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Craftsbury General Store | A Slice of Small-Town Life

Craftsbury General Store | A Slice of Small-Town Life
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Craftsbury General Store
Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
The Craftsbury General Store

The Craftsbury General Store is where many of my small town’s groggy souls fill up their cups and take their first slurp of coffee. For instance this morning, Barb stopped by on her way to work at the Academy, followed by Paula who works at the Flower Shop, then Sarah who runs the Art House, then John, who sometimes works the counter here on Saturday mornings, then Jeremiah, fresh off the milking shift at the Jones Farm, then Kelsey stopping by after her chores at Sweet Rowen Farm, then somebody none of us knew, then Sam, our district representative in the legislature, then Rick who teaches agriculture up at the college, then Norma delivering the newspapers…and in they came, cup after cup, neighbor following neighbor, till it was way beyond the break of day and fully climbing toward midmorning.

Craftsbury General Store
Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
Old mingles with new at the Craftsbury General Store.

By the time 33- year- old -owner Emily McClure shuts her 163- year- old store fourteen hours later and calls it a day, somewhere in the vicinity of 100 cups of coffee (that’s an unofficial guess, which factors in refills) have been carried over the threshold. But of course, as anyone smart enough to open a sugar packet knows, the commerce based out of this historic place goes far beyond caffeination– it’s social exchange.

Emily McClure
Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
Emily McClure is on hand to welcome you to the Craftsbury General Store.

The Craftsbury General Store is like a country club (because indeed it is in the country) that anyone can belong to. Dues cost the same as a bag of Fritos or a bag of Kale Chips, and that’s the beauty of this giant water-cooler masquerading as a miscellaneous comestible emporium: there is something for everyone here. The store is riddled with hundreds of rich juxtapositions, which in many ways mirror the mix of folks who shuffle, swagger or stride through the door: There are original oil paintings you can buy right next to DVDs you can rent. The soda cap earrings made by a grade-schooler dangle next to a display of cigars, which are next to the baseball bats signed by our local retired Red Sox/Expos pitcher. Shelves abound with organic Vermont-made baby food and Duncan Hines Cake Mix. You can order a Korean pulled pork pizza as well as pick up some maple candy, Cabot Cheese and a growler (a 64 oz. jug) of Long Trail Ale, and all the while, you can find something to cackle or commiserate about with Emily who lives above the Craftsbury Country Store, and who will be down in the morning to start the coffee again.

Julia Shipley


Julia Shipley


Contributing editor, Julia Shipley's stories celebrate New Englanders' enduring connection to place. She digs up facts and stats for each issue's "By The Numbers" feature; she's also the author of Yankee's "Vermont Rural Life" blog, as well the Yankee Plus column, "The Farmer's Life." An award winning poet, her long-form lyric essay, Adam's Mark was selected as one of the Boston Globe's Best New England Books of 2014.
Updated Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

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23 Responses to Craftsbury General Store | A Slice of Small-Town Life

  1. Mel Allen June 5, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    Julia, you captured the importance of a country store as it is woven into a small community with your word pictures. Readers will feel they are there. I look forward to following your life in rural Vermont each time you post.

    • Julia Shipley June 6, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Mel, Thank you for your encouraging words. There are as many stories in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom as there are myriad items in Emily’s Craftsbury General Store. I look forward to introducing readers to more of these everyday treasures and rural heroes in my future posts.

  2. Debbie Despres June 7, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Nice post, Julia. Looking forward to the next…and the next!

    • Julia Shipley June 25, 2013 at 7:44 am #

      Thank you, Debbie. In some ways I see the store as a kind of like “table of contents” for all the other possible stories to tell about this special place…stay tuned!

  3. Hilaire June 15, 2013 at 2:46 am #

    Love hearing about the pulse of the

    village and all the action in the

    Craftsbury General Store. Sounds

    so good I’d love to visit sometime.

    Your writing was filled with warmth

    and I look forward to having some

    of Emily’s coffee some morning.

