Chapman’s Promotes Community With Coffee, Music, and More in Fairlee VT
And a call for “courageous kindness”
The Conniption Fits will perform at a free outdoor concert on August 7 at 4:00 pm at Chapman’s Place. It’s part of a reimagining of downtown Fairlee that is being spearheaded by Chapman’s General, and it includes a new spot to sip the likes of a Vermont maple latte.
Like many businesses in small towns, Chapman’s has a long history. Established in 1807, it began as a general store, became a family-owned pharmacy and eventually the Chapmans lived above the store. More recently, the store changed from a pharmacy to a gift shop; there is an entire room devoted to children’s toys. This spring, the reins passed to the newest Chapman generation as three cousins—all of whom have other careers—purchased the store.
One of the three, Barrett Chapman Brown, acknowledged the challenges of running a country store, an occupation filled with hard work, long hours, and sometimes little profit. But the store is important to his family and to the Fairlee community, and therefore the cousins “stepped up and are doubling down” to make the enterprise work.
While the general store remains the anchor, the owners have reached beyond to adjacent properties on both sides of Route 5, partnering with another Chapman cousin, Jonah Richard, and local community activist, Deecie M. Denison. In a small park-like lot directly across from the store itself is Chapman’s Elixirs, serving coffees and pastries and Goose and Willie’s bagels, with some casual outdoor seating under new umbrellas. At the other end of the lot is a new tent/concert venue where July 4th celebrations were held following the town’s annual parade. (In addition to their mercantile experience, many Chapmans have acquired the skill of stilt-walking.) Some art works dot the park, with plans for more to come.
Further projects are in the noodling stage. Chapman’s is considering community input as it ponders how to bring more of the arts and artists to its Fairlee properties. Currently, the general store has a nice selection of artisan jewelry, and pottery by Bruce Murray fills one window display. Both are just a few steps away from a fine selection of wines and a refrigerated case of fresh local produce.
Last week, vandalism occurred at Chapman’s Elixirs and tent (all repaired now). Chapman’s alerted the police and installed security cameras on the property. The incident was announced on the store’s Facebook page. In a moment of grace, Chapman’s called for a response of “courageous kindness.” Observing that a community needs to build the community it wants, Barrett Chapman Brown asked readers to respond to the vandalism with an “above-and-beyond” act of kindness toward someone. “Maybe it’s a wise word or appreciative comment . . . picking up a piece of trash, or helping someone get through a difficult situation or simply down the steps.”
If you’re thinking of attending the August 7 concert at Chapman’s Place, you can also indulge in the Town of Orford’s annual flea market on the town common just across the bridge (August 7 and 8). And along the adjacent strip of Route 10 is the weekends-only Rollin’ food truck, with fresh lobster rolls that are keeping the Upper Valley very happy.
(Thank you to Gordon Boddington for bringing this story to my attention.)
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.