Franklin – Larry Tatro bagged the big-racked elk in Colorado but couldn’t find room for it in his trophy room. So he approached Bill Mayo.
“Can I hang it in your store?”
Today, Lawrence (W)Elk overlooks the quaint dining area at Franklin General Store, on Main Street. A sign hangs under him: “It’s tough to be Larry!”
“Lawrence is quite popular,” says Bill, who has owned Franklin General Store with his wife, Sue, for 10 years.
It’s just before lunch at Franklin General Store, and Spring Perras, the in-house cook, is readying for the one-hour wave of customers that order either her homemade meal – it’s turkey dinner today – or a sandwich, wrap or other stacked item from the deli. Customers dine in, or take out, and there is a $5.50 breakfast.
“Whatever you want, we can make it,” Bill says.
Despite its popular meals, Franklin General Store lives up to its iconic reputation – one that is sacred in Vermont: it is the nerve center of Franklin, a place where some residents still buy their only supplies, and, for others, more a destination than a necessity.
“There’s a wonderful spirit in a general store,” Bill says. “There’s laughter. A lot. It makes it a joy to be in here.”
Outside of the normal goods – food, beverages, and camping supplies for summertime visitors to (and residents of) nearby Lake Carmi – Franklin General Store offers the “Made in Franklin, Vermont” table, where locally made products are displayed and sold, including the Mayo’s own brand of honey, from the apiary they share with Bob Lussier, of St. Albans.
In 1995, the Mayos built a cabin-style home on nearby Sandy Bay. Two years later, they planted their first apple trees in their yard. Today, they maintain two orchards with 350 trees – mostly honey crisp – and sell the apples, cider and pies at their store.
Bill also likes the orchard because it gives him amazing views of Pinnacle Mountain, Hazen’s Notch, Jay Peak and Potato Hill, in Berkshire.
“The store gives us an outlet for the apples,” he says.
Bill and Sue have one daughter, Ashley, a senior at Missisquoi Valley Union High School. Bill is from St. Albans. Sue is a Franklin native and has fond memories of Franklin General Store and Oscar Riley, who owned it from the 1950s through 1970s.
“He was such a nice man,” Sue says. “We walked here all the time as kids.”
Bill and Sue bought Franklin General Store from Jim and Claudette Racine, shortly after Bill was one of the 988 people laid off at IBM in Essex Junction, in 2002.
Bill and Sue hope to retire from Franklin General Store in the next three years. Ashley does not want to own the business, but Bill and Sue already have interested buyers.
“But we won’t just sell to anyone,” Sue says.
“That’s important to us,” Bill adds.