New owner aims to put pharmacy in Putney General Store

Thursday May 16, 2013

PUTNEY -- Back when the Putney Historical Society was looking for a new owner for the Putney General Store, there was talk of bringing a pharmacy to town. With an aging population, and no pharmacy within a 10-mile radius, historical society volunteers thought a pharmacy would be a good anchor for the rebuilt store.

Since then, the historical society has had an owner who was a butcher and also brought his own Chinese food to the business.

Now, as the business gets ready to change hands, Putney will soon get its own pharmacy.

Jim Heal, who has been the director of the pharmacy at Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend, is going to be the new owner of the Putney General Store with his wife Jane.

Heal managed the in-patient and out-patient pharmacy services at Messenger Valley Pharmacy, a Grace Cottage Hospital business. Once he has his license, Heal will run the Putney Pharmacy out of the top floor of the general store.

Katy Aldridge and Brad Hammond, who have owned Katy's Great Food and Take Out in East Dummerston and Newfane, and The Vermont Maple Cookie Company, are going to run and manage the cafe.

The Heals are expecting to close on the property Thursday, and Jim Heal said the pharmacy should be open in August or September.

Heal lives in Putney and considered getting involved with the Putney General Store while the Putney Historical Society was looking for a new owner in 2010. The last owner, Ming Chou, was already committed, however, Heal said.

Earlier this year the Heals ran into Aldridge, who said Chou had announced that he would be leaving Putney.

Jim said he had no intention of leaving his job in Townshend at the time, but the possibility of taking over the Putney General Store looked better and better the more he thought about it.

"We ran into Katy on Sunday. I went in to talk with Ming on Tuesday, and now, here we are," Jim Heal said.

Heal said Aldridge and Hammond will be employees of his company, Jolly Bee, Inc., and will help run the grocery downstairs. He said his son is in pharmacy school and could possibly move back to Vermont to take over the Putney Pharmacy after he graduates in three years.

While Heal will own the Putney General Store business, the Putney Historical Society will retain ownership of the property and will lease it to Heal.

Chou took over as owner in December 2011. He announced earlier this year that he would be leaving to focus on his health. Putney Historical Society board member Lyssa Papazian said Chou was able to establish the Putney General Store after two different fires at the location.

"The Putney Historical Society is especially appreciative of the effort and commitment Ming brought to the store and the community. He worked tirelessly to fulfill our dream of rebuilding the Putney General Store," Papazian said. "While we are very sorry to see Ming go, we are excited to work with Jim and Jane Heal to preserve the critical General Store business for the Putney community. A pharmacy has been requested by Putney residents and Jim has the experience and energy to make it happen."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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