Francestown Village Store future uncertain

  • The Francestown Village Store, which was built in 1814, is struggling to keep its doors open. The owners plan to host an open house on Thursday March 30 at 6:30 p.m. in hopes that community members will pitch, and then later, start up business ventures that could be based out of the store. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 6:33AM

The Francestown Village Store owes about $24,679 in property taxes, a number that has been accruing since 2014, according to town documents.

The tax collector’s scheduled deed date this year for unpaid 2014 tax liens is June 12th.

“We have about 60 days to try to turn the store around and raise the funds to bring the back property taxes current on the store before the bank proceeds any further,” owner Christina Wohle said in a message to the Ledger-Transcript.

Wohle, who owns the store with her husband Rob, said they luckily deal with a local bank, who wants to see the store keep its doors open.

She said in order to turn the situation around, the store will be hosting an open house on Thursday, March 30 at 6:30 p.m., where people are welcome to pitch business ventures that could include opening their own retail or food business out of the store.

Already, Wohle said, they have a couple who are interested in renting out the deli, and they would like to build on that momentum.

“We would like to see more retailers or food businesses start up in the store,” Wohle said.

She said they will have affordable rental space for retail, will offer commercial kitchen space with options to split it into a morning and afternoon rental, and will also entertain exchanging rental space for store shifts.

“There will be options for people with all budgets and ideas,” Wohle said of the open house.

The news of an open house is hopeful after Wohle posted a Facebook message earlier this month stating that the store would be shuttered.

“It is with the greatest of regrets that Rob and I announced that people need to use their gift cards by the end of the month,” Wohle wrote in a message posted on Facebook. “We have spent our entire life savings, seconded our home on top of the mortgage on the store to make this dream work.”

In the post she said they have tried to come up with ways to make the store viable, although their ideas came up short.

“Our family is heartbroken at the thought of losing the store on top of everything else,” Wohle said alluding to the death of their 18-year-old son Cole after suffering a heart attack while at a rodeo last summer.

In the past, Wohle said, the they’ve hosted summer dinners where the community joins together to eat outside.

“Sadly this didn’t take place this year after the sudden loss of our son Cole to a massive heart attack,” Wohle said. “And this sadness has definitely played a role in the low volume the store has faced since the beginning of August.”

Wohle said there have been many deaths in town recently, and that there is a prevailing sadness that has affected the store.

The Wohles story

Wohle said they purchased the store in December 2013 and they started off strong at the beginning.

“That summer we celebrated the store’s 200th anniversary with a giant town party,” Wohle said.

At the party, the state Legislature honored the store, recognizing it as the third oldest in the country. The store is now recognized as the second oldest after the Bath General Store closed its doors.

Formerly called The Long Store, the Francestown Village Store, was founded in 1814 and has been in service for more than 200 years. It’s currently the only remaining business on Main Street.

Wohle said business the first year was great, but by the time the second had rolled around, the economy had taken a turn for the worse. On top of that, Wohle said, the ski season that year was sluggish, sadly many faithful store customers passed away, and the town began transitioning into a bedroom community.

In January 2016, the store was no longer able to sell gas and by May of that same year, it had to tear the pumps out. Wohle said the move resulted in a huge financial loss, totaling around $25,000 in lost gross revenue per month.

Over the summer, the Wohle’s saved the store from repossession by draining their retirement and investments reserves into saving the business.

“We do not want to lose the store, but believe that if more people are invested in the success of the store, we as a community will be happier and stronger for it,” Wohle said.

In an attempt to save it from going under, the Wohles will host a meet-and-greet, where they’ll listen to business ideas. Wohle said they are particularly interested in hearing from people with retail or food ideas because of current zoning. In addition, Wohle said, they will start a fundraiser to catch up on past property taxes and to make some necessary improvements like upgrading the refrigeration systems, windows, insulation, and its climate-control system.

“The store is a valuable part of our community,” Wohle said. “Not only offering essential services such as food, and in the past fuel, but we are the training grounds for many of our youth learning to make their way in the world, working their first jobs. We are the community meeting place, the information hub of town.”