Buxton’s Store in Orwell to expand offerings
ORWELL — In early 2017 when Andy Buxton became the second generation to run Orwell’s Buxton’s Store, he said he planned to “amp up the deli and meat collection,” become a “destination craft beer and wine store,” and expand its pre-prepared food offerings.
About two-and-a-half years later Buxton has successfully checked those items off the list, and he said, exceeded the store’s financial projections by expanding catering as well.
“We’ve stuck with the business plan. We’ve created a Vermont craft beer area, craft beer and wine and cider, and that’s been successful,” Buxton said. “We’ve grown sales in the meat department. We’ve grown sales in local produce, produce and dairy in general.”
Now he’s ready for an even bigger step by adding the commercial kitchen he also spoke about back in January 2017, plus installing a bonus — an ice cream window.
On this past Wednesday Buxton took a $75,000 loan from the First National Bank of Orwell that will allow renovation of a room in the front left of the store, behind its handicap access ramp, into a space that will allow for a small, but fully functional kitchen, plus a food service counter that will open to the interior.
It will also include an ice cream freezer, cash register and service window that will open onto the store’s covered front porch.
“It’s going down to the post and beam, and we’re going to start with new floors, new walls, new equipment, everything. So this room will be brand new,” Buxton said. “It will be a perfect spot to serve food out of.”
The space had hosted the store’s regular group of morning coffee drinkers, an important function for Buxton’s Store and the community that the business has made sure to accommodate with a table strategically placed not far from the coffee pots.
“They’ve been happy with that little corner,” Buxton said.
In the front space, by late July or early August, they will install a convection oven, fryolator, grill, griddle, sandwich table and ventilation system behind the service counter. That kitchen will allow Buxton, a working chef before he bought the store, to offer a varied menu.
He hopes his fare will appeal to “parents, grandparents, people on the run who are on the go. With the menu we’ll be focusing on all the demographics, from a small kids’ menu with hot dogs and chicken tenders to flatbread pizzas with custom pizzas. We’re going to have a burger menu. I’m going to work with (Orwell’s) Stonewood Farm to have a turkey burger on the menu.”
To start with, the to-go food will be offered from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, but more days could be added.
“If we find there’s a huge demand for it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then we’ll change our program around and go from there,” he said.
By October, Buxton hopes to add more entrees, such as steak and fries, fish and chips, and shepherd’s pie, and possibly more creative dishes.
“And if anyone knows me, I’m not one to be super-traditional on things. There’s always a little bit of a twist,” he said.
Ice cream service will appear sooner — the target date is the Fourth of July weekend. Buxton’s will offer products from Grand Isle’s Island Ice Cream and Sunderland’s Wilcox Ice Cream, four flavors from each company. As well as standards such as vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream and chocolate chip, Buxton plans to experiment with other flavors or even gelato seven days a week during the evening hours.
BUXTON’S STORE OWNER Andy Buxton shows off the space that will house a small, but fully equipped commercial kitchen in his Orwell business. By later this summer the store will offer, for the first time, a full takeout menu and an ice cream window.
Independent photo/Andy Kirkaldy
The additions to Buxton’s offerings will add up to four more full- or part-time employees to the store’s current roster of three full-time and 15 part-time workers.
When the food service is ready, there will be room for a few diners to enjoy their meals onsite. The coffee table is clear by the evening, and another three seats are available near the front of the store. In warmer weather Buxton’s will put out folding chairs and tables outside, and there are a couple chairs on the covered porch.
Buxton foresees a market of in-town residents who commute to work elsewhere; Shoreham residents who commute southward to Fair Haven; travelers on Routes 22A, 74 and even 30; and summer visitors, many of whom are already familiar with Orwell’s Main Street fixture.
“During the season, early May through mid-September, we’ve got three marinas in town that host numerous amounts of tourists. So (we want) to be able to put flyers down there and gravitate people,” he said.
Eventually Buxton would like to expand the operation into a bigger back room, but he believed a smaller risk to test the waters was wiser.
“My goal is to start out small and in control, but obviously I want to grow that program,” he said.
The early word-of-mouth and social media response suggested the degree of risk might not be too large.
“There’s a lot of talk about it. People are very, very excited since I broke the news about it last night on Facebook,” Buxton said. “We’ve had lots and lots of response.”
Overall, Buxton said he has no regrets about taking over the business and building, which serves as home to his family — wife Mary and their two young children. He bought Buxton’s from Doug Edwards, who ran it for a decade after Buxton’s grandparents, Dick and Thelma Buxton, owned and operated it for 40 years.
Buxton acknowledged he at times feels the stress of business ownership, but said the pluses far outweigh the minuses.
“I’m very happy where I am. The advantage to owning your own business and living in your own business is for me I get to wake up every morning and have breakfast with my family. And I get to have dinner with my family,” he said. “And, yeah, I might have to work seven days in between there, but that’s a fair trade-off. If I’m in the store and they need me, they can come out. And if I’m in the store and I haven’t seen them in an hour, I can go in and say hi.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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