Vermont November 10, 2016
The Oldest General Store In Vermont Has A Fascinating History
Everyone loves a good underdog story, and the oldest General Store in Vermont has certainly been an underdog a few times. The Putney General Store has survived almost 20 different owners and two devastating fires, all while competing for business as chain and box stores pop up and internet sales continue to rise. Let’s take a look at the history of this store, along with the fires and, the best part, how Vermonters united to keep the store in business.
There has been a general merchandise store on the site of the Putney General Store for over 200 years.
The Putney General store was originally built in 1769 as a grist mill on the banks of Sacketts Brook.
The land on which the store stands was originally part of the two-acre sawmill property, circa 1765.
In 1793 the two acres were sold for a profit of six pounds.
Between 1796 and 1799, William Sargeant and John Griffin built a new store along with a hattery shop close by.
At that time the “county road” leading north crossed Sacketts Brook a few yards west of the store.
As John Griffin had previously operated another store since 1784, it is thought that Griffin ran the new store while Sargeant ran the sawmill.
Griffin doesn’t appear to have been a good business man and he suffered several judgments against him at different times.
When Sargeant came to his aid for the sum of $550 in 1798, Griffin gave him title to the following:
“One case of drawers valued at $30; one clock…$40; three beds…$60; one stallion horse…$100; one bay, two French horses and one colt coming two years old and two cows…$200.”
Over the next two centuries of changing hands, the business was sold to Erhan Oge and Tugce Okamus in 2006, making them the 18th owners of the historic Putney business.
However, disaster struck at 9:52 p.m. on Saturday, May 3, 2008 when a call came in to the Putney Fire Department: the General Store was ablaze.
The fire was devastating to the new owners, as business had been hard with major chain stores popping up in nearby towns, combined with rising gas prices and decreased tourism due to little snow.
It was possible that the town would lose its beloved general store, which had long been the hub of the community.
The building contained old wiring, and while a cause was never determined, there was no suspicious activity.
To further add insult to injury, a sprinkler system had recently been installed, but not in the attic where the fire apparently started.
In true Vermont fashion, the community rallied to help.
The Town Manager reported “a great outpouring of volunteers, both with hands-on construction abilities as well as folks willing to lend a hand with finding appropriate grants and other tasks…it seems that there is great community support for the owners in their desire to rebuild, with talk of fundraisers to help the cause, if necessary.”
Clearly, there was a desire to have the Putney General Store gracing the village center again, along with the town green, the Putney Tavern, the Putney Paper mill, the Putney Diner, and the Town Hall.
Past and current board members of the Putney Historical Society assisted Oge to seek grants and tax abatements, and it was decided that it might be best if a nonprofit stepped up to take ownership and thereby become eligible for state and other grant sources.
The Putney Historical Society took up this charge, and with the help of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, they purchased an option in late August to buy the property for $105,000 by October 1, 2008.
In September 2008, approximately $10,000 was raised in community donations, and secured charitable guarantors to back a loan of $100,000.
In November 2008, the Putney Historical Society became the 19th owners of the corner store. Amazing progress was made and the community pulled together as they neared the home stretch, with plans to open on May 3, 2010.
Tragedy struck again at 10:30 pm on Sunday, November 1, 2009.
The entire building burned down in a fire which was apparently set by an arsonist.
Hundreds of community members watched, mourned, and came together in the week after the fire.
In this terrible four-alarm fire, between 120-140 EMS personnel came and saved people and nearby buildings.
The historic Putney General Store building was completely lost to fire.
In true Vermont fashion, the community once again rallied and today the Putney General Store once again is the hub of this bustling community.
Here you’ll find just about anything you need.
From groceries to sundries, you’ll be met with a friendly smile.
But that’s not all – you can get some of the most delicious food, too!
The next time you're in the area, stop into the store that this town has fought so hard to save and rebuild.
It's the essence of the true Vermont spirit!
Putney General Store.
4 Kimball Hill Road South,
The General Store isn’t the only thing to see and do in Putney – look at all the great things Putney has to offer and see why it’s one of
Vermont’s best kept secrets! You’ll absolutely love visiting.