×

Bernardston Farmers Supply closing at year’s end

  • Erick Alvarado, right, holds the hatch door open for Bernardston Farmers Supply Manager Vicki L’Abbee as she loads llama grain and horse feed for customer Hector Buxo on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 at 43 River St. in Bernardston. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Bernardston Farmers Supply Manager Vicki L’Abbee loads up horse feed at the store on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 at 43 River St. in Bernardston. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Bernardston Farmers Supply Manager Vicki L’Abbee on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 at 43 River St. in Bernardston. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • The Bernardston Farmers Supply store on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 at 43 River St. in Bernardston. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • The Bernardston Farmers Supply store on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 at 43 River St. in Bernardston. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Bernardston Farmers Supply Manager Vicki L’Abbee loads up rice coal for a customer on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 at 43 River St. in Bernardston. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Bernardston Farmers Supply Manager Vicki L’Abbee loads up llama grain and horse feed for a customer on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 at 43 River St. in Bernardston. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • The Bernardston Farmers Supply store on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 at 43 River St. in Bernardston. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • The Bernardston Farmers Supply store on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 at 43 River St. in Bernardston. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

BERNARDSTON — John Wellman of Guilford, Vt. perused the wall of farm and garden tools, which was peppered with 40-percent-off clearance signs, and gathered as many as he thought he might need.

“I’ll probably never find these kinds of tools again,” Wellman said Wednesday.

The quality and durability of tools at Bernardston Farmers Supply, he said, can’t be matched by Wal-Mart or other chain stores. But Wellman will have to find an alternative. Bernardston Farmers Supply, at 43 River St., will be closing by year’s end, with the last day in operation being Dec. 30.

“You don’t see a happy person in here that it’s closing,” Wellman said, walking his tools up to the counter.

The thought of closing was a hard topic for Manager Vicki L’Abbee to talk about. The Bernardston location is one of three businesses owned by L’Abbee’s mother, Patricia Schoenberger, and uncle, Mike Grybko, along with Amherst Farmers Supply and The Fire Place stove store in Whately.

As of Jan. 1, the family is consolidating business to the Amherst and Whately locations, according to a letter L’Abbee presented to the Selectboard.

“Consolidation is what we’re doing to better ourselves (and) to be stronger,” L’Abbee explained to Wellman from behind the counter. “It’s tough out there.”

L’Abbee’s family bought the Bernardston location, known as the Bernardston grain mill, in 1995, expanding from the Amherst location that “has served the local community and surrounding towns as a fourth generation family business for 73 years,” the letter reads.

William Shores, a member of the Historical Commission, said the grain mill dates back well over a century and was one of the last rope-driven mills in New England before the construction of Interstate 91.

Following consolidation, the building will be up for sale, L’Abbee said. Feed, farm supplies, pet food and metal roofing and landscaping materials will be sold from the Amherst location only, and all Bernardston accounts will be handled from the Amherst business office, L’Abbee’s letter read.

Additionally, the family is negotiating for a larger facility next to The Fire Place, which opened in 2012, to accommodate a larger retail stove showroom and warehouse for stoves, stove pipes and stove parts. Wood pellets and coal will be available from both the Whately and Amherst locations.

Customers of Bernardston Farmers Supply, like Bernardston resident Paul Skiathitis, said they’ll be sad to see the business close.

“That’s a loss, a big loss,” Skiathitis said. “We’re going to miss it, big time.”

Skiathitis said he’s been a customer for “forever,” even back when it was still the grain mill. Having 25 acres to maintain, Skiathitis said he routinely goes to Bernardston Farmers Supply for fertilizer and gardening supplies, as well as Christmas gifts at this time of year.

“It’s nice to support people in town,” he said, adding that employees and customers know each other on a first name basis. “You tend to know people here.”

In fact, Skiathitis was one of the people who recommended Wellman check out Bernardston Farmers Supply back in 1999. The store allowed him to special order dog food for his kennel, Wellman’s Alaskan Huskies.

“I don’t even have to tell ’em what I want (and) they put the food in the car for me,” Wellman said.

Customers who place special orders can still pick up their products at Amherst Farmers Supply, L’Abbee said. She herself will balance working between the other two locations, and said Bernardston employees were offered employment at the other locations.

“They count on us and we don’t plan on disappearing,” L’Abbee said of her customers. “We just plan on bettering our business.”

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 257