Seventy-Five Years of Family Ownership
I was five when my parents opened The Vermont Country Store in 1946. We lived on the village green, I attended the two-room school across the street, with the store on the third side of the green and the Weston Playhouse on the fourth. Weston is a picture-postcard village of 600 where we children were free-range, roaming the surrounding farmland, fishing in the river, and skiing on a pastured hill with a rope tow.
A family business involves family work and that I did alongside my father Vrest and mother Mildred. He had the vision along with printing presses in the garage on which he published our early catalogs. Mildred was the bookkeeper and taught me to use the adding machine for incoming mail-order checks.
My grandfather (Gardner Lyman Orton) was the miller in Weston’s stone gristmill, and we sold whole grains when the country was shifting to store-bought white bread. Mildred somehow found time to create recipes on our wood-burning kitchen range and write Cooking with Wholegrains in 1947.
I waited on customers, adding up their purchases on a 19th-century school slate and got good at that. I learned when a customer gave a look that questioned my addition to turn the slate around and invite them to check it. Few did.
I continued my parents’ dream in their honor as my lifetime work, following my own desires of how I would like to be treated as a customer and that worked out great. If you have had the pleasure to talk with our folks on the phone, digitally, or in our stores, you know firsthand what I mean.
Today my three sons, Cabot, Gardner, and Eliot, form the continuum of our Orton family business and what that means to our customers and all the Vermonters who make the place run “on time” as one might say. I couldn’t be more satisfied with my life or prouder of my sons for looking to the future on the 75th anniversary of The Vermont Country Store.
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