Rhode Island couple purchases Royalston Country Store

Helder and Winter Vieira, the new owners of the Royalston Country Store.

Helder and Winter Vieira, the new owners of the Royalston Country Store. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Royalston Country Store, which has been closed for roughly one year, is now under new ownership.

The Royalston Country Store, which has been closed for roughly one year, is now under new ownership. FILE PHOTO BY GREG VINE

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 02-08-2024 5:01 PM

ROYALSTON – After nearly a year of searching for someone to re-open the Royalston Country Store, the South Village Revitalization Committee has announced that Winter and Helder Vieira of Bristol, Rhode Island, have purchased the business.

It has been nearly a year since Heather Golding and Rob Sylvester closed the Royalston Country Store in the town’s South Village. The closure of the business, which served as a local meeting place, was a significant loss to the South Village, coming in the wake of the fire that destroyed the popular Pete & Henry’s restaurant in August 2018.

“I’ll be quite honest with you; we’re still a little up in the air about what direction the store is going to take, to some degree,” Winter Vieira told the Athol Daily News. “We really want to get the community’s involvement and hear their voice and see what the needs of the community are before we make any changes. Actually, I don’t think any of the changes will be all that drastic.”

Mostly, she said, the store just needs some cosmetic work – a “refresh.” Winter added that current plans do include maintaining the kitchen. An re-opening date for the store has not yet been set.

“We don’t need to poll (the community) to see that the kitchen was very important, especially as a gathering place for the community,” she said.

The small general store component will also be revived so that residents in town can grab “some last-minute things” without having to run to surrounding communities.

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“I know we’re considering doing some grab-and-go food for the evening,” Winter continued, “So, the kitchen will likely be open for breakfast and lunch, with grab-and-go for dinners and things like that.”

The lead cook in the kitchen will be Helder’s 20-year-old son Xavier, Winter’s stepson. In addition, depending on the needs of the town, she and her husband are also looking into the possibility of adding drop-off and delivery services.

“Possibly—and it’s a very small space so this is up in the air – it would probably be a tiny niche or corner somewhere,” Winter continued, “but we’d like to add a book component; something to allow people the option to dig into reading a little more. I think that’s very important to us as well. We want to do some stuff for the kids – maybe some reading rewards; perhaps some fruits or penny candy, depending on mom’s and dad’s preferences, to maybe help get the neighborhood kids into reading. We just really want it to be a community hub; that’s kind of what we’re getting at.”

Winter said she and her husband “have been looking for just the right place for years because we wanted to do something coffee- and book-centric.”

She also said the couple invest in properties from time to time, which they then refurbish and re-sell.

“I was, in my travels, looking for another property we could sort of quasi-manage, and I saw this place and it was love at first sight. I woke my husband up in the middle of the night to show him this listing. I said, ‘Call me crazy, but I want this.’ We just kind of looked at each other and there was a ‘zing’ – and there hasn’t been a ‘zing’ professionally in quite a while.’”

Far from selling the store, the Vieiras plan on moving their home to Royalston. She said current plans are for the couple to live in the owners’ quarters for a few years before hunting for a single-family home in the area.

Peter Gagliardi, a member of the steering committee of the Revitalization Committee, said shortly after the property went on the market that the Vieiras reached out to inquire about it.

“They understood the community had some strong feelings about the store and we had a lot of information we could provide,” he said. “We had a lot of information about what people would like to see there. I spoke to Winter, and they were very much in sync with what we were seeing and what we were hoping for. And they had a real understanding that this store, while it is privately owned, is really a public meeting house – a place to come together, a place to interact, and there aren’t a lot of places in Royalston where you can easily do that.”

A release from the RSVRC said, “Reopening the store will be a major step toward the continued revitalization of the South Village.”

“I think there’s an understanding it’s not just the store for the village, it’s the store for the community, for the town,” said Gagliardi. “It’s a place, hopefully, where people will be able to get together, sit around the table, have coffee together – or a meal, and where some of the other needs of the community are met.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.