This Place in History: Pierce’s Store

Vermont Historical Society

NORTHAM, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in Northam with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“First of all, if people aren’t quite sure where this is, it’s within the town of Shrewsbury. It’s a great little village. We’re at Pierce’s General Store. We’re going to talk to Sally Deinzer about how it went from being a family-owned business to a great community cooperative,” began Perkins.

“1865 was the first store and it was opened by Nathaniel Jones Aldrich. The Aldrich family, I believe, was from Plymouth, just over the hill here. He was the owner just for a year or so. Then, Willard Guild, who was a cousin of Aldrich, ran it then for 10 or 11 years,” explained Deinzer.

“Willy and Gertrude Pierce, who were Aldrich relatives, bought the store and started the Pierce Store for the bulk of the 20th Century. Two generations of the Pierce family ran it. Mom and Dad, Willy and Gertrude; and then they had a total of five children, at least three of whom, and finally two of whom, were involved in the actual operation of the store.”

“In 1993, when Marjorie, who was the remaining family member, turned 90, she said, ‘I’ve done this long enough’. Before she actually closed the store, she had twisted the arm of the Preservation Trust to take ownership of this property when [she] died. To sweeten the pot, she provided some funds to update the infrastructure, new plumbing, new electric, the roof and so forth and so on. And she said, ‘I want you to find someone to reopen the store as a store, not a museum. I want it to serve the community’,” explained Deinzer.

“At the end of 2007, they sent out a request for proposals. They advertised in The Boston Globe, The New York Times and locally, of course, to try to get people to come forward.”

“A group of Shrewsbury residents, I was one of them, [agreed to] form a co-op. It took a little bit of negotiating to convince the group of us that it was worth the risk and that we could do this. It took us about a year to open the door.”

“In our original business plan, we talked about sustainability on a local level and to be able to meet needs locally, if the road is out or something worse than that happens, and that was true during COVID. The second reason is that community feeling. [It’s] a center of information, a center of just putting a heart into the community,” concluded Deinzer.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

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