By RUSSELL JONES
After nearly two years without a store in town, Proctor will soon have a place to shop for essentials, lunch, and even beer. The Market on West Street was purchased last year and the new owners have been busy.
They hope to have everything residents need in Proctor, a town that once was a vibrant hub of the state’s marble industry. After months of cleaning, building and remodeling the couple will be throwing open the doors to welcome a town that has already welcomed them.
“It was really a mess,” Jennifer Curtis said of the Market on West Street when she and her husband, Chris, bought the business for $80,000 at auction a year ago. “The floors were black and there was dust and dirt on every surface.”
This Memorial Day will mark one year since the couple closed on the deal to purchase the building, and a year in which they have grown to connect, or reconnect, to the area.
“I love this town,” Jennifer, who has a background in restaurants and nursing, said. “It’s just so beautiful.”
After a year of hard work, seven months of which they drove up from Connecticut every weekend to work, the Curtis’ are almost ready to unveil the fruits of their labor.
They’ve sanded and polished the floors, removing the black grime that had built up over nearly 80 years of wear and now leaving a buffed wooden floor that exudes the feeling of an old-time general store.
“There were a couple spots that I probably should have pulled up and replaced,” Chris said, choking up as he points out a small dark board near the door. “I just couldn’t because my whole family walked across these floors at some point in the past.”
While it’s true that both he and Jennifer were born in Connecticut, Chris has deep ties to the small Vermont marble town.
His father was from Proctor before moving to Connecticut for work, eventually moving back in his later years. Chris’ second cousin, Frank LaPenna, formerly owned the Market on West Street.
“Everyone loved Frank,” Chris said. “Whenever anyone talks about the history of the store, they always mention Frank.”
Chris’ aunts, uncles and cousins are still spread widely across the region. In fact, his cousin Ben is a member of the Proctor Selectboard, and Ben’s mother, Chris’ aunt Gail, is a member of the Quarry Valley school board.
“If it weren’t for Gail, we wouldn’t be here now,” Jennifer said. “She called and told us about the store and said, ‘You absolutely have to see this place.’”
After remodeling the apartment upstairs so they could live there, the couple got to work on the store.
The Curtis’ filled three 30-yard dumpsters with trash they removed after buying the place. The only thing they kept was a butcher block that was used by LaPenna, everything else inside the store is new.
With new fixtures and paint, along with all the other work they’ve done, the couple, who are in their mid-50s, are just a few days away from opening, but need to hold off for a few more days.
“We don’t want to give a firm date just yet,” Jennifer said, because they are still waiting for all their products to arrive, but she did offer this hint: “We will be open before Memorial Day, though.”
WHAT TO EXPECT
Chris, whose friends call him ‘The Soup Guy’, has always loved cooking. Working in landscaping for 33 years, Chris said he enjoys the preparation and the process that goes into making a good soup.
“I would order soup even on a hot day,” he said. “I would find a good soup and ask them how they made it and use that as inspiration for my own.”
For opening day, Chris will feature his lasagna soup, although he said he also makes a great stuffed pepper soup, among others.
“I know I’m biased but he really does make the best soup,” Jennifer said. “I’m not just saying that because I’m his wife, they’re really that good.”
The Market on West Street will have soup on the menu every day, as well as daily specials and sandwiches.
“We’ll have Boars Head deli meats for the sandwiches and everything we make will be fresh,” Chris said.
“I bake my own bread and sweets,” Jennifer added, showing off her new convection oven.
The store will also have a full selection of products, including beer, wine and tobacco as well as lottery tickets.
“We are even going to have fishing gear and worms,” Chris said, “and automotive supplies.”
Jennifer said she has heard a lot of excitement from people around town, ready for the store to be open. There is no general store in Proctor at the moment, so residents have to drive into Pittsford or Rutland to buy anything they need.
“We just want to be the local store that supports the town,” Jennifer said. “Sometimes it just takes a little spark, like having a store, that can revive a town a little.”