Even before the fire, running the business had not been easy.  “It’s hard when there’s a Price Chopper, a Hannaford, and a Wal-Mart,” according to Dan Mitnik. Oge noted that between the gas prices and bad winters, with little snow and few tourists, many businesses have had a hard time. Mitnik said, “I hope the General Store comes back. It’s certainly the center of Putney—a cultural and social hub.”

Oge said there was no explanation for the fire; Mitnik said there was “definitely old wiring in the building,” and Putney fire chief Tom Goddard said it was “not suspicious.” In a turn of bad luck, a sprinkler system was recently installed, but not in the attic where the fire apparently started.

In June, Oge said he expected the insurance “may cover about half the inventory,” but as for the building, he had no idea.  He thought that in a few weeks, they’d get estimates. “I’d like to rebuild,” he said at that time, “but I know it’s going to take a lot of money.”

A post on the town’s site,, said Town Manager Chris Ryan reported “a great outpouring of volunteers, both with hands-on construction abilities as well as folks willing to lend a hand with finding appropriate grants and other tasks…it seems that there is great community support for the owners in their desire to rebuild, with talk of fundraisers to help the cause, if necessary.”  Clearly, there was a desire to have the Putney General Store gracing the village center again, along with the town green, the Putney Tavern, the Putney Paper mill, the Putney Diner, and the Town Hall.

Oge noted, “I love the building; that’s why I bought it.” He later added, “it doesn’t matter who owns it—Putney needs that store.”

gstore-burntSince then, former Selectboard member and current board member of the Putney Historical Society, Lyssa Papazian, in helping Oge to seek grants and tax abatements, determined that it might be best if a nonprofit stepped up to take ownership and thereby become eligible for state and other grant sources.  The Putney Historical Society took up this charge, and with the help of Paul Bruhn of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, purchased an option in late August to buy the property for $105,000 by October 1, 2008.

In September 2008 PHS raised approximately $10,000 in community donations, and secured charitable guarantors to back a loan of $100,000.

In November 2008, the Putney Historical Society became the 19th owners of the corner store! PHS made amazing progress, pulling the community together and nearing the home stretch, with plans to open on May 3, 2010.

At 10:30 pm on Sunday, November 1, 2009, the entire building burned down in a fire which was apparently set by an arsonist. Hundreds of community members watched, mourned, and came together in the week after the fire.


Note: Most of this article was previously published by Laurel Ellis in the Putney Historical Society’s newsletter in 2000; much of the rest was published by Stuart Strothman in The Commons, in an article entitled “Fire Blackens the Heart of Putney,” in June 2008.

Photo of candlelight vigil above by Daniel Hoviss

For more information visit the Historical society’s web site