BELLOWS FALLS -- Bonnie North and Oona Madden tried the name Local Schmokel, and no one liked it. Then they tried Local Yokel ... but that didn't work either.
They ultimately settled on calling their shop Valley Provisions, and it fits perfectly.
Despite upsetting some people with their original names of choice, North and Madden finally opted for a suggestion by North's son -- Doug Anarino -- and their quaint storefront at 7 The Square was born with a soft opening on Wednesday, Sept. 5.
"No one thought Local Yokel was a good name. We thought it was kind of cute but people thought is was insulting and terrible and Oona's daughter (thought it was a bad idea)," North said, adding that she and Madden spent nights agonizing about a good name, even considering naming the shop after their pets.
Valley Provisions' initial reception from the public has been fantastic, she said, as business has been better than they ever imagined.
"Our expectation was that it might take a bit of time and some good promotion and education to get people to see the virtue of spending a little bit for a better and local product. We were prepared for that," North said in the store on Friday. "But, honestly, I'm shocked. People are so excited."
The co-owners hit a little snag when they sought money in May from Rockingham's Revolving Loan Fund. Before granting the loan, Rockingham Selectboard members Peter Golec and Josh Hearne said there
After the May 1 Selectboard meeting, Golec met with all other committee members -- in addition to Finance Director Chip Stearns, Municipal Manager Tim Cullenen and Rockingham Development Director Francis "Dutch" Walsh -- to discuss the matter, and he then felt comfortable approving the loan.
North said she and Madden provided some financial statements and soon got a five-year loan of $40,000.
Golec in mid-May told the Reformer Madden and Northup got their financials in order and had a credit check conducted. He added that they signed "personal guarantees," which ensures they will pay back the loan to the town by any means necessary.
According to a document Walsh drafted, the terms of the loan will include a fixed rate of 4 percent, amounting to $4,199.65 in interest, beginning in July with monthly payments of $736.66. The collateral is a Uniform Commercial Code filing on equipment and the personal guarantees.
North said there was a feeling among the Selectboard members that her shop was unnecessary.
"(They seemed to think) there was no reason to fund a competing grocery store when we have a grocery store (Lisai's Market) right up the road," North said. "I think they weren't aware of how different this would be."
Valley Provisions, set up where a pharmacy named Fletcher's existed for many years, offers regional products ranging from beer and wine to raw pasta, from cheeses and sausage to coffee, juice and grains.
North and Madden agreed the store gives them a way to be involved in the community. North has a background in the publishing industry while Madden owned Oona's Restaurant in The Square from 1999 to 2006, where she started working as a salesperson at Granger Real Estate. She sold it in August of that year and it burned down in October.
Though she has never owned a retail shop, she is using her knowledge in her new business venture.
"I know food," she said. "It's been good. We've been really warmly received."
Anarino said he helps out at the cash register and does the baking.
Rosemarri Roth, executive director of the Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance, said little shops like these help the village thrive.
"It's a whole new concept and an availability of products that we just didn't have before," she said after stopping in to ask North and Madden about their soups. "It's a place now to go to get products and services we could not get here in the town before and that just enlarges the scope of what's available here to the community and to other communities.
"(New businesses) are a new concept that adds an opportunity for people to shop locally -- not to have to go to Keene (N.H.), not to have to go up to Claremont (N.H.)," she continued. "They can get a lot of the things now right here in our town."
She added that the store allows local and regional food professionals to showcase their goods.
Valley Provisions is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.