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Proctor’s last store is ready for auction


By Katelyn Barcellos as seen in the Rutland Herald:

PROCTOR — The West Street Market will be sold in a real estate auction April 6, even as the town contemplates how to bring business to town to serve the needs of residents.

“It’s the last store in town,” said Town Manager Stan Wilbur “I used to go down and get myself a sandwich every day for lunch. There’s no other place to buy juice, beer or anything you need in Proctor.”

Planning Commission Chairman Dick Horner said the store closing, which happened in July, is a sign of the times, where small, local businesses are falling prey to larger chains.

“Look what Walmart has done to every downtown in the country,” he said. “When I first came here 30 years ago, there were three or four stores open. It’s the end of an era.”

Horner said he hopes a new store will come to Proctor, but a serious cost analysis would be needed to transform any of the other business buildings in the town.

“We need to see what the citizens want,” he said. “With the right idea, and the right developer, maybe something could happen.”

Horner said the town would look at the possibility of a chain store that might have the economic clout to keep resources available.

“A store like Stewart’s would have more stability,” he said. “People would love a local spot, but I think they’d accept any kind of store.”

Horner said the ideal place for a new store would be on Route 3 because of the high volume of commuters and big truck traffic. He felt it should have large parking spaces and possibly gas.

Horner said the Proctor residents voted in favor of a tax stabilization policy to attract future businesses, which must be approved by the Select Board.

Horner said the Planning Commission would be reaching out to other towns that have had success with tax-stabilization policies, such as Clarendon and Brandon, for their advice and experience.

The town is working with the Vermont Council of Rural Development to plan a “Proctor’s Future” meeting, so residents can voice their opinions and concerns, he said. The meeting is scheduled for April 18 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Proctor High School.

The West Street Market property was previously owned by Rachel Jackson, who bought the store on Jan 15, 2010, from David Atherton, now the town manager of Brandon.

“We saw the bank close in town and we figured that was the writing on the wall,” Atherton said. “We carried on until we couldn’t any more.”

Atherton said it was difficult running a store when big box stores were popping up and offering significantly lower prices on basic essentials.

“You can go to Walmart and buy a jar of mayonnaise for $1.99, and we pay more than that from our distributors,” he said. “I used to call Thomas Dairy and ask them why we couldn’t get the same price deals as Walmart. That was tough.”

Atherton said the store was a hub for locals who would come in for coffee in the morning, for lunches and for freshly-cut meats to take home for dinner. The locals, Atherton said, were what kept the store there as long as it was.

“That town needs a store,” Atherton said. “That town has had a lot of ups and downs just like Brandon has, and they really need a store.”

Interim Town Clerk Mary Dahlin said she’s been going to the store since she was a young girl. The old store once carried sneakers, jeans and winter boots, had a deli counter, and even had a gas station back then, she said.

“Sixty years ago, this town was really unique,” said Dahlin. “They had four other stores in town. And they all made a living.”

The state certificate of no-redemption indicates the foreclosure was finalized on March 12. The property, which measures 1,536 square feet and includes a three-bedroom apartment on 1.2 acres of land, will be auctioned off by the Thomas Hirchak Company.