The J.J. Hapgood General Store and Eatery, which first opened 150 years ago, was the longest-running general store in Vermont until it closed five years ago. New owners and Peru residents Juliette and Tim Britton felt strongly that the store needed to be revived for the benefit of the community.
“We could not let the village be without a central business,” Juliette said. Rebuilding began in July and the store, which includes a 25-seat cafe and outdoor seating for the summer months, opened for business on Dec. 15. “Our goal was to restore its historical function and to give the community back its gathering space.”
Located in the heart of Peru village, the store sells everything from wine and cheese to charcuterie and focaccia to baked goods and oven wood-fired pizza. The store, open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, also serves Vermont beers on draft. The food prepared by Juliette and her staff has a local focus with Vermont-made ingredients, and the menu changes daily.
The community has whole-heartedly supported the store’s reopening from the beginning. One community member donated Danby marble to be used on the new sidewalk in front of the store and on the store’s outdoor patio. Juliette and Tim hired local contractors and businesses to rebuild the store, and reused whatever materials they could from the old building.
The interior of the store is warm and inviting, with old wooden beams, antiques, and Vermont collectables — including one of the earliest Burton Snowboards ever made — as well as a gallery featuring work by local artists, along with plenty of comfortable seating.
The town of Peru has a population of about 425 and is home to Bromley Mountain ski area and the annual Peru Fair that takes place every September. Juliette spent her childhood in Peru and moved back to the area with Tim nine years ago to eventually start a family. She had previously worked as a private chef in Boston and later oversaw some residential interior design projects, which prepared her well for operating the store and designing the space.
“Since I grew up in Peru, I knew the feeling of the town and what would work here in the store,” Juliette said.
Juliette and I went to high school together in the 1980s. Back then, the movie “Baby Boom” with Diane Keaton was filmed in and around Peru. One of the movie’s funniest scenes was filmed at the old store, where one tourist gushes, “The whole state is cute.”
None of us imagined all those years ago that Juliette would help revive the store and transform it into such a magnificent place. Locals and visitors alike will find so much to love.
Thanks to Juliette and Tim, the lovely town of Peru feels as vibrant as ever.