by Mara Brooks
The East Calais General Store is looking for a new store operator.
The East Calais Community Trust (ECCT), which owns the building that houses the historic Route 14 General Store and three apartments, is soliciting proposals for a store operator to help return the convenience store to its former glory, said ECCT Vice-Chair Denise Wheeler.
The store is currently closed for renovations and is scheduled to reopen in summer of 2022.
“We’re actively looking for somebody that wants to operate the store,” Wheeler said. “The store operator would lease the space from ECCT and hopefully open the store sometime next year.”
The ideal applicant would not just be an operator, but also a “creative partner,” Wheeler said.
A committee will be appointed to review the proposals and hold interviews while store renovations are underway.
Wheeler said that the ECCT is looking for “somebody that wants to be involved in the community. Whoever operates the store is going to meet people from all walks of life, all socioeconomic backgrounds, and we want someone who is comfortable with that.”
The ECCT recently hired contractors EF Wall & Associates, Inc., to perform the renovations needed to bring the building up to code, Wheeler said. Construction is expected to begin early next year and will result in a building that is “energy efficient and ADA compliant.”
“Those things are important in the current day and age,” Wheeler added.
Wheeler said the community is eagerly awaiting the return of the General Store.
“We’ve had people drive by who think the store is open and they stop, wanting pineapple juice or windshield washer fluid, or to get a sandwich and a cup of coffee,” Wheeler said. “Route 14 gets amazing traffic and is the gateway to the Northeast Kingdom, which is a destination point for a lot of folks.”
The General Store is the only market along a long stretch of road between East Montpelier and Hardwick. It was a popular community gathering place from the 1850s until it closed in 2019.
“We’re looking to keep its historic charm and uniqueness,” Wheeler said of the renovation plan. “And we hope the store operator will have grab and go meals, coffee, homemade muffins, breakfast sandwiches, because people really miss that.”
The store will not have a full kitchen due to code restrictions but will feature an array of prepared foods, snacks and beverages, Wheeler said.
“That’s what people miss,” Wheeler said. “That’s what the community is looking for.”
For more information and a link to the RFP, please visit https://bit.ly/ectrust