WHY WE NEED TO SAVE THE STORE AT FIVE CORNERS
As you travel North on Route 7 or East on Route 43, suddenly you see a stunning, stately vision of the past and present, standing proudly as the gateway to the “Village Beautiful”, Williamstown, MA.
The Store at Five Corners is an historical building that had served the people in this community for over 239 years, until it closed for the first time in 2011. Until then, it was one of the longest continuously operating stores in our country’s history.
The Store started as a place to meet and connect with friends and neighbors while enjoying some refreshment. That is what it continued to be until it closed. Until its very recent purchase by a new non-profit organization, the Store had remained unprotected from development, decay, and even demolition.
The Store is a community treasure. It is the heart, the centerpiece, of South Williamstown. But now, closed, it is depressing every time we all drive by. Do you feel it? The loss is real.
The residents of Williamstown, tourists visiting the region, and people working in the area all want the Store to be revived. A survey sent to 160 households received 131 responses in 5 days! The results are compelling. The survey results and many of the comments can be seen at https://storeatfivecorners.org/why/survey-results/.
There are several reasons why the Store needs to reopen. It offers:
- the convenience of picking up last minute items such as wine, milk or bread
- a welcoming place for sharing a coffee, buying a sandwich, breakfast or lunch
- an opportunity for connection and community with neighbors, friends, and business associates
- a lovely venue for community-wide events, a hub for the South Williamstown community
- employment opportunities (many locals have worked behind the Store’s counter)
- an avenue for local producers to reach local consumers, thus contributing to the regional economy
The Store at Five Corners Stewardship Association, Inc. (the Stewardship Association) was recently formed as a non-profit entity for the sole purpose of purchasing, protecting and maintaining the Store. The Stewardship Association has a dedicated Board of Directors, all from the community, who are working tirelessly to revive the Store and leave a legacy for future generations to enjoy. The structural elements are all in place: the new corporate entity with its own filings with the Commonwealth and governing bylaws, and an agreement for fiscal sponsorship with the South Williamstown Community Association – already a federally recognized 501(c)(3) entity.
On January 27th, the Stewardship Association purchased the Store for $400,000 and immediately set to work on high priority projects to preserve and enhance the structure, such as improvements to the basement, foundation, attic, perimeter, stairs, deck, and handicap ramp.
The Stewardship Association is an all-volunteer entity: no one has been or will be taking a salary or fees. It will lease the Store to a lessee/operator (Operator) who will bring new life to the Store and run it as their own independent business. The Association will work with the Operator around a model to include a café, sundries, gifts, and staples for tourists and community members.
The Stewardship Association foresees a lease amount that will just cover its basic carrying costs, so that the Operator will have the best chance of success. The Association’s Board has already started a search for an Operator and has released its Operator Application Packet – see https://storeatfivecorners.org/application/. Interested applicants are requested to submit their materials by March 1st.
The Store includes the building and the land immediately around it, but not the playground or buildings (barns, house, former farm store), or any of the approximately 200 acres of farmland already protected against development under the state’s APR program. There is parking in front of the Store and options to add parking spaces on the Route 43 side and in the back.
In the past several weeks, the Stewardship Association raised sufficient funds to cover the purchase price, and is now embarking on additional efforts to reach its overall fundraising goal of $1.2 million – $1.5 million to fund capital improvements, repairs, and maintenance and to establish an endowment that will ensure the Store’s long-term sustainability.
The Stewardship Association is seeking public support for its efforts through a Community Preservation Act grant of $50,000 to be decided upon by voters at the Annual Town Meeting in May. The remaining funds will have to be raised by donations. Donations are considered eligible for a charitable tax deduction under section 501(c)(3), consistent with the rules and regulations of the IRS.
The Stewardship Association will need our community here and beyond to be as generous as possible in order to bring the Store back to life. We need you now.
You might ask yourself, can we afford to save the Store at Five Corners? We would suggest an even more pressing question would be, can we afford not to?