Not giving up that easily

PAWLET - When you take Route 30 into Pawlet, you're greeted with brightly colored Adirondack chairs and white paint over the brick face of a historic building. Machs' General Store, originally opened in the 1940s, has been the place to find out the local gossip, pick up a coffee and a carton of milk ever since. But more recently, the store has fallen on hard times. Instead of letting it slip into the oblivion of yester-years, however, community member and store keeper J.J. Kaveny isn't letting it go without a fight.

Before he purchased the business in 2010, Kaveny served in the Army in Alaska and worked as a state police dispatcher. "I worked for the government for 35 years and wanted to do something a little different," he said. "We purchased the store in 2010 and had some challenges right out of the starting gate."

The economic downturn hurt retailers everywhere and Machs' store felt those affects. Combined with damage by Hurricane Irene and loss of tourism revenue, the store hit a bit of a rough spot. However, it was earlier this year, in late February and early March that Kaveny wasn't sure he could hang on any longer. He informed community members that without an influx of cash, he would be forced to close the doors in 30 days. Enter "The Lampshade Lady."

Up the street from the large store is an inviting and warm building that houses antique fabrics and a friendly cat named Molly. Judy Lake, lampshade maker and next door neighbor to the general store wanted to help.

She spoke to some of the other business owners and individuals, asking if they would be willing to brainstorm solutions for the store. In mid March, interested individuals came to Lake's shop to hear from Kaveny. The group came up with an initial goal of $10,000 to keep the doors open.

"J.J. had a big stock of boots and sold those at 50 percent off to get some cash," she said. "And we had people add money to their accounts." The charge account at small town general stores is as old as the concept of the store. People come in and shop through out the week and when they got paid on Friday's would come in and pay their bill, Kaveny said. Lake and the other's put money on their account to give the store the cash flow it needed.

Along with the influx of cash, the Vermont Preservation Trust came and gave some suggestions. "The consultant from the Vermont Preservation Trust said that with general stores like this one, once the inventory is depleted, it's really hard to build it back up," Lake said.

Now, the community members have decided on another goal of $25,000 to help build the inventory back up. Lake and other members want to see more locally sourced foods and products. This way, a local store can help support local artisans, farmers and bakers, Lake said.

On Monday May 5, a Go Fund Me campaign was launched. The site, is a crowdsourcing and fundraising site that allows individuals to donate to a specific cause. Lake said they chose this one over others because it's easy to use. As of press time Wednesday May 7, there were 18 donations for $860.

Along with the site, Lake and the others are planning two events in June to help raise funds. On June 17, a community potluck and silent auction will take place. Rusty DeWees, the logger, will also perform.

"He's Vermonter's comedian," Lake said.

Approximately 120 tickets for DeWees' show will go on sale at the Lampshade Lady's shop on May 24. Following the potluck, silent auction and comedy show, Machs' Market Day will be hosted June 28. Different community members will be providing food and events, like paint your own pottery. All the proceeds from both events will be rolled into the total on the go fund me page. Lake said she wants to see the money raised by July 30.

"This is so much more than a dollar's where the turkeys are weighed during hunting season, where the kids pick up the bags on Green Up Day, where the UPS man leaves your package it it's too icy," she said. "The place where so much more happens than picking up a box of sugar or a package of hamburger rolls. It's the meeting place."

Kaveny said it is hard to keep a store like Machs' open, especially now with competition from chain grocery stores. But he said he is still optimistic, especially with all the ideas coming from the community.

"It's not just a convenience stores, it's a tradition," he said.


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