Tuesday October 16, 2012

TOWNSHEND -- Not so long ago, the West Townshend Country Store building was well on its way toward becoming an empty shell at the corner of Route 30 and Windham Hill Road.

But after a community-coordinated renovation project, the public is invited to the first Autumn Festival from noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

It’s a chance for members of the non-profit West River Community Project to show off a cafe, an outdoor cob oven, a fresh paint job and other improvements.

"It’s a celebration," said Robert DuGrenier, the community project’s vice president. "Come out to see what we’ve done so far."

The nonprofit grew out of a community discussion aimed at saving the store. Already devoid of any retail operation, the building’s closure would have meant the relocation or elimination of West Townshend’s post office.

As it turned out, the post office has moved -- to the rear of the building. That has made room to expand a new cafe that opened several months ago at the front of the structure.

The 164-year-old structure also has received a fresh coat of paint.

"The painting of the building just unified people," DuGrenier said.

Joining the first-floor cafe and a well-established upstairs thrift store is an outdoor cob oven where, last week, an inaugural Friday Night Pizza event was held.

"It was phenomenal," DuGrenier said. "We did 46 pies in two hours.


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The oven will be a centerpiece of Saturday’s festival, which includes activities such as building scarecrows from recycled materials and building a community compost as well as a pumpkin carving competition, live music and a bonfire.

Pizza making "will be part of the festival," DuGrenier said. "We’ll have pizza, and hopefully we’ll be making bread around midday."

Vendors from the just-concluded Townshend Farmers Market and from an online farmers market established by West River Community Project also have been invited, he said.

While community project organizers have made big strides in 2012, the store is a work in progress. Fundraising continues, and Friday Night Pizza events -- which generate money for the project -- will continue as weather permits, DuGrenier said.

As the project’s first phase winds down, pending improvements include installation of a commercial kitchen that will be available for rent in the store’s basement.

"That has not started yet," DuGrenier said. "We have established a kitchen-planning committee."

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