MARLBORO -- The path toward a community-owned general store in Marlboro became a little clearer Tuesday when the former Sweetie's Market and Deli sold at auction. James St. Jean, who owns James R. St. Jean Auctioneers, purchased the Route 9 building Tuesday morning.

Marlboro resident Dan MacArthur, who is part of a community group that wants to buy the property from St. Jean and reopen the store, said it has been hard for his group to raise money prior to Tuesday's sale because there were up to three different liens on the building. MacArthur also said his group attended the auction Tuesday with some concern because another party could have come in and made the purchase.

With St. Jean Auctioneers now the sole owner, MacArthur says the Marlboro group will soon meet and figure out a way to start raising the money to reopen the store.

"This is definitely a step forward for us," MacArthur said. "A month ago there were three liens on the property, and today Jim is the owner. It definitely makes it much more straight forward for us."

Sweetie's closed in September 2011 and the group formed soon after to try to come up with a strategy to purchase the property and re-establish a general store there. But while the property was tied up in the courts, MacArthur said it made it hard for the group to go out and raise money when they could not be certain that a sale would go through.

St. Jean said he has been in contact with the Marlboro group, though he said he was going to list the property to find a new owner.

The store sold for $200,000 Tuesday. It is assessed at $344,100, and while St. Jean said he did not know what he would list it at, he said he was eager to sell it.

According to MacArthur, two different Marlboro groups are working together to try to make the plan happen. His group, The Marlboro Cooperative, wants to raise money to open a for-profit store. The Marlboro Alliance, an established non-profit group, is also involved, and members want to secure part of the building as community space for meetings, a lending library, an emergency supplies center, or other public use.

MacArthur said representatives from the two groups plan to meet next week to come up with a plan.

He stressed that the town is not involved and the building will remain on the Grand List.

"We have some ideas about the best way this can serve the community," MacArthur said. "We want this to be a community asset and own it so we don't go through this cycle of people buying it and then having to close it. Hopefully we can work out a path forward."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.