address on FB.

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  2. Bless you, mrb! Here is a link to a page where you can donate. Scroll down below the paragraph under the photo and you'll see the "donate" button.

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  3. Sorry I left out the link. Here it is:
    http://pawletvermont.com/2011/03/26/community-rallies-to-support-dutchies-following-tragic-fire/

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  4. So awful. The whole thing.

    You know I live in the city and things are different here, but we've seen bad things happen and we've bounced back, too. Communities, real communities, can hold things together, magical thinking or no.

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  5. Bridgett, we've been so sheltered here. Back in Maryland, I'd hear sirens going day and night, and think nothing of it.

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  6. I'd wondered about the body found in the building next door. I read about this in online newspapers, but never learned who the person who died was. I wondered if he was the cause.

    When I suggested we have lunch in Parts West last spring, I was thinking of Dutchies -- I'd read either on this blog or IB's about getting sandwiches there.

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  7. I guess Dutchie's was sort of famous (and will be again).

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  8. Lali: Just wanted to note that the benefit is not being billed as being held to rebuild the store, but to help Will and Eric out. I've heard all sorts of rumors, but until I hear directly from them that they have decided to rebuild (and I hope because they want to, not just because we want them to), I'm not assuming that they will...

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  9. Thanks for pointing that out, Indigo. And I also need to say that, officially, the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

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