New book features Vt.'s country stores
BENNINGTON -- There's a hole in Vermont's history.
When Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, of Northfield Falls, began researching Vermont's country stores, seemingly a staple of the classic Vermont image, he found little in the way of collected writings. There was plenty of information on churches and industries, but to get the story of the simple Vermont country store he had to do a fair bit of digging.
That digging resulted in "Country Stores of Vermont," a book published first in 2008 by The History Press. The publishing company approached Bathory-Kitsz about the project, figuring he would know something about the subject since, at the time, he was executive director of the Vermont Alliance of Independent Country Stores.
Using the alliance's members as a starting point, Bathory-Kitsz made calls to historical societies and libraries and in about a year had enough information to publish a rough history of Vermont country stores as well as create a travel guide. The first time the book printed it was a travel guide, and it sold out.
Bathory-Kitsz, a composer by trade, said he was pleased with the book's success, for being a composer in Vermont requires one to take all manner of jobs. As executive director for the alliance, he wrote, maintained the website, and took photographs.
The Historical Press enjoyed the book's success, too, and asked Bathory-Kitsz to update it, but given all that had changed since Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 he pushed for an entire second edition. Bathory-Kitsz said some stores closed and reopened while some remain gone.
The second half of the book -- a travel guide and map -- had to be done again from scratch, Bathory-Kitsz said. It breaks tours down by region, and the path through Bennington County features many local country stores such as Powers Market in North Bennington and The Wayside Country Store in West Arlington. The store in Arlington, owned by Nancy and Doug Tschorn, got a lengthy write-up of its history.
Doug Tschorn said Friday he just picked up a box of the second edition books and thinks they will sell as well as the first edition. He said he thinks a few people have found the store because of the book, but he is not sure.
The standards for what makes a county store a country store are flexible, said Bathory-Kitsz, but one of the main things to consider is this: If the community the store serves were to be cut off from the outside world, could the store meet the people's needs? At least for a few days?
So, stores that sell food, clothing, tools, and things of that sort qualify. Souvenir shops do not. However, the book's index, which lists more than 200 stores, does include a few of the latter. Bathory-Kitsz said for the histories, he looked at stores over 50 years old with interesting tales to tell. His ability to drive to them was another factor, but he said the stores included represent all areas of Vermont.
Information in the book is updated at www.countrystoresofvermont.org.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
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