Why do we need a café/store in Peacham?
Peacham has been without a daily market since the Bayley-Hazen Store in South Peacham closed about 12 years ago. A lot of residents have missed having a local place to go for coffee, food and conversation. This is especially important for our seniors. Renovating the old Union Store into a café will give us back our community hub. It will restore not only the vitality of Peacham village, but also the historic facade of the old Union Store (now a barn). It’ll provide a market for locally-produced food. As the café grows,
so will job opportunities.
Why do you think this project will succeed when so many stores and cafés have been closing in towns around Vermont, including here in Peacham?
The stores and restaurants that have closed were based on the traditional business model where an entrepreneur invests in a building and equipment and tries to pay back the loans in addition to making a living selling food.
In a small rural market, there isn’t enough income to do this. Around the state of Vermont a different model has developed to address this problem, because small towns want their stores and cafés back. The model is this:
a local non-profit organization raises money to buy and equip a building. They lease the building at minimal cost to an operator who runs the business. Without the burden of a mortgage or other debt, and with wide community support, the business has a good chance of success. Café/stores in Barnard (pop. 958), Pomfret (pop. 957), and remote Shrewsbury (1,108) are examples of this strategy. We’re following their model.
What do you plan to sell?
We plan to sell cold drinks, hot drinks (coffees, teas and cocoa), pastries, sandwiches, pizza, and soup – for eating on-site or to take out. We also plan to sell basic groceries like milk, eggs, and bread. We want to use and sell local food as much as possible. There aren’t any plans to carry alcohol or tobacco
at this time.
Won’t the café conflict with the Library’s Friday Coffee Hour?
The library’s popular coffee hour from 10 to noon on Friday mornings is
a great tradition that will continue, if only because it’s free! The café will
be open most days each week, and will offer a menu of drinks and café food
as well as basic groceries. The two operations are fundamentally different,
yet not incompatible. Patrons of the Café may also be drawn to visit the library and might shop for books at the ongoing library book sale. Hosts
of the Library Coffee Hour might even use the Café as a source of their
Is there a sufficient market for a café in Peacham?
Probably not, if the café had to rely only on local customers. But lots of tourists come through Peacham, as attested by the clientele at the farmers market and the Craft Guild. Sadly, bicycle tours now by-pass Peacham, because there’s no place to stop for food or drink. When it was open, the Bayley-Hazen Store in South Peacham did a brisk business in spite of two other stores in nearby West Barnet.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the existing Peacham Store?
Peacham Community Housing (PCH) and the café group have explored the possibility of purchasing or leasing the Peacham Store, which is currently open only on a limited basis. The owners of the store are not interested in selling or leasing, so we are working cooperatively with them on issues of mutual interest (parking, landscaping) and have talked to them about the possibility of their selling prepared food at the café.
What if the situation at the Peacham Store changes, wouldn’t it be competition for the new café/store?
Without an expanded wastewater system, the Peacham Store will never be able to seat diners. But the place has potential to be the full-time store it
used to be. If the Peacham Store were to re-open as a grocery store, it and
the café would complement each other perfectly.
Will Town money be used on this project?
We will not be using any town money to renovate the café. Funds for renovation will come from private foundations, businesses, and local residents. We will seek the Town’s cooperation, however, to delineate
the parking area, revise the drainage basin, and coordinate snow plowing
Who will own and manage the café?
Peacham Community Housing owns the building. They lease it to a team
of nine residents who have formed a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). The LLC is raising money and overseeing the renovations. When the
building is ready, the LLC will lease the café to an operator.
What if the operator leaves?
Our business model is set up to give the café operator every financial advantage to make a go of the business. The manager will be able to operate without any mortgage debt or debt for equipment, and the rent paid to PCH will be minimal – even subsidized in the early going. In this way, we greatly reduce the financial burden on the business and increase the likelihood of success. However, turnover in the restaurant business is common. Because the building and equipment will be owned by PCH, however, a new manager can step in and start up quickly with little capital expense.
Do you plan to hire people to work in the café?
The café/store operator may hire additional staff if business can support it. This would be a great opportunity for part-time work, including for young people.
What days/hours do you plan to be open?
The exact schedule has not been determined, but we plan to be open most weekdays during at least breakfast and lunch times.
Aren’t there limitations on restaurant seating because of the wastewater system?
We have located a site and have engineering plans for a land-based wastewater system, which is the requirement for indoor seating and a commercial kitchen. We will be able to seat 25 people.
How will you provide enough parking?
The Café and our sister organization next door, the Peacham Craft Guild,
will share the lot in front with spaces for 5 vehicles, including one handicapped space. In addition we have cooperative agreements to share parking with the Peacham Library, Peacham Congregational Church, and the Town Offices.
What if you have underestimated the cost of renovation and there is not enough money to finish?
Although we have hired professionals to do the estimating, there is always a risk of cost overruns, and we will continue to refine the estimates as necessary. The project budget includes $10,400 - 10% of the construction costs – for contingencies. Also, we have split the project into two phases, and already have enough funds to do phase one: wastewater system and basic, finished interior, including plumbing, heating, and electricity hookups.
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Frequently Asked Questions
(From Our Fundraising Phase)
In this audio clip, Paul Bruhn, Director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, and others describe the new model for creating community gathering places, and the need for what
he calls ‘Community Supported Enterprise.’
Archival images coutesy of Peacham Historical Association
Landscapes of Peacham courtesy of Richard W. Brown
Sepia drawing courtesy of Robert Van Vranken
Website design courtesy of Craig Harrison