    • Julia Shipley June 25, 2013 at 7:53 am #

      Thanks, Hilaire! Emily’s coffee is good and strong.
      I know that the Big Apple has some great neighborhood java places, but part of the fun of the General Store (aka “the Genny”) is grabbing a cup and then sipping it on the porch, as you watch Alan drive up in the big mail truck, and see Cody drive by with a load of gravel, and wave to Eddie rolling by on his tractor.

  4. Connie Gehman June 18, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    We’ve travelled to New England from Pennsylvania dozens of times, and the country store is one of the many things we love!!!

    • Julia Shipley June 25, 2013 at 8:00 am #

      And after a great long drive from Pennsylvania, isn’t it fun to get out of the car at a place that has so much history, a sense of community and real food!? Wawa ( a popular convenience store in PA) is wonderful, but the General Stores (in general) give you something more.

  5. Jeannette June 18, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    I enjoyed very much reading your post …. and I look forward to others. The simple, rural Vermont life is what I aspire to have for ME. Hubby is from New England. I am Southern. Can I survive the winters?????

    • Julia Shipley June 25, 2013 at 8:05 am #

      Jeannette, the Craftsbury General Store (and other general stores throughout New England) has/have plenty of hot food (soups, quiches, meatball subs…) to warm you up on even the coldest, most brutal days. The great part about northern winters is that it makes you appreciate warm people and hot food even more.

  6. Marilyn June 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    My son attended Sterling College, graduating this past May; he visited your store often. The Northeast Kingdom that I got to know when visiting him at school impressed me with its beauty, its friendliness, and the diversity of its cultural and dining experiences. A wonderful country place with touches of urban sophistication … of the very best kind.

    • Julia Shipley June 25, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      I think you captured the General Store even better than I did: “a wonderful country place with touches of urban sophistication…of the very best kind.”
      Congratulations to you and your son on the occasion of his graduation.

  7. Gene Dufresne June 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    It has been a very longtime since I stepped foot into this store, of course it has changed owners since then, but it still looks great.

    • Julia Shipley June 25, 2013 at 8:13 am #

      Gene, the beauty of the store (I think) is that no matter how many owners it’s had, (and that would be three since I moved to town nine years ago), is that the more it changes, the more it stays the same: coffee, news, and local folks saying hello to each other. You’ll have to come see.

  8. cheri safford June 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    Beautiful Julia!… really makes you feel the close knit small town feeling!
    So glad Bethany shared with us! We will have to get out of
    “Red Sky” and come up!
    There will be lots of homemade mustards soon…!

    • Julia Shipley June 25, 2013 at 8:19 am #

      Your Red Sky Trading Post in Glover is another gem in the crown of the Kingdom: home made donuts and tortilla chips (really?!) and the best maple mustard ever. Oh my.

      • Ben Leclerc November 10, 2013 at 7:50 am #

        Julia, great article on our store,perhaps your next article could be on Red Sky Trading Post ,another Northeast Kingdom gem!

  9. JANET June 24, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    I would love to visit the Craftsbury General Store. Unfortunately, the article does not mention a Vermont location. What did I miss ?

    • Julia Shipley June 25, 2013 at 8:29 am #

      Janet, the Craftsbury General Store is in Craftsbury, Vermont. It’s about an hour drive north of Montpelier, and a beautiful destination from anywhere really.

  10. gail laird June 28, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    This article is very interesting and takes me back to when I lived in Vermont. I lived in the small town of Bakersfield a long time ago and we had a small general store that was always busy. I am wondering if it is still there. Would you or any other reader be able to tell me about it?
    Thanks for any info you may be able to provide.

  11. Andrew November 29, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    One could fill your whole magazine with the greatness of the store. I am a disabled veteran and with out the help, love and genuine caring of Emily and her great staff I would probably have to live in a assisted living facility. Knowing they are just a call away, if I’m having a bad day, brings peace not only to myself but son as well. Thank you ladies for alll you do.

  12. Joyce Bartlett Celli February 17, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    My Dad grew up on a farm in Craftsbury in the early 1900’s. He moved to Boston at 19. Do you remember who owned the General Store in the 40ies..? Used to visit family of Susie Marcus next to Catholic Church. Many wonderful Vermont memories!

  13. Barbara Boudreau September 12, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    Try the zip code sandwich next time you go! Awesome!

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