HILL, N.H. (AP) — The Hill Village Store was more than just a store for Russ Rivard.
It was a gathering place in the town of about 1,000 where Rivard could socialize with people, buy a coffee and a donut and talk about the news of the day. It was the sole general store and one of the only businesses in Hill.
That’s why it was a major change in town when the store closed in the spring of 2017.
“It wasn’t the same,” Rivard said. “You lost contact with people you used to see.”
But now, the store is back – with a new owner and a slightly different name: the Hill General Store.
Owner Sean Foden said he wants to bring back the same character of the old village store to his new place, and make it into a mini hub.
Foden, who lives a mile up the road from the Commerce Street store, said he was a regular at the shop back in the day. The social aspect meant a lot to him; he and other people in town would jokingly refer to times when they would stop and catch up to “the meetings.”
“I always liked it for that,” he said. “You have a cup of coffee, figure out what’s going on in town. Without it, you never really get to talk to people. You wave when you’re driving by on the road, but that’s it. Here, people stop.”
The store has all of the essentials: snacks, milk, toiletries and beer. Foden said he is also planning to sell pieces from local artisans, local wine and farm fresh eggs. The store is now selling Brothers Donuts from nearby Franklin.
He is also working to complete a deli in the back of the store that will sell breakfast sandwiches and subs, with the goal of opening in June.
“It’s the first thing you see when you go into town, kind like a symbol of the place,” Foden said. “It’s a staple of the community.”
When Foden was looking at listings online and saw the old Hill Village Store, he said he was worried an investor would take over the building and turn it into apartments.
Country stores have been closing across the state as owners struggle to compete with chains and larger grocery stores, he said.
That’s something former owner of the Hill Village Store Gary Fouts said forced him to shut down, Foden said. After the recession in 2008, he couldn’t get back on his feet.
And after a lot of thought, Foden said he and his wife Marsha decided to take a leap of faith and buy it.
“If the numbers don’t work, usually I don’t do something. But this place, it meant something to me, I had an emotional attachment to it,” he said. “Even if we just break even, I’ll be happy.”
Since the store re-opened 10 weeks ago, Hill General Store Manager Connors Longe-Deyo said people have been coming in nonstop. He said people will drop in for a snack while on a walk with their dog, families will walk over at night for ice cream.
“It’s picking up every week. People still come in and they’re like, ‘Oh my god. I can’t believe it, I’m so happy you’re back,’” Longe-Deyo said. “They say, ‘We need this here. We need a place to go, to hang out.’”
Hill Deputy Town Clerk Randy Sanborn said the store has been a big topic of conversation at town hall.
“So many of those small town country stores are closing, and to have him open one up and not have it stay shut is just fabulous, it really is,” she said. “Usually, when these stores close, they very seldom open up again.”
Matthew Huckins, who lives in Hill, said he has memories of trips to the store for pizza with his grandparents on Friday nights.
When the store closed, Huckins wasn’t the only person who felt let down.
“The amount of people that would try to stop here because they thought the store was still open was crazy,” he said. “They would be so disappointed when they realized it was shut down.”
Now, Huckins said he stops in every day.
“The people who live here, they are so excited they don’t have to drive and go out of their way just to get something,” he said.
Rivard, who bought an iced tea Monday, said he’s stop ping in a few times a week.
“Everything’s back to normal,” he said. “I’m back to my old routine.”
Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.concordmonitor.com