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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 2, 2010

A new family business
Knox Country Store: “The open sign is on”

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

KNOX — After closing this summer, the Knox Country Store — once a social hub for the hamlet — is open again.

“The open sign is on. We have a full menu. We’re adding merchandise every week,” said Robert VanderVeen, who is running the business with his wife, Jacqueline.

Mrs. VanderVeen credits her husband with jumpstarting the business. “He went in one day for a breakfast sandwich and coffee and saw it was closed,” she said. “He’s a go-getter. He likes taking on a challenge.”

The VanderVeens, who live in Esperance, are a busy family. They are the parents of a 1-year-old son, Robert Jr. Mrs. VanderVeen works as a dental hygienist in Richmondville and Mr. VanderVeen owns a landscaping business and store, Picture Perfect Lawn and Landscape, in Schoharie.

Family members are pitching in to help the couple with their new enterprise. “We are a very close family,” said Mrs. VanderVeen. “Family is everything to us.”

She also said of her family, “We’re Italian; we all like to cook.”

Mrs. VanderVeen’s mother, Diane Charletta, is “the pizza lady…She’s using her own recipe” for the store’s pizza, said Mrs. VanderVeen. “She babysits my son, too.”

Mrs. VanderVeen’s sister, Rachel Charletta, is running the register and her brother, Lenny Charletta is “helping wherever we need it; he has experience with the deli,” said Mrs. VanderVeen.

Janet Burke, who had Janet’s Café in Schoharie, is the main cook.

“It’s a mixture of friends and family,” said Mrs.VanderVeen.

After a month-and-a-half of clean-up, the store opened the day before Thanksgiving.

The store is now open Monday through Saturday, from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day, said Mr. VanderVeen.

“Each day, it’s gotten better, and better, and better,” said Mrs. VanderVeen. “We’re having fun. I’m excited about the food part and want to expand the menu.”

Mr. VanderVeen, who enjoys hunting and fishing, plans to add sections on sporting goods and camping as well as a toy section to the store, she said.

“We want to have something for everyone,” she said.

Mr. VanderVeen said that, come spring, he plans to stock landscaping supplies as well. His Picture Perfect store sells everything from outdoor power equipment to mulch and topsoil. “We make our own,” he said.

“Everything’s contingent on the sale,” said Mr. VanerVeen. The VanderVeens have bought the business and are renting the store space until they can close on the property, said Mrs. VanderVeen.

David Lipper had bought the store for $215,000 in 2007 from his stepfather, Joseph Best, and blamed the bad economy for its demise last summer. Best said he had bought the store in 2001. Lipper listed the property for sale this summer at $350,000.

Before Best bought the store nearly a decade ago, it was owned by Russ Pokorny, now Knox’s assessor, and his wife, Amy. The Pokornys hosted musical acts and tournaments for the card game “Magic: The Gathering,” making the country store a popular spot.

The Pokornys had bought the store from Ted Morehouse, who purchased the building from Jeff and Maryann Bidwell. Harold and Virginia Schwenk sold it to the Bidwells, and it was the Schwenks who built the current building in 1978.

“We’ve gotten nothing but compliments so far,” said Mr. VanderVeen on the store’s rebirth. “We’re as excited as everyone else.”

He reiterated, “We’re adding merchandise weekly. It takes some time to get an alcohol license. And we’ll bring back the Lottery.”

He went on, “It’s a convenience store for a reason. It’s pretty dang convenient.”

The store is located on the main street in Knox, Route 156.

“I’m trying to create a unique niche store with products you can’t get anywhere else and maintain a country store,” said Mr. VanderVeeen.

“We’re very friendly people,” concluded his wife. “We want to accommodate people and be part of the community.”

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