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Village Store restoration efforts continue

  • The Francestown Village Store is set to begin renovations to its interior this month. Ledger-Transcript File photo

  • Courtesy Photo—

  • The Francestown Village Store shut its doors on July 6 of 2017, after having operated in town for 203 years, commonly referred to as the second oldest continually operating store in the country. Courtesy Photo—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 10:25AM

For two centuries, the Francestown Village Store stood as a centerpiece to the downtown in Francestown – the only business that marked the Main Street and acted as a gathering place as well as a community market.

The store has been closed now for more than a year, but the Francestown Improvement and Historical Society is continuing to move forward with a plan to revive not only the store, but additional spaces to act as small retail stores or offices. 

Sarah Pyle, a member of the FIHS and chair of the Three Sisters Building Committee, said in an interview Thursday that a building permit had been acquired last week to begin interior construction to renovate the building. This month, the Historical Society plans to move forward with applications to the Zoning Board of Adjustment to get the needed retail permissions.

The FIHS took over ownership of the store last year, when the store closed, after William Smith, a Nevada man who read about the closing, donated $125,000 to allow the society to purchase the building.

Since then, the society has been running a continual fundraising effort to raise a further $140,000 to renovate the building, to create a 1,200-square-foot retail space with a deli counter, coffee shop and seating, which they hope to rent to someone who can revive the village store, as well as two other, smaller retail spots. 

To date, the society has raised about $85,000. That’s enough, Pyle said, to begin the first phase of construction. This month, she said, the work will begin to frame the interior of the building, reinforce the roof, replace the floor and staircase, begin electrical work and put in new framing for replacement windows.

“We’re making some serious progress, though it may not look like it from the outside, yet,” Pyle said.

Pyle said that although the store will be designed based on feedback from the community on what people would like to see in a village store, the space is flexible enough to accommodate other ideas.

“If someone wants to use the deli counter to do take-out Chinese instead, that’s fine. It’s not etched in stone, but we’re trying to make a framework where a variety of users could find an easily maintained space,” she said. 

The need for a central store is clear, Pyle said, and the society wants to move forward with a vision that keeps the historic look and feel of the store, but takes advantage of modern materials, to keep costs low for whomever takes up the mantle.

“We want it to have the look of the old village store, but still be manageable in the modern day,” Pyle said. That means keeping costs down with more efficient heating and cooling systems and materials meant to bring down the costs of operating the building.

The society is continuing its fundraising efforts, including re-applying for a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. There are also monthly fundraising efforts ongoing, including trivia nights planned for October and November.