MONT VERNON — Whether folks are looking for a gallon of milk, a good bottle of wine, or perhaps even a hammer or a yo-yo, Dan Bellemore, the new owner of the Mont Vernon General Store, says there's a good chance he has what they need. And if he doesn't, he'll get it.
After a tumultuous few years, the Mont Vernon General Store re-opened on Saturday and people came from far and wide to celebrate the historic venue's rebirth.
"It's been wonderful," said store manager Renee Roberts. "We worked all last week to get things ready and everybody came out."
Bellemore, of Goffstown, has leased the building that houses the Mont Vernon General Store from owners Kristin O'Brien and Billy Croteau, who completely renovated the space and ran Fishbones General Store there for less than a year until financial difficulties forced them to close up shop.
Bellemore, 49, who worked for years for his family's heating oil company before going to work for a larger corporation, said when he finally decided to leave big business he was ready to go back to his family's entrepreneurial roots. He started dabbling in creating gift baskets and bags and found he had a real passion for creating them, but the idea of owning a traditional general store kept nagging at him. He began looking for the perfect store, and knew he found the place when he arrived in Mont Vernon.
Bellemore said the renovation work done to the store by Croteau and O'Brien created a space that was exactly what he was looking for when he started his quest to buy a general store.
"The tin ceilings, the hardwood floors, even the cabinets were exactly what I had envisioned. I had actually drawn the same cabinets that are in here," he said. "It's like they had designed this place just for me."
He entered into a lease agreement with Croteau and O'Brien, with an option to buy, and put his dream in motion. For months he and his partner, even friends and family, have been whipping the store into shape, bringing in a combination of staple items, a broad range of locally made products, beer, wine, and a bit of whimsy.
Tucked near the candy section, little fingers are sure to run over the baskets full of toys that will ring nostalgic for many grownups. There are balsa wood airplanes, yo-yos, even plastic soldiers with little folding parachutes that Roberts worked tirelessly to find.
Just as one would expect at a general store, there's penny candy in glass jars and next week marks the arrival of the ice cream case, stocked with "all the good stuff you can find on a real ice cream truck," said Bellemore. A Slush Puppie machine is on the way, as well, just in time for the warm weather, and sandwiches are made to order in the deli.
But Bellemore said he wants the store to be the place folks can find a little of everything, from gourmet cheeses to good champagne to a hammer or a screwdriver.
"It's true," he said. "I have tools for sale up front and if you don't see what you need there, I probably have it in a basket out back. I want this to be a convenience store disguised as a general store."
Bellemore said he's also trying to ensure he's got some options for people, including both organic products and standard fare and some luxury items as well.
"You can come in and grab a good $8 bottle of wine or I can order you a $300 bottle," he said.
But products aside, Bellemore said he wants to create a place where people will come, have a seat in one of the comfy chairs up front or on the front porch stairs and just be for a while.
"Loitering is absolutely encouraged," he said.