The tiny village of West Townshend is big on community spirit.
At the heart of it all is the West Townshend Country Store, which serves as a café, post office, thrift store, and meeting house all in one.
Located on Route 30 in Windham County, The West Townshend Country Store is part of The West River Community Project, an organization that was founded in 2010 by local residents. Its mission is to support farms, businesses, and social activities in Vermont’s West River Valley.
Inside the store, there is a deli counter, tables and chairs, post office boxes where locals can pick up their mail, a community processing kitchen, and a thrift shop. The country store, which dates back to 1848, hosts weekly pizza nights, live music, art exhibits, as well as an outdoor farmer’s market in the warmer months.
A Donation-Based Model at the West Townshend Country Store Café
Customers stopping by for a bite to eat can choose from hearty soups, sandwiches, beer, wine, lemonade, chocolate chips cookies, fresh coffee, and more. Recently, a new addition was installed in the store: a “Donation-Based Café” sign above the cash register.
The nonprofit recently decided to move to a donation-based model for the store to provide affordable food. Meals, including soups, sandwiches, and salads are pay-what-you-can while extras such as chips, beverages, and cookies require payment.
“The store is more like a meeting house than a café. It’s really where everyone comes and hangs out,” says Caroline Persson, the store’s operational manager who lives in nearby Jamaica. “I realized how food insecure we were during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 in this valley. We were cut off from everything. We need a place like this in our community.”
Persson, an organic farmer and former chef, approached Salvation Farms in Morrisville to use the farm’s gleaned produce and help offset costs for the donation-based approach. Since implementing the new model this winter, the reception has been positive.
“The store is where everyone comes in and hangs out. We’re all stuck in the woods out here, and this is a place where you can get out and see people,” Persson says. “Our biggest goal in the store is to feed as many people as possible. It’s just a place where people can get a little relief.”