Vermonters Remain Loyal to the Country Store

Why are these shops invulnerable to Walmart and Amazon?

Juliette Luini
Heated
Published in
5 min readDec 4, 2019

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Photo by John Greim for Getty Images

A Vermont country store may look just like the type of place your grandma wanted to stop on the last family road trip. But if you pull aside the curtain of quirky small-town treasures, you’ll find that country stores have a rich history as community centers.

As Walmart takes over the landscape, the Shelburne Country Store in Vermont is a tenacious holdout reinforcing the culture of the region, with items such as anachronistic dye tins from the 1800s, clove chewing gum that drinkers used during Prohibition to mask the smell of alcohol, and, of course, maple syrup products galore. Buffalo Springfield music plays over the speakers. Then a little Abba. There is a year-round Christmas room.

Nineteenth-century dye tins line the top shelf while maple syrup products fill the rest of the shelves.

Since this store opened in 1859, it has experienced many lives as a gas station, a cigar store, a lamp repair shop, a chocolate fudge destination, and, most recently, a tourist attraction to load up on Vermont confectionaries. But with corner store runs being replaced by Amazon shopping carts, how are New England country stores still going strong?

Like the state’s plethora of cows, churches, and cemeteries, there are a lot of country stores in Vermont. But every country store has its own character. Last year, Bill McKibben wrote a New York Times op-ed, Vermont Town Seeks a Heart, and Soul (Also Milk and Eggs). The owners of his local Ripton country store were retiring, so he pitched the store to a national audience. While the Ripton Country Store provides local milk and eggs for a community tucked away in the Green Mountains, the Shelburne Country Store — 15 minutes outside Burlington — is more about novelty items, like locally made jams and artisan cheese.

“There are some country stores where you would bring your deer to get weighed during hunting season. There’s other country stores where you would go to find parts for your antique tractor,” said Deb Mayfield, the current owner of Shelburne Country Store. “We hope to be the place where you can find a gift for anyone.” Mayfield is a self-proclaimed history…

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