In April, with the building on the verge of being condemned and the post office about to jump ship, local couple John Sprung and Amiee Pritcher purchased the building with the goal of creating a gathering place in East Dover, and to make life more convenient for the people in their community.
The East Dover General Store has all the amenities: a display cooler filled with Pritcher’s homemade food, shiny wire racks filled with canned and dry goods, and the “beer cave,” a walk-in cooler that features 26 craft and generic beer brands. But getting the store in working order was no easy task; it had to be torn apart and repainted inside, and an entirely new kitchen had to be constructed where there was none before. In order to serve food, they also had to install a new septic system, something the building had never contained. The store is the first step in their plan to turn East Dover into a local destination again.
“We’re trying to turn East Dover into a village again” said Pritcher. “Now that the post office is staying put, we also want our local people to not have to drive over the hills for everything.”
Pritcher said that before, if you ran out of milk, getting more could turn into an hour-long chore for some residents of the village. Sprung says the store will also serve as a convenience to rural residents of both Williamsville and South Newfane, who drive to Newfane or West Dover for their shopping.
The store also caters to individual needs, ordering special items for customers who make requests. “If someone wants something, be it groceries, beer, wine or food, we’re making this a place where they can ask us and we can order it for them,” said Sprung. There is even a suggestion option on their website, eastdovergeneralstore.com, where patrons can help them fill their shelves.
Pritcher’s cooking uses local products from businesses like Blue Mountain Produce, and small business suppliers are used for groceries and goods. They also hired an official wine buyer, for those who skip the beer cave for some Shiraz.
Pritcher and Sprung’s neighbor Meg Staloff, who has worked as a wine educator as well as a wine import representative in New York City, now lives in East Dover and helps Pritcher choose the wine.
“She and I do the tasting together, but her knowledge is something I can’t even compare to,” said Pritcher. “So we’re getting a lot of wines that you’re not going to find anywhere else in the valley.” Pritcher says the goal is to find a better wine and sell it for less, and wine is already their best selling item.
Along with coffee, newspapers, candy, and groceries, the store sells a line of homemade ceramic tableware for people and their pets, vinyl blinds for businesses, and automotive supplies. However, to Pritcher and Sprung, the store is just the first step in making East Dover a destination again. Along with 4 North Street, they purchased the land across the street, complete with a sunken and leaning 19th century commercial scale house they have begun to return to its original condition. “We thought it was a shack, and we kept saying that as soon as we buy the building we’re tearing down that shed,” said Sprung. “Then we found out that it had great historical significance, and started pulling it out of the mud.”
Sprung and Pritcher want to turn the scale house into an artist loft, and a gathering place for locals, and transform the land next to the scale house into a public space and flower garden. They have used, and continue to apply for, historic preservation grants to help with restoring the scale house as well as the store.
Both are in the works for designation in the National Historical Registry after it was discovered that 4 North Street is the only side-gabled 19th century general store in Vermont. In order for the designation to be completed, the building’s exterior must keep its 19th century appearance. Pritcher and Sprung have already reinstalled the original glass pane windows, and preserved the interior of the building to its original floor plan.
While the store has not been advertised, and a sign has yet to be put out, word of mouth has helped business begin to pick up more and more customers every day. “When you drive up here we want it to be beautiful,” said Pritcher. “This is the entrance to Dover, and while this building was really run down and it looked like a ghost town, and while it’s not pristine right now, it’s starting to look alive now and it looks like something is actually happening here.”