Mont Vernon store to close

Thursday, January 14, 2010

By Cabinet Staff

MONT VERNON – With its attempts to move thwarted and no gasoline sales to bolster income, the owners of the Mont Vernon General Store say they are closing its doors permanently Jan. 21.

The building has held a store since the 19th century, but the store’s owners, Julie Whitcomb and Matt Gelbwaks, say it needs extensive repairs. They have not been able to reach agreement about the repairs with the owners of the building, Kim and Brian Fontaine, who live next door.

Last year they presented plans to build a new structure in the north end of town, where zoning is residential, and move the store there. This plan was rejected by the zoning board, after which the store closed for a time, then reopened around Thanksgiving.

Its problems have been worsened by concerns about whether the state will allow gasoline sales due to questions about the condition of the underground storage tank.

In an e-mail statement Wednesday, Whitcomb wrote: “It seems the town has moved on beyond the pastoral context where a quaint general store makes sense. Perhaps last decade’s master plan was indeed incorrect: maybe Mont Vernon’s charm and appeal would be furthered by being purely a residential bedroom community. By refusing to allow any growth or change, the town has allowed a business to be extinguished, eliminating jobs and tax revenue that seemed to be needed in this economy.“

Whitcomb’s statement continued:

“The lost time and monetary investment leaves us without the means to wait out the economic downturn and our subsequent loss of patrons and revenue. Without the ability to sell gas, traffic has decreased by more than 50 percent. Even after adjusting staff, inventory and other cost cutting measures, we cannot seem to cover the fixed costs. Unfortunately, there no longer seems to be a high enough sales volume to be worthwhile staying open.

“We have very much enjoyed being part of this great community, especially the camaraderie with the working people of the town. The road crew, the police, firefighters and other town workers have been our most ardent and supportive customers, and we have truly appreciated seeing them every day. In addition, we will miss that wonderful and eclectic collection of truck drivers, teachers, plumbers, electricians, and other hard working folks who have stopped for coffee, sandwiches and snacks on their way through each day.”

The building also houses the Back to Basics Chiropractic Center, located in a back portion that once held the town post office. It has remained open even during recent times when the store was closed.

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