Simon’s will be town’s first convenience store
By Greg Elias
Workers spread asphalt and stocked shelves last week, preparing to open St. George’s first convenience store.
Simon’s will give residents of the tiny town, population about 800, a place to shop without driving miles to Williston or Hinesburg. It will be the newest outlet in a regional chain of about a dozen stores owned by the Handy family doing business as Sisters and Brothers Investment Group LLP.
The 4,500-square-foot store on Vermont 2A will include four gas pumps and a Dunkin’ Donuts outlet, standard fare for other area convenience stores. But with a relatively generous amount of space, the store will cater to a town without a grocery store by also carrying some meat and produce.
“We’re not going to be a Hannaford or anything like that,” said Joe Handy, who likened the outlet to a country store. “But if there are (basic) items you need, we’ll have them.”
He expects the store to open within the next two weeks. The project has received most of its local and state permits. All that remains is final inspections and paving, landscaping and stocking the store.
The store generated controversy after it was proposed more than two years ago. The St. George Development Review Board approved the store but rejected a request to install a drive-up window for Dunkin’ Donuts.
The board was concerned about safety. St. George Villa, a mobile home park, is located across from the store, and the board was worried that a drive-up window would create more hazards for the many youths that will likely cross the thoroughfare to reach the store.
The Handy family appealed the decision, but later dropped the legal action amid concerns that it would create bad feelings among future customers and the town has a whole.
Dunkin’ Donuts “would like to have a drive-through in all their locations,” Handy said. “But at the end we had a contract with them.”
Jose Couto, who along with his partners owns the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise that will operate the outlet, was unpacking boxes on Friday at the store. He said the franchise still hopes to eventually convince the town to permit a drive-through window. But for the time being, he said the St. George location would do OK without it.
Though the formal review process started in March 2005, the store was originally contemplated years earlier. The late Salamin Handy bought land from the town for the store in the mid-1990s. The purchase agreement stated that the land could be used for a store or restaurant, according to former St. George zoning administrator Richard Ward.
Including Dunkin’ Donuts, the store will employ about 15 people, said Charles Handy, another one of the family members who are partners in Simon’s chain.
The St. George store was originally scheduled to open by Aug. 1. But frequent rain in recent weeks delayed paving, which in turn held up landscaping work, Joe Handy said. He now thinks the store will open between Aug. 7 and Aug. 10.