Monkton residents help local store pay down $20K debt

MONKTON — One week after they approved budgets, elected local leaders and attended to other details of our democracy, Addison County residents, especially in Monkton, came out in droves to do a little more voting — this time with their wallets.
There was only one issue on the ballot: Does the community want the Monkton General Store (MGS) to stick around?
“As many know, small general stores in our state are struggling to (stay) open,” wrote MGS owners Darcee and Sam Alderman on Facebook last Wednesday. “Unfortunately, at this time, we are one of them.”
So they asked the community for assistance.
“We have three days to increase our revenues significantly in order to stay open,” they continued. “We are asking everyone to please help us. If we cannot come up with the money needed, we will be forced to close our doors permanently on Saturday night.”
At issue was more than $90,000 in sales tax and bottle deposits that the business still owed the state. According to Darcee Alderman, the Vermont Department of Taxes notified MGS that it had five days to come up with $20,000.
A torrent of online support and encouragement ensued.
“I can’t imagine Monkton without MGS,” wrote selectboard member John McNerney. “They do a lot for this community, sometimes putting the community ahead of the business.”
The flash fund-raising campaign also drew some out-of-towners.
“We drove from Montpelier to support you, and will trek over more often now!” wrote Stefanie J. Pinard.
Cathy Miller remembered a freezing cold day when, with her young daughter in the car, she stopped in at MGS to get gas, only to discover she’d left her debit card at home.
“I would not have made it home (except that) they let me fill my tank and come back and pay two hours later,” she wrote. “This is the difference between a chain and a small-town store.”
On Friday, MGS employee Liz Stokes started a GoFundMe campaign.
“Darcee and Sam have done great for the past 11 years running this place and deserve a fighting chance to keep (it) going,” she wrote. “So come help keep MGS open — as a community we can do this! Every little bit helps.”
At press time the campaign had raised more than $8,000.
On Saturday morning customers swarmed the store, clustering around the deli, telling stories, waiting patiently in line. A metal bucket at the front checkout counter overflowed with tens and twenties.
Several baskets of Darcee’s homemade specialty chocolates had been cleaned out.
By midday MGS had met its $20,000 goal.
“There were droves of people coming in, and the phones just kept ringing. People were coming in from everywhere,” the Aldermans wrote on Facebook the next day. “Without everyone who gave on the GoFundMe page, shopped in the store or online, the doors of our beloved store would not open tomorrow or ever again.”
By Monday the store’s shelves were essentially empty, Darcee Alderman toldthe Independent.
“All of our employees stayed and helped me this weekend,” Alderman said. “There was no way I could have done it alone.”
It will take a week or so to restock the store and get things “back to where they need to be,” she predicted.
But Alderman was thinking not only about the future of her own business, but also about the viability of all Vermont general stores.
“It’s not just us,” she said. “We’re shutting down left and right.”
As grateful and relieved as she was, Alderman expressed frustration with what she saw as an unfair retail playing field.
“We’re here trying to make life easier for small towns, but I feel like we’re on our own,” she said. “We work our butts off. It would be nice if the state could do something to help.”
She was especially infuriated, she said, by the system of volume discounts leveraged by large corporations, which aren’t available to mom-and-pop shops like hers.
Still, she said, she’s planning for future success.
Eventually she’d like to secure a wholesale license for her side business, Alderman’s of Vermont Chocolate Candy Confections, which would allow her to distribute her products to other retailers. Some of those retailers have already made inquiries, she said.
“Having that license would help us tremendously,” she said.
In the meantime, MGS will focus on meeting the community’s needs.
“Want to keep up with what the community needs,” she said. “But in order to do that, I need to know what they want.”
Sometimes, it turns out, what the community needs is a reminder.
“People told us that,” Alderman said. “They said, ‘We just needed a reminder to come in.’”
As a result of that reminder, and much more, MGS was able to close another of its Facebook updates on Sunday with the following simple phrase:
“See you TOMORROW!!!!”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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