New store owners living dream

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PUTNEY — The Putney Historical Society has sold the Putney General Store to a Massachusetts couple who, until recently, operated a similar store north of Boston.

Closing on the sale was slated for Sept. 4, with the new owners, Mike and Kim Cosco taking over the store Sept. 5, according to Betsy McIsaac, who along with Lyssa Papazian had been co-managing the store for the past 2 years for the historical society.

McIsaac said Friday that the Coscos found out about the Putney store on Craigslist, where she and Papazian had advertised the store in an effort to find new owners and operators.

The building itself, which was rebuilt after two fires of the original general store, will remain owned by the historical society, McIsaac said.

McIsaac and Papazian, both members of the historical society, had jumped in as managers in 2017 after the death of the operator of the store. They spent several months reorganizing the store and reopened in the summer of 2017.

The Coscos owned and operated the West Boxford, Mass., general store, called West Village Provisions, for the past eight years. They have already sold that store to an employee, McIsaac said. The couple also sold their home and are in the process of moving to Putney. They are currently renting a home in Putney, but plan on building a new, energy efficient home on land close to the store.

"They have a lot going on," said Papazian.

The Boston Globe profiled the Coscos and their Massachusetts store in a February 2017 article, with the headline "In Boxford, a destination for food and friends."

In the article, the couple mentioned their retirement plan: to sell their Massachusetts store, move north to the mountains and open a general store.

McIsaac said the Coscos seemed like a perfect fit for both the store and the Putney community.

"We've been working with them since March," McIsaac said. "They seem like really nice people."

She said the couple focused on specialty food at their old store.

"I certainly appreciate their experience, that's huge for my comfort level of passing this along," said Papazian. "I feel it's on a really great trajectory. The store needed the experience of a store owner to move it to the next level," she said. "It feels like a very nice fit," she added.

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"Both are energetic and expanding. This is growth for them," she said, noting that their previous store was much smaller than the Putney General Store.

Mike Cosco will be in charge of cooking and developing recipes. Kim Cosco, who has a lot of experience in retail and operated a large Hallmark store in Massachusetts, expects to open a Vermont-oriented gift shop in the vacant second floor of the building.

With the loss of Basketville, and the closing of Silver Forest and Offerings, there are no shops selling gifts in town, said Papazian.

"There's nothing. There is definitely a demand. People come in and looking for more. We get a lot of traffic from parents, from Landmark or the Putney School, or Greenwood School," looking for gifts, she said.

Carolyn Handy, a member and spokeswoman for the Putney Historical Society, said the business was sold for $120,000. She said the historical society wanted to maintain ownership of the building "to ensure the space always contains a general store."

The Putney store was first built in 1796, and a store has operated on the location ever since. It has had several different names and owners over the decades. Handy said a former owner, Robert Fairchild, who operated the store in the 1970s, called it the Putney General Store "and it stuck."

After an electrical fire in 2008, the historical society bought the building and began to restore it. But in late 2009, an arsonist burned the building to the ground. Since it was rebuilt the second time, the non-profit historical society has leased it to proprietor-tenants who owned and operated the store.

According to Handy, the Coscos already had a plan for tackling the store's annual electric bill, which runs to $35,000, by installing a small hydroelectric plant behind the store on Sackett's Brook.

McIsaac said she and Papazian will work with the Coscos and train them on all the store systems, and then return to their lives before being store managers.

Papazian is a historic preservation consultant, while McIsaac raises fine fiber sheep and goats on her Putney farm.

Papazian said she plans to return to "what's left of my consulting business" and spend time with her elderly mother in New York City.

"I need to see my mom and visit my kids," said Papazian, noting both things took a big back seat while she was running the store.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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