The principal elements of this project’s history before 2011:
a. A group of citizens forms, committed to bringing a store/café to Peacham;
b. The group is formalized under the existing non-profit Peacham Community Housing, Inc. (PCH);
c. Preservation Trust of Vermont (PTV) agrees to assist financially if the store/cafe involves a historic building;
d. PCH identifies a town-owned historic building in the village center;
e. At Town Meeting, residents vote for the town to sell the building to PCH for $1;
f. PTV provides matching funds to do a structural analysis; and
g. Vermont Community Foundation provides grant for architectural design.
In 2011, PCH created the Peacham Café LLC to raise funds to restore the 20- by 40-foot building, outfit it for a café/store, and find an operator. The LLC hired a crew from the St. Johnsbury Detention Center to demolish and renovate the interior using original materials where possible, and restore the exterior to resemble its early 20th century façade, when it had been a store. The crew helped install radiant heating and built a kitchen, bathroom, and dining area on the main floor, plus a mezzanine for additional seating. LLC members and other residents brought special talents and worked as a team. With engineers, they found a location for a mound wastewater system and worked with local landowners to get easements for its installation. They issued a Request for Proposals and hired a candidate to operate the café/store.
Encouraged by PTV’s financial assistance, the LLC created a business plan, with an object of raising the remaining budget of $120,000 in a town of barely 700 people. Local benefactors donated $25,000 for a successful challenge grant that got remaining fundraising underway. USDA awarded a Rural Development Grant.
The doors opened in 2014 under the operation of Ariel Zevon, a local professional chef, and with much promotion. In 2016, Crystal Lapierre took over operation, and, working with her twin sister Shannon Pelletier, has transformed the café into a restaurant that is open six days a week (five in winter), provides breakfast and lunch, bakery products, prepared foods, limited grocery items, and occasional dinners. There is pleasant outdoor seating on the front porch and patio. An LLC member oversees a mezzanine art gallery that adds to the attractive decor. The operator pays rent, which covers only basic building and maintenance expenses – there is no mortgage.
The café is a vital meeting place for residents and a critical element in town cultural events, hosting musical programs; art classes; committee meetings; and reading, language and other social groups. The friendly, bustling atmosphere testifies to the role that a gathering place can play in a rural Vermont town. It demonstrates the value of community support to make such a place financially viable. Peacham Café LLC, Peacham Community Housing, Peacham community, PTV and Café operators deserve recognition for this success.