FRANCESTOWN — More than 50 residents gathered at the shuttered Francestown Village Store Thursday morning for a foreclosure auction of the building. Many residents hoped the store would be bought by one of them and reopened. But a $100,000 opening bid from Lake Sunapee Bank, which also held the mortgage of the property, went unchallenged.
Andrea Grant of Francestown showed up to bid on the property, hoping to reopen it as a store for the town.
“It would have been fun,” Grant said.
Grant said, however, after learning the bank would open with a $100,000 bid, she didn’t think it was financially viable. She said the cost of renovations, including converting a commercial kitchen on the second floor back into a three-bedroom apartment to generate income for the business, as well as other fees included in the purchase would be too costly.
Charlie Pyle, of the Francestown Improvement & Historical Society, said it’s a sad day for the town and said the impact of the closed village store will especially be felt during the town’s 100th Annual Celebration of Labor Day this Sept.
“It’s a ballast for the town to have a store. And our little town, we don’t have a lot of commercial, if any,” Pyle said. “A place for people to meet, a place for people to get their emergency goods, a place for people to go day-to-day to get their coffee, ice, cold cuts. … It’s a tough business.”
Pyle said he was there to speak to the new building owner, since the FIHS gets first pick of any historical items in the building.
A bank representative said Thursday the now bank-owned property will be placed on the market for sale.
The Francestown Village Store was established in 1814 as The Long Store. Before closing on July 5, The Francestown Village Store held the title of the second-oldest continuously operating general store in the country.
The store’s most recent owners Rob and Christina Wohle of Francestown, bought the 202-year-old store four years ago. Last month, they held a community BBQ and started a GoFundMe to raise money to pay town property back taxes so that the store would not be deeded to the town. According to the town’s tax records, the Wohles owe $20,573.25 in taxes for 2014, 2015 and 2016. The town has a lien on the property.
According to the Wohles, the store never made the revenue they were told it would when they bought it and then in 2016 they had to stop selling gas and disabled the store’s gas tanks to comply with new state regulations.