TOWNSHEND -- Think of it as West Townshend's kitchen.

That's how members of the West River Community Project see their latest project at the recently revived West Townshend Country Store building.

With a cafe continuing to expand at the site, and with weekly pizza gatherings attracting a loyal clientele, administrators have turned their attention to developing a full-scale, commercial kitchen that will be available for rent.

"By the fall, it will hopefully be up and running as a rental kitchen," said Robert DuGrenier, the community project's vice president. "That's the goal, depending on the fundraising."

The kitchen will be another addition to the store building on Route 30 at Windham Hill Road. Just a few years ago, the 166-year-old building had been in danger of closing entirely and forcing out the sole remaining tenant, the local post office.

The non-profit community project has worked to extensively reorganize and renovate the building. The post office has been relocated to the rear of the structure, making room for the cafe, which is now open six days a week and has a liquor and beer license.

An outdoor oven facilitates Friday-night community gatherings for pizza and music. DuGrenier said the Friday events and the cafe, managed by Aubrey Mullen, attract a loyal clientele.

"It's interesting to look at the community support -- the people who come back again and again," he said.

Upstairs from the cafe and post office, a thrift shop remains a popular spot. And last year, the property gained another use with the relocation of Townshend Farmers Market from its former home on Townshend Common.

That move was a joint venture of Post Oil Solutions, which started the market, and West River Community Project. DuGrenier said the community project this year will take over farmers market operations and already has hired a manager.

Goods for sale at the cafe inside West Townshend Country Store, which was revived by West River Community Project.(Make Faher/Reformer)
Goods for sale at the cafe inside West Townshend Country Store, which was revived by West River Community Project. (Make Faher/Reformer)

"We'll be looking for vendor applications come April," he said, adding that the market's overlap with Friday pizza gatherings has been a benefit.

"It's really become an event," DuGrenier said. "The pizza is bringing people here, and then they're spending money at the market."

Next up is the kitchen in the building's basement. The idea is to provide commercial cooking equipment for community rental, and work has begun.

"We've removed the floor, and we've gone down 2 feet," DuGrenier said. "The work is going to be happening through the winter."

The community project is applying for grant money and is seeking donations for the kitchen project, with a fundraising goal of about $60,000. The organization already has received money for a stove and a hood, DuGrenier said.

"People are giving money for specific purposes, so that's great," he said.

The kitchen project also is benefiting other parts of the store property. For instance, concrete slabs from the basement floor will be placed near the outdoor oven.

"We're making a platform for a pavilion, so we can have music there," DuGrenier said.

Also, dirt from the basement is being used to level the store's backyard.

"So that's going to allow us to have a much more functional space for the market this year," DuGrenier said.

It's all part of a still-developing vision for the future of a Townshend landmark.

"There are tons of plans," DuGrenier said. "It's always morphing and changing and finding out what works and doesn't work."

More information about the cafe and the West River Community Project is available at www.westtownshend.org or on "The Vermont West Townshend Country Store" Facebook page.

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