The Jericho Center Country Store has been part of Jon St. Amour’s life ever since he was a boy. He would stop in before school or on the way to his grandparents’ house. His dad worked at the store for a time, as did other family members.
When it went on the market 12 years ago, St. Amour’s parents purchased the business and his family became the proud owners of one of Vermont’s longest running country stores.
“Our roots to the store run very deep. Being locals who had frequented the store for years and years, we knew what a jewel it was in the community,” St. Amour says. “It was an icon in Jericho, the heart of the town. I had loved it my whole life.”
Adapting to Change
The Jericho Center Country Store was founded in 1807 as Blackman’s Store by Pliny Blackman. The store originally offered sugar, flour, rum, gin and molasses. Business was largely conducted by barter system in which Blackman would trade those goods for eggs, milk and farm supplies.
With its working post office, creaky wooden floors, antiques, black and white photos, and 100-year-old Kellogg’s Corn Flake sign, the store as it stands today looks and feels like a classic Vermont country store.
But outside, the world has changed.
“I think this is the most challenging time ever for general/country stores, and for any small business for that matter,” says St. Amour, who is now in charge of running the business. “The proliferation of chain and box stores have continually sucked away these small stores’ valuable customers. Wholesale goods – milk, meats, cheese, gas – are at the highest prices they’ve ever been, and these small stores simply cannot compete with the buying power of these bigger businesses. And customers are extremely price sensitive, and they’ll go where the better deals are if they can.”
Even with those challenges, the store continues to succeed.
“I think our store has prospered for so long because people feel such a strong connection to it. This just isn’t a place to buy milk or a sandwich. It’s literally the heart of the community, and it’s been that way for so long. The store has done a great job adapting to the times. We know we can’t compete with big grocery stores or chain gas stations, so we have to do more to keep people coming here,” St. Amour says. “We’re also lucky to be in such a cozy spot. There aren’t any stores in the immediate area, and we’re surrounded by a great community. We never take that for granted.”
Feeling Right at Home
A Vermont State Historic Site, the Jericho Center Country Store sells everything from wine and cheese to sandwiches, pizza and Vermont-made goods. The store is also are a favorite local spot for creemees (our word for soft serve ice cream in the 802).
St. Amour says he strives to keep his store an inviting, happy place where customers feel at home.
“What I enjoy most about the store are the people I meet and get to talk to everyday. That’s the best part, and I wish I had more time just to pull up a chair and talk to them. Most times I’m running around with my head spinning so that doesn’t always happen,” he says. “But on the rare occasion that it’s quiet and there’s a break in the action, there’s nothing like just standing back and hanging with our great customers.”
**If You Go: The Jericho Center Country Store is at 25 Jericho Center Circle in Jericho.
Want to learn more about Vermont country stores? Visit the Vermont Alliance of Independent Country Stores website.