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Francestown Village Store has new owners

December 22. 2013 6:54PM

FRANCESTOWN — One of the oldest continually operating general stores in the United States now has new owners who have vowed to maintain the Francestown Village Store as a welcome place for folks to visit.

"I don't want this place to be a convenience store," said Rob Wohle, who recently purchased the venue with his wife, Christine. "I want people to come in and spend some time here. You don't see places like this much anymore."

The Wohles are high school sweethearts who grew up in the West and worked together raising cattle and farming. But Rob Wohle spent his summers in New Hampshire with his grandmother, and the couple decided to follow those roots East.

First the couple and their two children moved to a farm in Francestown, where they grow fresh produce and ran a farm stand. Then they decided to buy the Village Store, which just felt right, said Christine.

"It was a good fit for our family," she said. "We live in town now, and when we first got here, the store was our first stop."

As self-proclaimed "history geeks," the Wohles said they were drawn to the store's rich past as part of Francestown. In 2014 the store will mark its 200th anniversary.

Former owners Jennifer and Jason Martel put a great deal of work into the store when they bought it 10 years ago and launched a successful frozen food line called Francestown Village Foods with partner and Chef Michael Webb. But when orders for the heat-and-eat meals created at the store began pouring in from small shops and major grocery chains, the Martels and Webb decided to focus on that part of the business and the store was put on the market.

The new headquarters for Francestown Village Foods is now located in Milford, but Rob said the products made by his predecessors will continue to be carried at the shop.

"The previous owners have made the transition easy for us," he said. "They've come and helped us when we needed it. They've been wonderful."

The public has also been incredibly receptive, he said.

"The welcome we've received has been fantastic," he said.

The Wohles will be keep many of the same items sold at the store, including the vast selection of beer from small and large breweries in America and abroad. But they'll increase the variety of fresh-baked goods, and will offer made-to-order sandwiches as well. Produce grown on their farm will be sold in the store at harvest time.

Rob said the biggest challenge he and his family face is finding the time to sit down to a meal while balancing the demands of the farm and the store. But the store's three employees will help maintain that balance, and the Wohles said they're looking forward to the adventure.

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