'Worthwhile' work: Revived Guilford store thriving
GUILFORD -- Marc Tessitore has some advice for aspiring owners of small-town general stores.
"Be prepared to work hard -- harder than you think," he said.
But so far, that work has paid off: Six months after Tessitore and his wife, Suzanne, reopened Guilford Country Store in the historic Broad Brook House, the business is relatively strong and growing.
Marc Tessitore gives full credit to a local customer base.
"We really like our customers," he said. "Generally, people are really nice and really thankful that we're here and have revitalized the store. That makes all the work worthwhile."
The store, on Route 5 at Guilford Center Road, closed in 2010. The same year, the nonprofit Friends of Algiers Village purchased Broad Brook House and began renovations.
That work was volunteer-led. The group was boosted by grants and donations as well as advice and assistance from Preservation Trust of Vermont.
But even after the store space had received an extensive makeover, the Friends of Algiers still were forced to put out a public plea for an operator about a year ago.
That plea was answered by the Tessitores, who had experience in the food business and had relocated to Brattleboro from New York City.
The store's grand reopening was in late June, and the Tessitores have not slowed down since.
"In six months, we've had four days off," Marc Tessitore said.
And even on those "off" days, he still has come in to open the store each morning.
Also, after the store closes each day, the couple is attending to the business side of things while also raising a family.
But Tessitore is not complaining. He places high value on meeting his customers face-to-face.
"I think part of what people like about this place is that Suzanne and I are usually here," he said.
They oversee a store stuffed with grocery staples as well as beer and wine.
The biggest part of the store's business, though, is in prepared food. There's a menu filled with sandwiches, soup and macaroni and cheese made with Vermont cheddar.
"Lunches are picking up. We're getting more and more people doing lunch," Tessitore said. "We're going to continue to develop our menu, and we're going to continue to expand our catering business."
For those who want to sit and enjoy a sandwich or a cup of coffee, there is a cafe area with wooden tables and chairs as well as a couch. Store renovations included uncovering windows looking out on Route 5, so there is plenty of natural light.
Tessitore is working on a website in hopes of drawing in more customers, and there have been tweaks to the store's business model in order to accommodate existing customers.
Even for someone with experience in the business, "it's been a steep learning curve -- figuring out what people want here, and what's going to sell," Tessitore said.
The store's hours also have changed slightly. Guilford Country Store is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays; it had opened and closed a bit earlier in the summer.
The store's weekend hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Helping to man the store during those hours are seven staff members.
"They've really sort of developed into a team that we can trust," he said.
The familiar faces at Guilford Country Store also include regular customers such as Sara Coffey, a Guilford resident who visits almost every day.
"We love it. They're a great addition to Guilford," Coffey said while waiting for a food order Tuesday morning.
"People use it for meetings," she said of the nearby tables. "Or to meet up with neighbors."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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