Small City Market soon to be bigger

VERGENNES — By September the Small City Market should be a lot bigger.
On March 8, Cory and Hilary Foote, the Weybridge residents who for 12 years have owned the Vergennes store at the intersection of South Water and Main streets, received a Development Review Board permit to put up a new building to house their business — right across the street from their existing shop.
Construction should start probably in late April or early May. The new one-and-a-half-story building will have a footprint of 2,800 square feet, plus another 1,000 square feet of basement storage. It will stand on the 0.2-acre lot that has been the home of LeBeau & O’Brien Inc., replacing the existing gas station.
Critically for the Footes, they have been operating out of a leased basement slot that, including storage, measures at 1,175 square feet.
“For three years now, we’ve noticed our business staying flat, not just because of the economy, but we’ve out-grown our space,” Cory Foote said.
The Footes are also looking forward to having more room for their customers and 10 employees to operate.
“Just having a store (layout) that is customer-friendly is so new,” Hilary said. “The functionality of the space is really inviting.”
Even entering the store will be easier. The Small City Market’s current entrance gives a new meaning to the term “low overhead,” a problem the new store will solve.
“No one will hit their heads,” Hilary said.
Cory Foote said some current customers simply must be careful on the way in.
“That’s a standing joke. If you’re 5-11, you have to duck,” he said.
But more room for inventory and coolers will be the more critical element for the couple, who are in their mid-40s.
“All of the categories we’re offering at the current store, we’re looking to expand,” Cory said.
Those goods include coffee, wine, beer, hot and cold sandwiches, non-alcoholic beverages, snacks and candy, and probably more baked goods.
They will continue to put some groceries on their shelves, although they said it has become increasingly difficult to find suppliers for groceries for smaller markets. Cory said the times have pushed them more toward being a convenience store.
“There’s no question we consider ourselves still a small market, however we are going in that direction,” he said.
More shelving space, especially in coolers, will allow them to better compete as a convenience store. Many now feature what is known in the trade as a “beer cave” — a large, customer-friendly walk-in cooler with oversize shelving to handle larger, modern beverage packs. Small City Market will offer one.
They also plan to keep their deli open longer hours, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., almost as long as the store’s 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. hours.
Before they could get down to those details, they needed their permit. That process required working out parking. Aldermen agreed last month to allow them to move the sidewalk on the west side of South Water Street, a change that allowed four spots to be created.
Another four spots will count from another important new feature of the Footes’ business: a Mobil gas island out front that they believe will be an important element in luring customers.
The final seven parking spots will be out back. Customers who park there will have to walk out front and up 11 shallow, covered steps to reach the entrance, and the Footes hope their clients will be willing to do so.
They were happy with aldermen and DRB members throughout the permit process.
“The city of Vergennes was just extremely willing to look at what we thought was a well-planned project … and view it really optimistically,” Cory said.
The Footes said they tried to be sensitive to the look of the area in designing the building, which will be put up by Naylor and Breen Builders. Red clapboards will cover its sides, and a cupola will crown it.
“We obviously have to be concerned with our budget. But … we wanted to do something that showed a little character,” Cory said. “We wanted to build something that would fit in the cityscape and with the values of the Vergennes people.”
They also said they appreciated the values of one resident — Phil O’Brien, from whom they bought the LeBeau & O’Brien property from him in December.
The Footes said O’Brien was always helpful, and also never minded people parking at his business to go to their market, or running next door while they were getting a fill-up. 
“We almost felt we needed to do this when Phil announced his retirement. We felt we had the benefits of offering gas to our customers without the headaches of having to manage it,” Cory said. “Truly, Phil O’Brien was great, a very loyal and great neighbor who complemented what we were trying to do.”
The Footes don’t pledge to stay on until they retire, but have no plans to move on anytime soon.
 “I see us doing this for several more years to come,” Cory said. “This is a long-term investment.”
Reporter Andy Kirkaldy is at [email protected].

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