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The Vermont Country Store | A Visit to Weston, Vermont

The Vermont Country Store | A Visit to Weston, Vermont
8 votes, 4.50 avg. rating (88% score)

Spending a winter afternoon in Weston, Vermont, home of The Vermont Country Store, is just like taking a step back in time.

weston general storeWhen I was in fifth grade my summer friend, Tracy Romana, and I walked down to the corner store. I don’t remember it being a big deal, but I am sure it was, two fifth grade girls walking a mile round trip by ourselves. It was late July and we were probably wearing flip flops. We bought penny candy and cans of Dr. Pepper. On the walk back, we ate every bit of sugary sweetness we purchased, except for a few swigs of soda that we poured on the hot pavement, just to watch it fizz.  Everything tasted so delicious: Swedish fish–squishy and warm–followed by  gummy worms, a piece of chocolate, Dr. Pepper; repeat. But then the spins came. When we got back to the beach, I hopped on a tree swing and Tracy twisted it up and up, like we always did during the summer. But I was high on sugar and after spinning and spinning and spinning on that tree swing, it took me years to be able to even look at a can of Dr. Pepper without feeling nauseous.

But, now it’s 30 years later, and I am past all of that. Sugar and I have reconciled. I am totally fine with it. I am a mature adult who has control over my candy cravings.

Here I am in Vermont, in the serene village of Weston, where the Village Green and the surrounding homes and buildings are untouched by time.

weston green

This is one of those small towns where it looks perfectly normal to see a horse-drawn carriage clip-clopping down Main Street right past the general store. (In fact, that just happens to be my cousin Karl Pfister, who gives horse drawn carriage, wagon, and sleigh rides in nearby Landgrove.)

Wagon in front of storeAnd in the case of Weston, Vermont, the general store is The Vermont Country Store.

VCS Sign from WagonI push open the front door. As I step over the threshold, I take one of those metaphorical steps back in time.

front doorI see rows and rows of candy, jars of chocolate, nonpareils, a mind-boggling amount of sweetness. I feel like one of those kids in a candy store with allowance money and without parental supervision—the perfect combination. For me, it feels like 1984 all over again, pre-sugar coma, but that is my perspective. Nostalgia is personal, so for those entering before or after me, they all probably travel back to their own memory…of being a kid in a candy store, or perhaps some other nostalgic destination.

candy bins

sugar zone

The Ortons, proprietors of the Vermont Country Store, have carried on the family tradition of founders Vrest and Ellen Orton who published their first catalog in 1945 and mailed it to the people on their Christmas card list. The mail order business prospered and they opened the brick and mortar Vermont Country Store in Weston in 1946 selling merchandise that was both durable and practical, according to Vrest’s true Yankee spirit. The business was also inspired by Vrest’s father’s general store in North Calais, Vermont, which opened in 1897. The Weston shop, where I am today soaking in all the smells and visions,  was the first restored rural general store in the nation.

“I can still recall my father’s store, where most of the men came in the evenings to wait for the horse-drawn stage that brought the mail from Montpelier, thirteen miles away,” Vrest Orton said. “The store was warm and cozy. It smelled of harness, coffee, smoky kerosene lamps, tobacco, and pine wood burning in the big stove.”

The 21st century version of The Vermont Country Store certainly lives up to its tagline, The Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-to-Find. Today, The Vermont Country Store is owned by Lyman Orton and sons Cabot, Gardner, and Eliot, 7th & 8th generation Vermonters, and 4th & 5th generation storekeepers.

Inside the store, they even share the timeline of the company’s history as well as a scale museum in one section of the store. Characteristic of the fifth grade version of myself, I move through the “museum” part quickly.

scales

I weave my way past the candy section. Everything is glistening and beautiful. Just beyond the candy is pure Vermont maple syrup, all the grades, in different bottles and different forms. When I was in fifth grade, I poured Aunt Jemima on my pancakes. The first time I tasted pure maple syrup, though it tasted unfamiliar,  thereafter there was never a choice, never. I still don’t understand why I ever put brown sugar in oatmeal. Why?

vermont maple syrupThe toy section is filled with the Fischer Price toys just like the ones stored in my parents’ attic (except these are in fresh crisp boxes); plus, neatly lined rows with Slinky boxes; sock monkeys (some of them being mischievous in the linen section); marbles; and toys made in America and out of wood, not plastic.

toys

Then, it’s on to the health and beauty section with hard to find products like Evening in Paris, Tangee Lipstick, and Anti-Monkey Butt Powder.

emily post

The clothing section features time-honored classics.

clothingFinally, I make it to my favorite section because the truth is, even though I feel like a kid in  candy store, the child and adult in me loves cheese and savory bites and here I am in the midst of samples galore. After traveling back in time so far, I am hungry!

cheese and pickles

food awards and yankee

No doubt this is a superb selection. It features some of Yankee‘s Food Award winners like Vermont Smoke and Cure, Effie’s Oatcakes and our sister publication, The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

I look outside and realize the sun has set. It takes about two hours to tour the store, but I think that I’ve done what many people do when they visit: I just spent an entire afternoon (and a bit of time reliving my childhood) here.

vcs

To plan a trip to The Vermont Country Store in Weston or Rockingham, Vermont, visit their website: www.vermontcountrystore.com. To find out about other special events like Christmas in Weston , plus places to stay, shop, and eat in Weston, visit: westonvt.com.

 

 

 

Heather Atwell

Author:

Heather Atwell

Biography:

Communications manager Heather Atwell manages the magazine’s public relations efforts. She also writes the blog Outdoor Adventures for YankeeMagazine.com.

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4 Responses to The Vermont Country Store | A Visit to Weston, Vermont

  1. Aimee Seavey December 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Such a fun post, Heather! I love stocking up on lots of cookies, crackers, and candy — plus taking a peek at the “Little House on the Prairie”-style nightgowns and the flowery bathing caps.

  2. Gayle Marie Wocoski January 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    It has been ages since I’ve been into The Vermont Country Store, since we have moved to Maryland 17 years ago. I so miss New England and all its quaint little stores, shops, restaurants, scenery and history. We still come home(CT) on occasion, but it’s not the same as living there. And “penny candy?” I fondly remember when you REALLY could buy a piece of candy for a penny. Boy, how I long for those long lost memorable days!!

  3. John Stalcup February 8, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Hi Heather. What a wonderful piece and I must say, you’ve captured all that we try to impart in our marketing efforts at VCS. I am in creative for the digital department at VCS in Manchester, Vermont. That’s our headquarters. Let me know if you’d ever like to swing by, I’d love chat with you and I’ll give you a tour around the other part of this great company.

    John

    • Heather February 12, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

      Thanks for leaving a comment, John! I guess you are lucky not to be based at one of the stores. It seems that it would be difficult to resist all the goodies!

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