Owner Jason Clark. Courtesy photo.
Written by Amanda Kunert The Elmore Store has been the heart of the small country town of Elmore for centuries. Built in the early 1800s, this white clapboard building is where residents go to get a gallon of milk, pick up their mail, and socialize with neighbors.
However, in 2020, the area staple was on the verge of closing as its owners decided to sell after 36 years in business.
Thankfully, a group of community members stepped in to save the store. They formed the Elmore Community Trust and purchased the building with the intention of renting out his ground floor store and post office space along with two additional apartments.
Jason Clark, who moved to Elmore in 2011 and lives just down the road from the store, thought he would apply for a position managing the business after switching to community ownership.
But while he was running the kitchen at the Trapp Family Lodge Beer Hall at the time, he wasn't ready to take action yet. A year later, when his first manager quit, Clark submitted an application.
“When the opportunity came to take the reins of the store, the timing felt right,” he said. “I had never run a grocery store, but I had restaurant experience.”
Clark has been involved in the world of cooking and hospitality all his life. He grew up on a farm in the neighboring town of Hyde Park, where he helped his parents run their agritourism business.
He then earned a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University and then completed a graduate program in Hospitality Management at Northern Vermont University, now part of Vermont State University.
For the next 30 years, he ran his own catering company and managed the kitchens of several well-known restaurants in the Stowe area.
Know when to ask for help
Although Clark had extensive work experience to succeed in his new role, he recognized the need for business advice during the transition. So he contacted the Vermont Small Business Development Center and began working with his longtime advisor, Charlie Inninger. They worked together to form Clark's legal entity and negotiate leases and equipment purchases.
Meanwhile, the Trust was raising money for much-needed updates to the building.
“They put in a new septic system and switched out the heating,” Clark said. “Kitchen renovations are underway and some indoor seating has been installed as well.”
These renovations will help Clark achieve his goal of expanding the store's prepared food selection.
“We’ve restructured our deli hours and added grab-and-go options like pot pies and mac and cheese,” he said.
He is also working on expanding his pizza business. The restaurant currently serves pizza Thursday through Saturday.
The Elmore store is open seven days a week. For more information, visit the store's Facebook page. facebook.com/theelmorestore