Community members in Norwich, Vermont, step in to save their beloved general store from closing due to a staff shortage. Vermont’s labor problems predate the pandemic, but since COVID hit it’s been especially hard to fill positions there. One business that’s felt the effect is Dan & Whit’s General Store in Norwich. For more than a century, Dan & Whit’s has been a fixture in the small town, but recently Dan Fraser, store owner and grandson of its founder, has had to consider closing up shop because he couldn’t find anyone to work.
So Fraser did what most small businesses do and he put up a “Help Wanted” sign. His regular customers were concerned, but they didn’t stop there. They didn’t just offer their condolences, they applied to work for Dan & Whit’s. A doctor, a teacher, a professor, a therapist, a nurse, a principal — in all nearly two dozen customers offered up their help to keep the store going. They all had their own reasons for wanting to help, but one common thread seemed to be the importance of Dan & Whit’s to the community, with many describing it as “the heart of the town.”
Most of the new employees at Dan & Whit’s are donating their pay to support some of Fraser’s favorite charities. He gets choked up when talking about the support his customers have shown for him and his family’s store. "The fact that the community stepped up … sometimes it takes sort of a crisis, if you will, to appreciate what you have," he says. Labor shortages will likely persist in Norwich, but what they have in abundance is the support of their neighbors.