A country store and so much more

SOVAL-02.fob.townshend.3451A country store and so much more

West Townshend builds community by embracing multiple uses — including arts and music — for a revitalized general store

The West River Community Project is dedicated to preserving and promoting the West River heritage in order to sustain a healthy future full of music, the arts, and local agriculture.

It’s a work very happily in progress. The West Townshend Country Store, at 6573 Route 30, is up and running: the project-built cob oven is turning out around 45 pizzas every Friday night; its café is serving light, local-product meals on weekends; and its thrift store is a treasure trove of second-hand clothes, housewares, and bric-a-brac.

Café walls showcase the works of local artists, usually in month-long exhibits. Concerts in the space pulse with vintage bluegrass and not-so-vintage everything else.

SOVAL-02.fob.townshend.3460And, of course, there’s even a post office.

All the more impressive is that this revitalization of West Townshend has taken place only in the past three years.

Largely the initial vision of West Townshend farmer, artist, mother, and board president Clare Adams, the project is breathing new life into what used to be a handsome general store but since its construction in 1848 was left to its own devices, facing flames and disrepair.

Now with restoration and a bold new plan, its offerings radiate enthusiasm where it’s sorely needed in the West River community. The project leases it at a steal — $5 a year for 20 years — from its new owner, an angel if there ever was one.

Also credit man for all seasons Robert DuGrenier, a glass blower, farmer, and the father of a young son. Next week DuGrenier begins designing new panels for the elevators in The (Paris) Hôtel Ritz. He’s also helping turn out his family’s Taft Hill Farm products on Route 30, and is president of the Townshend Historical Society.

Adams and DuGrenier speak of The West River Community Project as a journey on the way to drawing out, preserving, and building on a sense of place for the West Townshend community.

“We were in danger of losing the even the post office,” says Adams. That was the turning point for her. Something had to be done.

Board vice president DuGrenier adds, “A sense of place is absolutely crucial” to community.

And so they went to work.

The village had served as a hub for Jamaica, Wardsboro, Windham, and Townshend, and just might fill that role again. Adams says there’s potential to connect to about 10,000 residents, plus drivers on busy Route 30.

Many volunteers are backing this effort, as is an eight-member board of professionals who’ve worked as chefs, seed kings, farmers, lawyers, and finance officers, and who are familiar with non-profit operations.

Still to come: a community kitchen and expanded farmers’ market, which is open Fridays from June 7-Oct 11, 4-7p, on the lawn. Like everything else to do with the West River Community Project, it’s sinking its roots and growing.

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