GLOVER, Vt. – It’s an image straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
The kindly old shopkeeper — a local fixture — behind the general store’s counter for more than a half century, where neighbors and friends picked up gallons of milk, caught up on the local gossip, and collected penny candy for the kids before heading home for supper.
Currier’s Quality Market has been Jim Currier’s domain for 53 years now, a place where he greets patrons by their first names, feeds wood into a century-old boiler, and sells 8 ounces of pure raw honey for $4.90.
But — as of the end of the month — no more. The place has been sold. Soon, someone else will be stocking the shelves.
It’s the end of an era for the old place with uneven wooden floors, where ground chuck sells for $4.99 a pound — a country store with live bait for sale that doubles as the local post office.
As news ripples through this Orleans County town of 1,100 a kind of wake is under way as family and friends fight back tears, shake hands and — even in the face of a global pandemic — risk one last hearty hug to say goodbye.
“I cried when I got the news because this is home to me,” Jeanne Thon, a 67-year-old fifth-grade teacher, said as she greeted Currier outside his store the other day.
“The first time I ever came in here, I was going down to the freezer section and the floor’s sloping and there’s this big stuffed moose at the post office,” she said. “I mean, I just fell in love. I know things have to change but I had to tell you what an impact you’ve had on my life.”
“You’re a good friend,” Currier told her softly. “Thank you. I’m awfully glad you stopped.”
Jim Currier is 80 now, a spry man with a gentle bearing, the kind of guy who you’d like to sit with outside his home next to the store and let him explain what’s he’s seen across all those years, back to a time when the old store was known as Walcott and Lyon’s.
It was 1967 when Currier, his late wife, Gloria, and his parents — Maynard and Jessie — took a leap of faith that would change his life.
“Do you want to buy a store?” he said, recalling a life-changing conversation. “They said, ‘Yes.’ So here we are. We bought the store.”
Yes, they bought the store and purchased something else. A place in the firmament of this small town, near the place where Currier was born in 1940, the oldest of four children who graduated from high school in 1959 and went to work at the A&P in Barton three miles down the road.
The hours were long. The work was hard. But he loved it. And, soon, his growing family did, too.
“People come to our store to shop. Steak. Hamburg. Roast,‘' he told as we toured the store the other day. “We used to be able to sell chicken legs, 29 cents a pound. Now, they’re a dollar or two dollars a pound.‘'
Currier’s son Jeff and Jeff’s wife, Windy, now manage the place.
“We used to cut meat standing on a milk crate and grind hamburger,‘' Jeff told me as he took a break from behind the counter. He declined to name the new buyer. But he said the timing was right.
“It’s time,‘' Jeff Currier said. “We’ve been here a long time. The timing is right. Everything seems to be falling into place.‘'
But that doesn’t mean any of this is easy.
“It’s all I’ve ever done, cut meat here,‘' he said.
He and Windy have four kids, the youngest of whom, Paige, is 15. She’s a high school sophomore who has been working at the market since she was 6. And she grew emotional — unable to speak — when I asked her about this family milepost.
“I am very sad about it,‘' she said. “It’s been with me my whole life. I’ve grown up in this store. It’s not going to be mine. It makes me want to cry.‘'
And then she can no longer hold back the tears. Somebody handed her a tissue.
There’s a lot of that going around here these days. Neighbors and longtime customers are dropping by to mark the moment.
“I know it’s real because the moose is gone,” a man named Larry shouted to Jim Currier as we spoke outside the store. “That was the key! Until that time, I didn’t believe it.”
More than a few residents here remain in disbelief. They want to hold onto the old place, a comfortable and familiar local touchstone.
The Currier children know how they feel.
“One of the best parts is that we all grew up doing this,” said Julie McKay, Currier’s oldest daughter, who once ran the post office inside the store. “It’s what we’ve done our whole life, working together.‘'
She’s 59 and runs a women’s sober house in a neighboring town. She left this town and the store 12 years ago. But the store remains in her blood and in her bones.
“There are some days you just want to cry when you think about it,” she said. “And then there are days when you’re tired. And my family’s tired. And it’s just time to go. So somebody’s purchased it and it’s just knowing that it’s going to keep running that takes away a lot of the sadness.‘'
There are still a few days left before Currier’s belongs to someone else.
Jim Currier doesn’t know what he’ll do next.
“I’m probably going to put my name in at Walmart or something,‘' he said.
As we walked through the aisles and the back rooms of the rambling old store, the old shopkeeper kept up a running commentary about a place with which he’s become synonymous. The place he made his life’s work and built a legacy of which he’s proud.
“Oh yes, I’m going to die here,‘' he said. “My headstone’s right up here in Westlook Cemetery.”
But Jim Currier is also a trained marathon runner. He knows about long roads and steep hills. And he’s going to keep on running.
“I’m sure for Dad, it’s going to be the hardest,‘' said his daughter and middle child, 58-year-old Shari. “And it’s going to be just as hard for the people as it is for Dad because of his years of dedication. He’s been so loyal to all his customers. And I have to say that he loves just about all of them.‘’
He’s sold all of his mounted trophies. Those bears and bobcats already belong to someone else. In a couple of weeks, the whole store will be in other hands.
“They’re going to change it, I’m sure,‘' said 65-year-old Roland Bickford, a lifelong customer. “But time is all about changes. You want Jim to be able to relax and not have to worry about everything.‘'
Jim Currier is preparing for his new life. He’s running again “to kill the time.” He’s playing the guitar at the local senior citizen center. Maybe that job at Walmart will come through.
But he won’t have to worry about feeding wood into that 1908 boiler anymore. And he won’t have to lug out the ashes, either.
“Yeah, I can get emotional if I had to talk about certain things,” Currier told me before he paused for a long moment. “I have to be careful about that.”
Just then another longtime customer walked up to shake his hand and to wish him well.
And the old shopkeeper who kept the lights on all these years smiled broadly and accepted another of the well wishes that are flooding into his old, rambling store these last days.
Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.