Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Community-owned store

Journal Inquirer
April 22, 2006

So, word has it that Stafford is in need of a retail store. I couldn't agree more.

Stafford has endured nearly 15 years without a retail store that provides essential merchandise. Is it too much to ask for reasonably priced merchandise without driving between 15 and 25 miles to neighboring towns? Is it too much to ask for a retail store that will provide jobs and commercial property taxes? Absolutely not.

We need a store that accommodates a variety of well-stocked seasonal and fashionable clothing and shoes. We need office supplies, art supplies, notions, sports gear, and a host of other merchandise that we can purchase by taking a walk or going for a quick drive before or after dinner.

What if we were to have access to all of this and also have access to jobs that provide a living wage and benefits? A living wage for Stafford as calculated by Universal Living is between $13.50 and $15 per hour.

After nine months of arduous work from a team of determined individuals — The Stafford Community- Owned Department Store Steering Committee — we are proud to announce that we have been awarded a $35,000 USDA-funded grant. The funds will be utilized to pay for effective retail business planning tools.

So, what happens from here? Surveys and community awareness will ensure that the store will provide services and merchandise that Stafford citizens are in need of. We will then move through the traditional stages of business development by organizing, obtaining seed and startup financing, and gradually advancing to the maturity stage of development.

Community-owned department stores are cropping up from Wyoming to Vermont to Massachusetts. They have proved to be successful in both profitability and in community pride. When the doors to The Stafford Community-Owned Department Store open, Stafford will receive notoriety for being the first in Connecticut to do so. And we will do so with pride.

We are asking for feedback from the community on what types of merchandise are considered desirable for our store. We are also asking for monetary donations to be applied toward the financial match required for grant fund disbursement. Anyone interested in providing feedback or in making donations is encouraged to contact Nancy Neff at

Nancy Neff