by Eliot Orton, Proprietor, The Vermont Country Store
Our grandfather Vrest Orton was a 7th generation Vermonter. He was hard-working, practical, frugal, and determined. Before he started The Vermont Country Store in 1946, he thought long and hard about what types of products he would stock the shelves with, and more importantly, taking customers back to a time forgotten.
Vrest was not interested in fads or trends, however he was interested in how things were made and the people that made them. He would research an item in his home until he was an expert and then he would sell only the best item for the job it was intended. Just because something was available, didn’t mean he had to own it. And if something wasn’t broken, why in the world would you want to replace it? So first, he thought of the kinds of things he and his family needed; then, he asked his neighbors. From there, he traveled far and wide to find products he believed would satisfy and delight his customers. The items he would offer had to be practical, hard-to-find, and of the highest quality.
Over 68 years later, as fourth- and fifth-generation family storekeepers, we continue the tradition of stocking our shelves with products we believe will satisfy and delight our customers. Every item we sell must serve a practical purpose, solve a problem, and be of long-lasting quality. If you can find it in most any department store or catalog, then you won’t find it in our store, catalog, or on our website.
And we still listen very closely to our customers. The vast majority of our products are customer requests, like Lemon Up and Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoos, the Princess telephone, Evening in Paris Eau de Parfum, and Tangee Lipstick, to name just a few.
Every now and then we get a nice letter or email thanking us for carrying a particular “retro” item. This makes us smile, because nothing pleases us more than satisfying a customer. But in reality, at The Vermont Country Store, we are not in the retro business. Never have been, and never will be.
Let me explain. Retro is a trend that comes and goes every decade or so. Basically a retro item is a modern knock-off, usually a cheap reproduction of a once-popular product. They may look like the original, but they just don’t pass muster on our memories of the old favorite. Retro fails to satisfy for a number of reasons, including poor quality, craftsmanship, or in the case of perfumes and foods, the formulation and recipe have probably been changed to lower costs and for the convenience of mass production.
On the other hand, shoppers often compliment us on our tremendous variety of old-fashioned, back-to-basics, saying things like, “This chenille bedspread brings back happy memories of spending time at Grandma’s house.” And, “This is the exact same Bonomo Turkish Taffy I loved when I was a kid!”
In my opinion, such customers have hit the nail on the head! Therein lies one of the most significant differences between retro mass production and our line of goods and wares: Retro merely superficially satisfies; much deeper emotional satisfaction is experienced when all the authentic qualities we remember are present. I am not satisfied with “All Show and No Go!”
Some folks have said that The Vermont Country Store is in the business of selling nostalgia. Well, if nostalgia is practical, solves a problem, is hard-to-find and of the highest quality, then I guess we are, and we wouldn’t have it any other way!