2018-05-17 / Front Page

Newcomer to Northfield

Spring Changes at Falls General Store
Elaine Stehel

Photo by Elaine Stehel

Justin, Nico, and Colin peruse the new Spring Menu at the Falls General StorePhoto by Elaine Stehel Justin, Nico, and Colin peruse the new Spring Menu at the Falls General StoreI ask Vince, co-owner, chef, and baker at Falls General Store (FGS) at 7 Cox Brook Rd. in Northfield, what he loves about this place, what he wants FGS to be, and he doesn’t hesitate to sum it all up in a single word, “Community.”
Every staff member I speak with during one of my morning shifts shares the same refrain. “What do you love about working here?” I ask, or, “What is your favorite thing about this place?” Everyone, without fail, mentions the customers, the people, the staff, this community together. We work here because we love Northfield, Vermont, and the people here.
“It is complicated to run a store with this many operations,” says Norma, co-owner, yogi, and all-around FGS chaos-manager. From slow-cooked table foods to deli prepared sandwiches and salads, bakery items, smoothies, espresso drinks, boutique wines and a full general market, each department requires labor to operate and constant attention to seasonal changes. 
Each time FGS changes with the seasons, they offer new and exciting menu items as well as unique grocery items that are hard to find elsewhere. They also take every opportunity to grow and contribute to this local economy by supporting local farms, vendors, and businesses. “In this store, you’ll not only find something healthy and delicious to eat,” Norma explains passionately, “you’ll also get a welcoming smile and sense that community happens here!”
I see these FGS values in action this Spring, as Norma and Vince bustle around the store, in front of and behind the service counter, in and out of the kitchen. They smile and greet customers and friends, taking and making food to order, while simultaneously tutoring and mentoring staff as they demonstrate, for example, the perfect way to dress a Health Salad with roasted walnuts, goat cheese, and dried cranberries, topped with sliced apples dipped in lemon juice.
“We’re always looking for new ideas, for ways to keep our menu healthy and interesting,” Norma says when asked about the Spring Menu, which includes new, personal-sized pizzas, as well as a wide variety of sandwiches and salads - she and Vince are pictured here following a rush of lunch customers, enjoying the new Arugula & Radicchio Salad with grilled chicken. 
Lilah works day in and day out to help everything run smoothly at FGS, from working with local producers and vendors to keeping an eclectic array of healthy and delicious food available for locals and tourists alike to enjoy; to taking, making, and serving food orders during breakfast and lunch rushes; and deciding which items are placed on sale - stop by the store to check out amazing sale items every week! 
While she certainly loves working with the vendors and customers, Lilah also raves about the food served at FGS. “No matter what mood I’m in, every day I’m here, there’s something real and delicious to choose from the menu, we have something for everyone.” 
Heather keeps the FGS Bakery Case well-stocked with incredibly delicious pastries, cookies, and cakes - when asked what she loves best about working here, she insists, “I can’t choose only one thing! I love everything about working here. Vince and Norma … they’re wonderful. The customers, the real food, everything.” The peanut butter cookie ranks high on her all-time favorite bakery staple to enjoy, while her favorite items to make are the fresh baguettes.
Katie is a recent transplant to Vermont from Wisconsin, and she describes how she stumbled upon FGS shortly after moving here: “I came in to get a sandwich, and thought it was the cutest place in the world!” Then, once she began working here, she came to love the place even more: “I love the atmosphere, the people are the nicest, which is refreshing.”
These refreshingly kind people who frequent FGS are those who have recently moved to the area, those who are traveling past to see the three Covered Bridges on Cox Brook Rd., as well as those who were born and raised in Northfield, like Elaine Buck, who stopped by last week with her husband, George (Skip). He happened to work at the butcher’s counter at Neun’s IGA in the 1960’s, long before Vince and Norma renovated this building into what is now Falls General Store. Skip recalls operating his own meat counter in the same spot for a couple of years when Neun’s was sold to another owner, reflecting on the many changes that have transpired in this space.
The only thing that remains the same, is change, they say, and Northfield is nothing if not changing. As the town and village continue to fully merge in culture and operation, as residents continue stopping inside FGS for the first time since they opened their new doors three and a half years ago, as new people move to town, and the world catches on to the natural beauty and magnetism of Central Vermont - changes will continue to unfold, and to interweave their new patterns into the weathered and strong fabric of this place.
“Now that Spring and Summer are upon us, we keep shifting with the seasons, working with local farmers and producers to bring fresh, seasonal produce and new products to our shelves.” Norma also mentions that she and her store manager recently attended the National Associated Food Show, where they sampled and chose a number of new and exciting food items to offer this Spring. 
The FGS Creemee Machine is now up and running, featuring delicious chocolate and maple creemees from Wilcox Farm of Vermont. Try an espresso or root-beer float, “made with extra love,” the next time you stop by for a canoli or maple pecan tart. Bring your kids by for an afternoon snack, or call in your pizza order to pick up before 5 or 6 p.m. 
Make FGS a regular part of your daily and weekly routine, embracing the changes that show how devoted this place is - not to remaining the same, or never changing, but to keeping us all awake and aware of the rhythmic seasonal changes in our lives. From new wines and coffees, to tried-and-true favorites, you’ll find everything you’re looking for at FGS - and, we hope, a few surprises. 
As Norma knows, “This is not just a place where you can come to eat, this is a place where you can come and rest your soul.”
Disclaimer: Elaine has been employed by Falls General Store since July, 2017. This article was not written at the request of FGS owners or employees, though the owners, and some employees and customers, were interviewed for the piece. Views contained herein are Elaine’s alone, and Falls General Store did not pay or compensate her for the article.

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