In the months after Z and JL Danis publicly committed to taking over the defunct Andes General Store, they heard a lot of suggestions for what it should be. Their neighbors clamored for basic groceries like dry goods and milk. It would be great if you could buy an egg sandwich and a good cup of coffee, they said. They heard again and again, often over drinks at the Andes Hotel across the street from the shuttered store, how townspeople needed a place buy gas, cigarettes, beer and wine. A laundromat would be nice, as would an old-fashioned ice cream stand.
“Every time we’d go to the tavern, we’d get more questions, and people telling us ‘We’d like to have this, we’d like to have that,'” JL Danis said.
By Thanksgiving, if all goes according to plan, the Danises will deliver on all of those requests, plus locally grown meat, dairy and produce, lottery tickets, a part-time butcher shop and a bait-and-tackle shop.
“The idea is to sell everything local people need, and also have some specialty goods for visitors and weekenders,” Z Danis said this week, while giving a tour of the nearly complete construction.
The Delaware County town has been without its general store since June 2014, when 103 Main St. went dark. Its vacancy became a flash point for a public conversation this summer, amid accusations of real estate speculation by corporate entities buying up buildings in advance of opening a giant luxury resort in town. (If you’re just tuning in to this mystery-novel-like plot, be sure to read journalist and Andes homeowner Karrie Jacobs’ detailed take on the situation in her column for New York City real estate blog Curbed.)
“The community was really upset about the store closing,” JL said. “And we understood, because we were upset, too.”
While it remains to be seen whether the luxury resort will materialize, the land magnates who own the general store building have finally delivered on their promise to rent the store to a new operator.
Running a general store was never a long-term career goal of the Danises. But as Andes residents and the owners of Argyle Farms since 2001, they knew someone had to step up.
“Every time I’d drive by and see this place closed, I thought, ‘All right, we’ve got to do something,'” Z Danis said.
The couple signed a five-year lease with an option to renew for five more years, as well as an option to purchase the property. As the paint dries on the walls and the ink dries on various permits and licenses, they estimate a November opening.
Renovations have included rewiring and replumbing, as well as a reconfiguration of the interior. The main storefront will remain the primary retail space, offering shelves for dry goods and basic household supplies, as well as a whole wall of refrigerated cases for fresh food. But changes abound elsewhere.
The rear of the building, which was home to the short-lived Back Room restaurant that closed in October 2013, has been rearranged as a grab-and-go bakery and deli counter. It will serve coffee, baked goods and a selection of prepared foods.
A small room off the rear of the deli area has been outfitted as a mini laundromat. Seating along a bar that runs the length of the back windows overlooking a small garden and creek will offer patrons a spot to access the store’s wifi and laptop charging stations while their clothes dry.
Another small room, carved out of the spacious restaurant kitchen, will serve as a butchery. The plan is to have Argyle-Farms-grown meat available fresh, rather than frozen, at least a few days a week. The farm raises sheep, cows, pigs and chickens, and also produces wool blankets. Meat, eggs, cheese, produce and other goods raised by fellow Delaware County farmers are high on the priority list of suppliers.
“We’re looking to have almost like a farmers’ co-op — cheese, candles, whatever we can sell that’s locally produced, we’re interested in,” Z said.
Off the front porch, the area formerly occupied by an ATM machine has been expanded and refurbished with the addition of two large windows that will serve as a walk-up ice cream counter in the summer. (An ATM machine will occupy a less-prominent location.) A garage-like room in the front corner is slated for a seasonal bait-and-tackle shop and retail space for additional non-food items. The gas pumps out front will once again dispense fuel, including ethanol-free gas needed for snowmobiles.
The store’s opening comes as the Danises are also retooling some of their farm operations, changing up their animal population and hiring a new manager. Patrick Atcher will take over from his father-in-law, David Burris, who has run the farm since 2010. Lauren Atcher, who is Burris’ daughter and Patrick Atcher’s wife, will take on new responsibilities running the day-to-day operations of the Andes General Store.
Z Danis says she’s looking forward to not having to drive all the way to Delhi to buy cigarettes in the near future, but both she and JL say the most rewarding aspect of the project has been the support from Andes residents.
“We love this place,” she said. “Everyone in town has just been amazing.”