Back in 1946, a couple named Vrest and Mildred Ellen Orton decided to open up a little general store in the charming small town of Weston, Vermont. Vrest's childhood had been defined by the time spent at his father Gardner Lyman Orton's store in North Calais, which inspired him to open up the Vermont Country Store.
Vrest was already incredibly accomplished by the time he decided to follow his father's footsteps and become a storekeeper. He served in World War I and came back to the U.S. to study at the prestigious Harvard University. After school, he moved to New York City, where he worked at various magazine publications and earned a reputation in the print world. After he moved back home to Vermont in 1936 (the same year he married Ellen), he even founded his own publishing company, The Countryman Press.
It was really Vrest Orton's history of working in magazines that actually led to the idea for the Vermont Country Store. He had been thinking about starting a business that would take his father's store idea and would put it in catalog form. Vrest and Ellen started slow, founding a small mail-order business with just 36 items, "The Voice of the Mountains." They found immense success after sending the catalog out to their Christmas card list and decided to take the plunge. They restored an old structure in Weston dating back to 1827 and established the first restored and operational country store in the entire United States. Now it's earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to maintaining the actual store, Vrest and Ellen worked on growing their catalog mailing list. Just a few years after opening, the Saturday Evening Post caught wind and highlighted their business in an article. After receiving national attention, Vrest wasted no time growing what they had already built. The couple bought the building next door to the Weston store and opened up a restaurant, The Bryant House. They even opened up a second store a few years later in Rockingham, Vermont.
Part of the charm of the Vermont Country Store is that it is still family-owned and operated. Vrest and Ellen's son Lyman took over the business in the '70s and today he operates the company with his three sons Cabot, Gardner and Eliot. The Orton family works hard stocking their store and magazine with incredible merchandise that can't be found just anywhere. They call themselves "Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-to-Find." As Eliot Orton puts it on the company's website, "We still go to great lengths to find products that aren't sold anywhere else."
The Vermont Country Store Catalog is truly full of anything you could possibly want. They have everything from men and women's clothes and sleepwear to holiday decor, gifts inspired by country living, beauty and home products, Vermont maple syrup, classic country penny candy, and more. Their website even has an entire tab dedicated to The Peanuts. We definitely have our eyes on some of their Fall items that will make our homes extra cozy this season. These pinecone candles? This maple leaf wreath? Yes please!
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