At J.J. Hapgood, a Dream Dining Spot in the Comfort of a Country Store
April 13, 2018
-Customers enjoying each other’s company during a JJ Hapgood dinner.
The J.J. Hapgood General Store and Eatery is one of the longest-running general stores in Vermont. Located in the heart of Peru village, the store reopened in 2013 after it sat empty for five years. Since then, proprietors Juliette and Tim Britton have made J.J. Hapgood much more than a country store by offering dinner with table service in its 50-seat cafe (plus seasonal outdoor patio seating).
“When we purchased and renovated the store, we made sure we started with a full-service kitchen and wood-fired oven,” Juliette says. “Food was a fundamental part of our business plan because we knew the old general store model was not working.”
General stores have been a mainstay in rural communities for centuries, and J.J. Hapgood is an integral part of this small town of 415 full-time residents.
Enjoying a JJ Hapgood Dinner in a Familiar Place
Juliette, who grew up in the village of Peru and is a professionally trained chef, says that people have been fascinated with the store for as long as she can remember. In recent years, the reputation of J.J. Hapgood has changed from simply a place to buy a cup of coffee and provisions to a destination offering dinner, drinks, groceries, gifts, music, and events.
My family and I have dined at J.J. Hapgood three times over the past few months, enjoying everything from hearty winter salads and Brussels sprouts to beef tenderloin, salmon, and wood-fired pizza. The store also includes a full bar, with tasty cocktails such as a maple old fashioned and a citrus spiced margarita, as well as a good selection of wines, hard ciders, and craft beers. Six stools at the bar make J.J. Hapgood the perfect place for an evening cocktail, and the restaurant can accommodate small and large parties (reservations are recommended).
It’s worth noting there are a handful of other general stores in New England that are also highlighting food as a central focus. The Original General Store in Pittsfield runs The Backroom from November to June for dinner, and the Sheepscot General Store and Farm in Whitefield, Maine, has remodeled a milking parlor into a community space where customers can enjoy Friday night pizza and pick-your-own strawberries from their local garden. And about 40 minutes from Peru is the town of Newfane, where you’ll find the Williamsville Eatery, a former country store that is now a small restaurant.
To make J.J. Hapgood a success, Juliette says the key was for the store to feel familiar. “There’s a good vibe here for locals, and second homeowners tell us we’re the first place they go to eat,” she says. “The store feels like it’s been here for a long time, and when you come here, it really feels like you’re coming home.”
For more information, visit jjhapgood.com.