A whole lot in store

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, January 02, 2018 12:21PM

The Francestown Improvement and Historical Society has seeded a committee that is tasked with reopening the town’s village store after it was gifted the building this year.

The building, which had long-held the title of the second oldest continuously running store in the country, was put up for auction in July. Lake Sunapee Bank, a division of the Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, retained the property after it put in a sole bid of $100,000.

It has since been closed and many residents have mourned the loss of its village store.

“It’s a resource, and it’s a community center,” said Sarah Pyle, who is a member of the historical society. “It makes our village, our village.”

The small-town store closing its doors gained widespread attention and was covered in an article published in the Wall Street Journal. The journal’s story reached William Smith, who started a charitable fund called the W & E Smith Foundation in Boulder City, Nev. Smith donated somewhere in the neighborhood of $130,000, which covered the property’s back taxes and settled things like overdue water bills. Pyle said Smith’s only request was that the building is renamed after his daughters.

Pyle said the group is currently working to gather information about how much work needs to be done to the building and how much that will cost. Pyle said the building is beautiful and that the roof is in good shape, but it’s old and there is deferred maintenance. The building needs electrical work, heating repairs, and things like the interior finishes are “tired and cobbled together,” Pyle said.

Once an estimated repair cost has been tallied, Pyle said a fundraising committee will launch a campaign to raise money for those renovations. She said the money will likely be raised through a combination of applying for grant dollars, asking for donations, and hosting events like community dances.

When the money has been raised and the repairs completed, Pyle said the committee hopes to rent the space out to people who want to run things like a coffee shop. Renting the space out is an idea that previous owners Christina and Rob Wohle tried to carry out as well before the building went up for auction without much success.

Pyle said she hopes the store will reopen by Labor Day.