By Amanda Kuhnert
The Elmore Store has been the hub of the small rural town of Elmore, Vermont for centuries. The white clapboard building, built in the early 1800s, is where residents stop for a gallon of milk, to pick up their mail, and to catch up with neighbors. But in 2020 this community staple was in danger of shutting down when the owners decided to sell after 36 years in business.
Thankfully, a group of community members stepped in to save the store. They formed the Elmore Community Trust and purchased the building, with the goal of leasing out the store and post office space on the first level, along with two additional apartments.
After the switch to community ownership, Jason Clark, who moved to Elmore in 2011 and lives just down the road from the store, thought about applying for the position to manage the store. But he was running the kitchen at the Trapp Family Lodge Bierhall at the time and wasn’t ready to make a move. A year later, when the first managers left, Clark submitted his application.
“When the opportunity to take the reins of the store came up, the timing felt right,” he said. “I hadn’t run a grocery store, but I had the restaurant experience.”
Clark has been in the culinary and hospitality world his entire life. He grew up on a farm in the neighboring town of Hyde Park, where he helped his parents run their agritourism business. He then received a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University before going on to complete a graduate program in hospitality management at Northern Vermont University. Over the next three decades, he ran his own catering company and managed prominent restaurant kitchens in the Stowe area.
Knowing when to ask for help
Although he had plenty of practical experience to succeed in his new role, Clark knew he needed some business advice during the transition. So he reached out to the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) and began working with longtime advisor Charley Ininger. Together they worked through the process of setting up Clark’s legal entity and negotiating the lease and equipment purchase.
Meanwhile, the Trust was raising money for much-needed updates to the building. “They put a new septic system in and changed the heat over,” Clark said. “Renovations are in the works on the kitchen and creating some indoor seating.” These renovations will enable Clark to achieve his goal of expanding the store’s prepared foods offerings.
“I’ve built back up the deli to longer hours and added more takeout options, like pot pie and mac and cheese,” he said. He’s also working to increase his pizza business. Currently, the store offers pizza Thursday through Saturday.
The Store is open seven days a week, year-round. For more info, visit Elmore Store’s Facebook page.
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