After a decade of serving Hemmingford with a huge assortment of products, Faith Gower has made the difficult decision to close Variétés Hemmingford. She has been contemplating closing the store for about a year but was hopeful there could be a way to make it work. However, continuing to run it on her own is no longer feasible. “I’ve done my 10 years, I wish I could do 10 more,” she says.
The store has the feel of a general store, offering a wide variety of goods. These include construction boots, candy, tea and coffee, giftwrap, fresh flowers on Fridays, stationery, kitchen supplies, decorations, camping gear, and more. Gower also runs a coffee shop where some people come every day for their morning coffee.
Part of the reason for the closure is the rise in people using online shopping instead of buying locally. “Since COVID there are a lot more people who buy on Amazon. It takes over… Like school supplies, I bought everything in and I have the regular people who came in, which wasn’t very much, and the rest went to Wal-Mart,” she explains. Sometimes, people are in a rush to get things quickly and don’t think to pop into local shops, but this greatly impacts local businesses.
The community response has been quite heartwarming. “Some people have cried in front of me, they’ve begged, but they are also very supportive of my choice because they know I’ve given it my all,” Gower explains. As this interview was taking place, a 95-year-old man named Stanley, who is a regular, was buying a chocolate chip muffin. When Gower asked how he felt about the store closing he said, “Terrible. We need this place, and we need you.”
There is no official date for when the store will be closed, though Gower is planning to be completely out by the Christmas holidays. She has already started liquidating to get rid of stock. Though the store is closing, Gower will keep ownership of the building. The person who is currently interested in renting the space seems to have plans to operate a similar kind of store. As for Gower, she is planning on taking some time off work to raise her kids, spend time with her horses, and figure out what is next for her.