NEWFANE -- In June 2002, New York state residents Bob and Marilyn Distelberg bought Newfane Country Store and immediately moved into the apartment above.
A decade later, the couple is planning an anniversary party Saturday to honor the customers who have helped keep them, their 142-year-old store and their famous homemade fudge in business at 598 VT Route 30.
"It's been a tough economy, but people have stuck with us," Marilyn Distelberg said. "We want to thank them."
The store opens at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, and festivities run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local authors Archer Mayor, Castle Freeman Jr., Deborah Luskin and Chris Petrak are expected to sign books, and a dozen local crafters and quilters also are scheduled to attend.
"Weather permitting, we're going to set up a tent out front," Marilyn Distelberg said. "We're going to have free food at lunch. We're going to have door prizes. We're going to have contests."
In honor of the 10th anniversary, prices will be cut by 10 percent throughout the store. That covers a long, varied list of merchandise for a business that carries items including books, candles, candy, clothing, food, fudge, games, pottery, quilts, soaps and toys -- all spread across several first-floor rooms.
Marilyn Distelberg said she and her husband have made a point of emphasizing local merchandise.
"When we bought the store, about two-thirds of the quilts for sale were from India or China," she said. "Now,
The couple also relies on steady patronage from area residents, though tourist traffic on scenic Route 30 also helps.
"It's a mix," Marilyn Distelberg said. "All winter, it's pretty much locals who are keeping us going. Our store gets more out-of-town visitors in the summer and fall."
The Distelbergs were out-of-towners themselves, having both worked for IBM before seeking out a different lifestyle.
"We found this place for sale on the Internet and drove up here and said, 'Sure - why not?'" Marilyn Distelberg said.
On a recent afternoon, she could be found on the store's sidewalk chatting with Keith Richards, the new owner of the adjacent Newfane Market. The Distelbergs recall their own growing pains as rookie store operators, including running out of change and register tape on busy weekends.
"You don't know these things until you do them wrong," Marilyn Distelberg said.
As they learned the business, though, they didn't have to worry much about winning community support.
"It's just amazing to me and to us how 'at home' we have felt here," Bob Distelberg said. "It's just great to be part of the community."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311,