Shaftsbury Country Store to reopen in May under new management
SHAFTSBURY — The Shaftsbury Country Store at 972 Route 7A that closed in 2014, will reopen in May under new ownership.
After two years of being vacant, the property was purchased on Dec. 23, 2015 by Valerie Gray-Shemeth for $72,500.
"Everyone was sad because it was a focal point and hangout place for the downtown area for years," Grey-Shemeth said.
Stephanie Hockett, who is from Pittsfield, Mass., but was raised in Bennington, saw the store for rent on Facebook in February. With the aid of several family members, friends, and her ex-husband Paul, the interior layout was rehabbed with new floors, paint and a commercial kitchen. The 166-year-old building houses the store, cafe and kitchen on the first floor and two apartments on the second floor. Hockett's friend's 14-year-old daughter hand painted a farm landscape mural on one of the walls.
The former owners, Evan and Tracy Galle, closed doors on March 28, 2014 after operating the business for nine years. Evan Galle continues to work at Shaftsbury Dental while his wife teaches and coaches at Mount Anthony Union Middle School, according to a Banner article on the closing.
Hockett has been cooking since she was 10 years old, when her sister turned off cartoons for Julia Childs' cooking show. She's also worked for Jensen's Restaurant — where she learned a lot — and Applebee's in Bennington as well as Angelina's Sub Shop in Massachusetts. Otherwise, she's been a stay-at-home mom.
"We're working hard, and it'll be worth it," she said. "To chase dreams you have to work hard. People have been offering their help. The community has been amazing."
Furniture and some kitchen equipment have been donated from Brian Dempsey of Olin's Offerings, the Pownal Flea Market, Grey-Shemeth's husband's antique store as well as contributing producers from Hilltop Farm, local crafters, honey makers and maple syrup makers. Antique rocking chairs will be placed in the front of the store for outdoor seating.
On Tuesday night Hockett said various vendors came to the store to learn more about becoming a permanent retailer. The front of the store will be for locally made products, then further back is a cafe area in front of the kitchen that Hockett will run herself until she can hire others to learn the recipes. External improvements to the siding started this week.
"This is my dream to make people smile," she said. "I can make people smile by cooking for them."
Hockett said the licensing procedure, including catering, and establishment process with the town went smoothly. The only hurdle crossed was having an order with a particular business — which provided coffee to the former owners — that fell through at the last minute.
"It's a huge gamble financially," Paul Hockett said. "Restaurants die, but if the food is good, they'll come back."
The new Shaftsbury Country Store will offer Wilcox Ice Cream, sandwiches, salads, pastries, occasional specials such as lasagna, Philly cheese steaks, hot dogs, sausages, other family recipes, and a full coffee bar.
Hockett remembers her grandmother singing while cooking on crutches during the elder woman's time with cancer. She said, "If my grandmother can do it, I can do anything."
The store will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting the middle of May.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.
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