Coming Home: A Return to the Heart

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As we prepare to open our doors to the public, we wanted to pay homage to our General Store roots by going directly to the source— you. We set out to hear from community members as they shared how the evolution of the store has impacted each of their lives. After listening to a multitude of memories and reflections filled with celebration and loss, triumph and hope, we unearthed a new treasure hidden within this project: it’s not the store that has given our beloved town its unique character and warmth, it is instead the strong-willed, passionate and generous heart of our community that has made Brownsville the place we’re lucky to call home.

Nancy Duffy, resident for 15 years


What are your thoughts on the opening of BB&P? 

“I’m a relative newcomer to Brownsville but can’t imagine living anywhere else on the planet. There has always been a wonderful sense of community here but with the absence of the general store, that seems to have faded somewhat.

I’m hopeful that with the opening of BB&P there will be a restored energy among us that will re-activate that community feel.

The other day several of us planted the mums in the center of town. We all missed having a place to go for coffee afterward. It’s that kind of thing, I think, that promotes the community feeling. One of the things I’m most excited about is individual meals! Following as a very close second is the idea of fresh baked goods.

Actually, everything about having the store reopened is exciting.

Bill Stillson, local resident for 70+ years


What does community mean to you? 

“To me, community means local folks getting together which leads to all kinds of discussion—what's happening in town and beyond. It means understanding local needs, both town wide and on a more personal level, and how you can help where and when help is needed. Community forms organically when there is a suitable location for folks to come together and talk informally or formally—maybe make a deal or pick up the odd job, maybe meet your next best friend…the possibilities go on and on!  

After meeting Peter and Lauren, I believe the store will be better than ever with a wider range of product and service in a warm, welcoming environment.

Lisa Yordy, resident for 17 years


What’s your favorite memory of the old Brownsville General Store? 

“When I started working at BGS in 2009 I thought I knew everyone, and after 7 years I felt that BGS was the heart of Brownsville. When one of our own was sick, when someone needed help, or even when someone lost their pet, we would be the place they would call to get the word out. I am beyond excited to see the store come back; knowing what Peter and Lauren have in mind I look forward to the butcher shop, prepared meals and lots more. But most of all, reconnecting with my neighbors and friends in a welcoming environment.” 


Jim Bertrand, resident for 62 years


What’s your favorite memory of the Brownsville General Store before it closed? 

“The old Brownsville General was originally across the street from town hall. When I was a kid they used to check in deer there during hunting season and all of us kids would hang out and watch the hunters come in with their deer.” 

Bill & Linda Ley, residents for 15 years 


What does community mean to you, and how can BB&P nurture that idea?  

Bill: “The nearby Holiday Inn is doing very well, but the one thing missing for folks is that they don’t get a chance to see anybody locally. Having BB&P in town will give them a chance to get a feel of a small Vermont village because they’re going to be going down there a lot.” 

Linda: “I realized last year that to me, community expands beyond the people we know. There are so many people in this town who do different things, who own different businesses, and that’s community to me. People caring enough to come together, volunteer and make something happen.” 

Anne Yates, Brownsville General Store owner for 14 years (1993-2007) and resident for 30 years 


What were the unique qualities of the old Brownsville General Store? 

“The store was the center of the community and as the storeowner, I got to know everyone in town. We were the place everyone called or stopped to get updated on the news of the day. I have a memory of someone calling once asking, ‘When will the school bus return?’ I told them to call the school, and they replied with, ‘But this is the school!’

Seeing the store being redone and worked on is both scary and exciting. I have great hopes for West Windsor. It is important to have the gathering place back in the center of town.

Elvin Kaplan, resident for 43 years & David Rhoad, local resident for 80 years


What did you enjoy about the General store? What are you most excited for with BB&P?   

David: “Coffee and conversation. I think every town just has gotta have a store, and with our general store, we were able to keep up with the big items in town.”

Elvin: “It was also a chance to sort of share town gossip with a bunch of gentlemen and ladies and keep tabs on what was going on in town. Several of the folks who would come in for coffee had been residents of the town since they were born, so there was opportunity to hear history that was very interesting. These people had a storehouse of information that was fun to hear about on a daily basis.

I’m excited about the energy of Peter and Lauren. I think it’s a wonderful thing to help spill over and help make some more rejuvenation of the town of Brownsville. I’m hoping that’s what comes of the store.”

Lee Monro, resident for 43 years


What excites you most about BB&P?

“I’m excited to be able to meet friends for lunch and to have the ability to stop and pick up something for dinner. I’m eager to have a great butcher in town and to have a place we can feel proud to invite out-of-town friends, while being part of something so exciting and important for Brownsville.

We think Lauren and Peter’s talent and enthusiasm is contagious and will quickly spread through the town as people get to know the new store and benefit from the energy it brings.

Polly & Joe Ouelette, residents for 60 years  


Do you have a favorite memory of the store? 

“Joe, Jim Kenyon and Ralph Johnson used to meet there at 8am every morning for coffee to visit and to solve the problems of the world. The store was always a friendly place to go have a cup of coffee, meet friends and pick up something you needed. We’re just so excited to have it open again and to have such a great young couple ready to make it the friendly place it used to be.”


Edson Pierce, resident for 84 years 


What is your strongest connection to the old General Store? 

“My parents, born in 1896 and 1897, lived above the store after they got married. My sister, Delphine, was born over the general store in 1921 and my other sister, Patricia, was born there too in 1925. I was one of five boys born in the week of February 12th. That was the first time the hospital was open for business; it was just a house on Main Street in Windsor. My mother was here when it was time for her to go and old Mr. Herrick who formerly owned the store and who my dad worked for, took her down to Windsor in the evening. It was an awful snowy period of time because the week I was born, the snow was level with the bottom windows. 

Jack Bertrand & Tom Bertrand, local residents for 67 years


What’s your favorite memory of the General store? 

Tom: “Way back when they first started building the store, Paul Kelley and Rodney Dimick always used to come over Saturday evening after they were done working there to Lelands they had a restaurant. They would come down and order their favorite drink—a Rusty Nail. I tended bar at the time, so I got to listen to their stories. Then they would race each other home on the Brook Road.” 

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What are your hopes for BB&P? 

Jack: “I’m excited to see how different the place is going to look, and I hope that the people are nice. I’ve missed seeing everybody going down there, getting their papers, their coffee and soda... I’m just real excited for everyone to see each other.”

Ryan Lather, BGS worker for 8 years and resident for 23 years 


How do you think BB&P can help bring the community together? 

“Recently there were times when I was very concerned about the future of West Windsor; the two major focal points in town, the ski area and the store, were closed. The future is looking much brighter now. Skiing is back, thanks to Ascutney Outdoors and more outdoor events are being held in town. 

With the reopening of our store I think it will make a huge impact on our little town; it will give the residents a chance to interact with each other more. I believe just having those quick meetings at BB&P will make us feel a little more connected to one another in West Windsor.

What are your hopes for the new store? 

“My hopes are pretty simple for the new store; I just want it to be successful. I know not having a store option in town has opened my eyes, and I hope made other residents aware of the fact that if you want a store in town you will have to support it. It will also be nice to get a coffee and some quick breakfast after an early morning fire call. All the news has really got me excited for it to open and I have a strong feeling it will be very successful.”

Written by Lucie Bodnar

Peter Varkonyi