NEWFANE - Standing since 1825 along busy Route 30, Newfane Market is a community institution.
So, while Keith Richards and Caroline Eisenhood technically are the store's new owners, they prefer a more modest title.
"This great old lady belongs to the town," Richards said. "We are just kind of the stewards for a while."
Richards and Eisenhood took over the store last week, relocating from Texas and New Mexico, respectively. But they are no strangers to this part of the country: Richards spent much of his career in Massachusetts, and Eisenhood was born in Boston.
"We both have really deep roots in New England," Richards said.
It was Richards' prior job that initially gave him the idea of owning a country store.
"For about 28 years, I traveled through New England for different oil companies," he said. "I've always loved Vermont, and I've always liked the idea of owning a store."
Newfane Market's previous owners, Pat and Jim Borta, had been looking to sell for some time. And Richards had maintained a long-term interest in the place, visiting in 2008 and 2010.
"The timing wasn't right," he said.
The deal finally came together earlier this year. It represents a new era for the store and also for Richards and Eisenhood, who met in New Mexico.
On July 21, they'll be married at the First Congregational Church in Newfane.
"We'll have wedding cake for everybody here," Eisenhood said in an interview at the market.
Richards characterizes the work as "busy, but a good busy." He credits the Bortases with making his introduction to the retail business much easier.
"I spent two weeks with them," he said. "They're just fabulous people. They were a big help in the transition." On the market's front counter, there is a sign that says "Thank you for all of your patronage. Pat and Jim Borta." Next to that is another announcement: "Welcome the new owners - Caroline and Keith."
Working behind that counter is a familiar face: Longtime cashier Roberta Dunham has stayed on despite the change in ownership.
"It's actually a fun change," Dunham said during a rare free moment between customers. "I miss the former owners. They were great to work for. But they deserved the time to retire."
Dunham's busy register illustrates the market's importance: A typical general store, shelves are stocked with everyday staples as well as pet food, beer, wine and even DVDs for rent.
The store's baked goods are well-known. And the deli's big sellers include barbecued pork and chicken salad.
Both Richards and Eisenhood said customers can expect more of the same with some alterations over time.
"We have ideas, and we have products we might want to add," Eisenhood said.
Richards said the layout of the store may change. But he added that "everything we do will be in keeping with the character of the store."
That's because they believe that small-town markets are vital even in an era dominated by larger chain stores.
"We are separate from bigger towns and bigger stores, and this is kind of a community gathering place," Eisenhood said. "I think people appreciate personal service."
Having worked the market's counter for more than 11 years, Dunham sums it up this way: "This community is family-oriented. We all stick together, and they support us."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.