On June 28 the town of Guilford was transformed. That was the day the Guilford Country Store officially reopened for business as a cafe, mini grocery store and a place where locals can sit and talk and have a cup of Mocha Joe's coffee.
It may not sound like much, but the event was greatly anticipated by a lot of people in Guilford and a few other surrounding towns. I must disclose that I was one of those people and that I am now a regular patron of the store.
The re-opening of the store was a long time coming and the Friends of Algiers Village worked, and continue to work, tirelessly to make sure the town of Guilford has a place where locals have a chance to re-establish a sense of community. That small group of dedicated people was able to secure funding from a variety of sources including donations from many generous local residents.
Marc and Suzanne Tessitore have infused an enthusiasm and a level of engagement into the running of the store that makes it clear to any patron that they are being welcomed into a special space.
The Tessitores work long hours every day of the week. Not only do they operate a 22 seat café and coffee bar but they also prepare a wide variety of homemade food items ranging from potato salad to specially prepared meat and fish dishes.
Marc emphasized to me that everything, except for a few bakery products, is made from scratch. They also do catering for special events and one of their recent customers told me that the food prepared for their family event was exceptional.
When the Tessitores accepted the task of running the store they knew that there was an expectation that their food establishment would not only be judged by the quality of its products but by its ability to help establish a new sense of community for a town hungry to do so.
They have quickly succeeded on all levels according to the many local people I have spoken to as well as my own sense of things as a long-time Guilford resident. This is personal.
Talking about his mission Marc said, "We wanted to bring it (the store) back to life and give it a new feel and to be a place where people could come to meet each other. We've changed the dynamic in terms of having the café here. We get people who come to get a breakfast sandwich and they may return one or two more times during the day."
In the two months they have been in business he notes that they already have a strong core of "regulars." Although most of those regulars tend to be Guilford residents there have been a number of people from other towns seen nursing a cup of coffee on a Friday morning or "holding court" for a time between jobs as Vernon resident Pete Crossmon is likely to be doing from time to time. Last Thursday residents of Holton Home in Brattleboro considered the new establishment worthy of an outing for lunch.
Guilford, like many other Windham County towns, has become a bedroom community where people commute to Brattleboro or other places for work and otherwise have little contact with people in their town unless there is a local store or meeting place.
Guilford has been one of those bedroom communities for many years and the new store will go a long way toward tying the community together on a more intimate and human level. The longer that it serves up dishes of good food and endless cups of community spirit the more the town will be transformed.
As I finished interviewing Marc for this column I had some more time to kill while waiting for my truck's oil change at Richmond Auto Repair across the road. I noticed Chuck Mayotte, a local tree care expert, sitting at the next table and I remembered that I needed to have some trees cut down around my house and had been putting it off too long.
Two minutes later we were in Chuck's truck on the way to my house to get an estimate of the tree work that needed to be done. I got my estimate for the work, sealed a deal with Chuck and picked up my truck after a morning of productive encounters thanks to the new Guilford Community Store.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.