FRANCESTOWN — Wanted: One shopkeeper for historic village store to offer groceries, coffee, doughnuts, and a place for the community to gather for the next 200 years or so.
Jennifer Vadney, one of the volunteers with the Francestown Historical and Improvement Society, said with work nearly complete on the Main Street building rescued from a bank auction two years ago, townspeople are ready.
“They want their store back,” Vadney said.
Once the second-oldest continuously operating general store in the United States, the Francestown Village Store opened in 1814 and closed when the owners went into bankruptcy in 2017.
A bank auction was set for that summer, and it appeared the store would be lost. Despite efforts by people to save it, there was not enough time to raise the necessary funds.
Then, a few things happened. A Wall Street Journal reporter who heard about the pending auction came up to Francestown to write a story about the town and the history of the store.
Next, a Nevada businessman, William Smith, read the story and donated $125,000 to buy the property. He then donated the whole thing to the Francestown Historical and Improvement Society.
Since then, the society members have been fixing up the space, and holding open house events to raise money for the continued renovations. Now, it’s nearly ready to be reopened as a store, except for one detail.
“We need someone to man it,” Vadney said.
The society is now soliciting proposals from people interested in leasing the space to operate the business. People in town want to be able to buy milk and eggs, grab a coffee and a doughnut, hang out and talk to friends, and maybe have a sandwich.
The townspeople have shown major support for the project, according to Vadney. More than 100 people showed up for the last open house a couple of weeks ago, despite the bitter cold.
“There’s something pretty unique about Francestown,” she said.
The society will continue to own the property and serve as a landlord for the business, Vadney said.
The property is now free from the debt that led the previous owners into bankruptcy. Necessary renovations have been mostly completed, though Vadney said the remaining work will be done by the new business owner.
People interested in operating the store can contact Sarah Pyle, Francestown Historical and Improvement Society Building Committee chairman, at 620-6333 or at email@example.com.