Owning an Old-Timey Store is a Dream—Until it Becomes a Nightmare


“Joe and I, and then our kids would always talk about that little store,” Caroline continued. “Oh, what WE could do with it. Everyone would love it. So … we did it. We worked out a deal with the owner to buy the building. This is really where the story begins.”

This is how most entrepreneurial stories begin: with a dream, with passion, with the leap! And then, well, often what comes next is the shock of reality. In this case, it did not take long. “We bought the building in June, and decided to name it Outpost General Store,” she wrote. “We thought we’d just spruce it up, but you know me. Has to be all or nothing. So we gutted the place. We did the floors. Just so. Keeping a patina finish. Painted. Hung bead board. Built counters and hung antique barn wood on the existing beams and partial exterior. Painted the exterior in a vintage looking finish.

“This simple little store has snowballed, no avalanched, into what seems to be a never-ending nightmare.”

The Times’s small business blog has begun to document the story of Caroline Scheeler and Joe Vajarsky, a husband and wife team who decided to buy an old-fashioned general store in their small town that had sat vacant for several years and turn it into a new business. They spent a ton of money on gutting and designing the store and now are facing a lot of financial issues.

I’m especially interested in their story because I totally wouldn’t mind having a little shop in a Stars Hollow-type town someday, but, of course, it’s more of a romantic idea than one with a rigid business plan and model. I’m looking forward to see if Caroline and Joe can overcome their initial growing pains.

Photo: Claire P

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6 Comments / Post A Comment

Lily Rowan (#70)

I’m pretty sure the best way to do that is to already be rich from something else. Be Steve Carell, say.

Mike Dang (#2)

@Lily Rowan BRB, applying for a gig at The Daily Show.

This is such the perfect metaphor for American capitalism. “We bought a small store and then spent tens of thousands of dollars to make it look like we think a store should’ve looked sixty years ago and now we are going broke!”

But it’s all a dumb simulacra anyway — not just the store, the whole town! Wayne, Ill. is a pretend country town for rich people. 70% of households earn more than $100,000/yr. The people on horses come from the fancy riding club down the way. Across the street from the “quaint country store” is an auto shop full of Mercs, Beemers, and Audis. Across the street the other way is a fancy structural engineering firm.

Plus there’s at least two full-sized grocery stores and a dozen gas stations/convenience stores within five minutes of the place. I suspect most people are going to want to just continue buying their artisan cheeses along with the rest of their groceries…

@stuffisthings sorry guys I’m just extra tetchy this week due to having an Endless Cold.

elenachicago (#3,372)

Mike Dang likes Gilmore Girls?

SWOON.

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