Marc and Suzanne Tessitore, the new proprietors of the Guilford Country Store.(Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Marc and Suzanne Tessitore, the new proprietors of the Guilford Country Store. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Tuesday March 12, 2013

GUILFORD -- Though it will be a few months before Guilford Country Store reopens, the facility's newly named proprietor already is hard at work.

And for Marc Tessitore, the project is a family affair. He plans to run the store and cafe with his wife, Suzanne, and the couple's two children also are getting in on the act.

"They both want to work here," Tessitore said. "They're making lists of what they want to see carried in the store."

On a recent morning, Tessitore worked through some details of the country store's reopening with members of Friends of Algiers Village Inc., the nonprofit that purchased the building in August 2010.

Friends of Algiers has sunk years of hard work and plenty of cash into the historic Broad Brook House, which sits on Route 5 at Guilford Center Road. But until now, the group had lacked a qualified candidate to run the store, which has been shut since 2010.

In December, Friends of Algiers issued a public plea for a "dynamic entrepreneur" who had a mix of retail and kitchen experience.

"That really kicked us into the next phase," said Eric Morse, Friends of Algiers president. "There was genuine interest from qualified people."

Among those was Tessitore, who three years ago relocated to Brattleboro from New York City, where he had operated a prepared-foods store and catering company for a dozen years.

"We thought, ‘This sounds interesting. Let's send a letter and see what they say,'" Tessitore recalled.

It didn't take long for Friends of Algiers members to decide that the Tessitores were the right people to operate Guilford Country Store. The nonprofit will continue to own the building, but Tessitore will lease the store space and will own the business.

"They had experience with a market. That was important," said Anne Rider, who serves on both Guilford Selectboard and Friends of Algiers. "And the catering was an important piece."

Added Morse: "Our vision really seemed to match the best with Marc and Suzanne."

From the beginning of the project, that vision has been to create a small neighborhood store that offers "groceries and sundries" as well as a cafe that features home-cooked food.

Tessitore now is mapping out his plan to sell essential items for local customers. And the graduate of New York's Institute of Culinary Education is excited about creating a "nice, cozy cafe" in a renovated back corner of the country store, where newly uncovered windows look out on Route 5.

"We're going to really focus on food for the community," Tessitore said. "People can sit, eat and work on their laptops. Or they can take it to go."

Offerings will include doughnuts and coffee as well as soups and sandwiches. Tessitore plans a rotating menu of other dishes, and he expects to expand into catering.

"Food is one of the easier things to build a community around," he said. "Everybody loves it."

Guilford Town Administrator Katie Buckley said the store will be "filling a void." Advocates predict success based on a number of factors, including Route 5 traffic -- 5,200 cars pass the business on an average day -- as well as the nearby Delta Business Campus featuring the expanding Commonwealth Dairy.

"They've got plenty of employees," Tessitore said. "And I'd love to see them for lunch."

Friends of Algiers also have pointed out that potential customers are drawn to the store property's bus stop, mail boxes, recycling center and a state weigh station for hunters. And there is a growing number of rental properties nearby.

"There already are seven units," Morse said. "And there's going to be another 17."

Tessitore said he expects to reopen the store by late spring. He praised Friends of Algiers for extensively renovating Broad Brook House, which dates to 1817.

"I walked in a said, ‘This is a tremendous situation,'" he said.

With support including funding secured by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and expertise offered by Preservation Trust of Vermont, Friends of Algiers has made improvements including installation of a new heating system, floor supports and a public rest room.

The group also procured coolers, a freezer and commercial kitchen equipment.

"We're still fundraising to pay for these improvements, but everything seems to be coming together at the same time," Morse said.

"We're just excited," Morse added. "We wanted to preserve this building, but we also wanted to really do something for the town."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.