To the editor: Erskines announce impending closure of iconic grain store

Mike Erskine behind the counter at the store he bought from his father. He was the third Erskine to own the store Telegraph file photo.

We are writing to inform everyone of our decision to close Erskine’s. This has been coming for a while now with the decline in storefront retail businesses and the state of repair of our old building, furnace, etc.

That is the easy part of our decision. The folks like you who have made our business possible over all these years is the harder part of our decision. You have all been so loyal and caring and friends to us. That is the real challenging part, something we do not take lightly or for granted. We want to thank each and every one of you for making the grain store work all these years.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, we will do business on a zero-contact basis.We will continue with a limited opening while we still have product. Call in your orders Mondays and Wednesdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. We will put your order on the dock Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are planning to stay open like this for a few months.

Mike Erskine poses for a photo for a prank April Fool’s Day story we wrote seven years ago about hummingbird guano. Click the photo to read that article

My grandfather, Richard Bedford Erskine, started working in this building in 1939 for Park & Pollard Feeds. In 1952, he started his own grain store near the old Yosemite Fire House. Around 1962-63 he came back and bought this building.

Then in 1975, my father, Robert Webb Erskine, after serving two tours in Vietnam and retiring from Special Forces as a master sergeant, bought the store.

After serving in the Army and attending college, I came back to the store in 1992, then purchased it from Dad in 1998. I tried to maintain the old fashioned feel throughout my time.

I know it means the end of a legacy. For that I am saddened.

We had a good run.

We will miss you all and wish you only the best in your lives. Stay safe.

Michael and Catherine Erskine

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: CommentaryLetters to the Editor

About the Author:

RSSComments (66)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Lew Watters says:

    So Chester Community,

    How might we who care so much for good old fashioned honest retailing, keep this store up and running? Think outside the box and let me hear from you. Let us change the conversation about what it really means to live and work in our community.

    Your neighbor on North Street, Lew Watters

  2. Sarah Memmi says:

    Sad to hear this, although the reasons for closing are certainly there. Trips to Erskine’s—for horse, dog, cat, and garden supplies—were a staple of my childhood. I second all the other comments that your store is a source of knowledge and community, much more than just the wares on the shelves. It’s Chester’s loss, but I hope the start of a new adventure for your family!

  3. Dick Hoyt says:

    Erskine family,
    Just stumbled across the notice of your closing. A sad day for Chester. Your family performed a vital service to the town. And you produced a fine family. I have nice memories of teaching your children. Mike got a “B” in French and worked hard for it!
    Please come by for a visit if you’re ever in Lubec, Maine.
    Best Wishes,
    Dick Hoyt

  4. Jay Joseph and Susan Ronsheim says:

    This is hard news. Just the sound of that bell when you open the grain store door, the smell of seed, the array of practical merchandise, and the wonderful crew that greeted you. We all feel the loss of a very special place. We thank you Mike and all the staff who served us for so many years. We wish you well.

  5. Tim Roper says:

    As I read through the many comments here, I can’t help hoping that some local entrepreneur will recognize the opportunity to take over Erskine’s so that Mike and Catherine can step away from their beloved business without heavy hearts and our community can still call the classic grain store building by the tracks “our place” for getting what we need to sustain our gardens, animals and the outdoor portions of our properties. Please?

  6. Margie Straub says:

    We join all of Chester in saying that we are so sad to hear this news. Garden pests… Healthy pets…Seeds…Tools, you always had the best advise and a ready answer. Thank you for being a valuable and respected member of our community.

  7. D. de Winter says:

    I have valued Erskines not only for useful things, but also for helpful information and advice. All best wishes. You will be missed.

  8. Mary Putnam says:

    Hi Mike,
    We are both full of gratitude for all the years that Erskine’s has served Chester and beyond.

    I remember first coming to your store for advice and feed for my lambs in the early 1980s. You and your staff were always friendly, giving knowledgeable and sound advice with a smile.

    Sonny Putnam made his famous meatballs and punch at Christmas time. We were touched and grateful for you continuing the tradition! Just one of the many gestures that has made Erskine’s a real treasure to all who call Chester home! You will be sorely missed!

    We wish you, Catherine, and all your crew good luck as you begin this new chapter in your lives.

    Mary and Richard Putnam

  9. Charlea Baker says:

    I am so saddened to hear that Erskine’s is closing. It has been a reliable source of gardening wisdom and an essential part of the warm friendly character and charm of Chester. You will be sorely missed. Best wishes for your future plans.

  10. Arlene Mutschler says:

    Altho not a long time customer, I truly loved going there. I am sorry that when I had to change dog foods, you were not able to carry what I needed and change with me.. I will miss you. I have always tried to shop as local as possible. I wish you luck…

  11. Amy Stone says:

    Chester will not be the same without Erskine’s. Thank you, Mike, for all you and your dad did for my family and our farm over the years. I have so many fond memories of your store. There will never be another like it. Best wishes for your future!

  12. Judy Robbins says:

    I am completely devastated! How will I survive without you? This is really the saddest news. I just can’t believe this. I will miss all of you very much. I wish you the best.

  13. Amanda George says:

    It appears that I am not alone in my sadness upon hearing this news. We had come to rely on Mike and John as our primary sources for livestock and gardening tips; from fencing to feed to moving our blueberry bushes to our new house and keeping water from freezing all winter. They are a wealth of information and I always knew that I was getting first hand knowledge of farming in Vermont. Your store will be sorely missed in this community. Your store IS community. Thank you.

    Amanda and Eric George

  14. Hi Mike!
    Your store is the best. Loved everything about it and all of the advice and supplies that you always had on hand. Very sad to hear you are moving on. Your store and what you have given this town for so many years will be very sorely missed. Good luck and hope you change your mind!!!

    Leslie and Amy and all my 4-hooved creatures who have eaten your grain sweetened with your beetpulp for many years!!

  15. Sean Whalen says:

    Farmer’s College, that’s how a lot of us treated it. Trying to think of something we needed from the store so we could get free advice from Mike and John. I was there many times with Lydia over the years, carrying her oxygen tanks or whatever. One day we were at the counter and John said, “Lydia, you’ve got a good man there.” She sort of shrugged and said, “I don’t have him. He just happens to be standing there.”
    How we will miss you.
    So much water moving underneath the bridge.

  16. Meredith Tips-McLaine says:

    When my husband and I moved to Vermont in 2004, we were introduced to Erskine’s early on by Lydia Ratcliff, and so it has always held a central spot in our VT experience. Seeing Mike’s bright, expectant expression when we entered the store, being on the receiving end of his upbeat encouragement of our farm and garden dreams, and having our now-6 year old son be welcomed into the store and always greeted by name by Mike, Catherine, John, Nate and Heath…we will not soon forget our beloved Erskine’s.

  17. Scott Bemis says:

    I sure will miss going in for dog food every month. You folks have always been so helpful when I need advice on anything that grows. There will be a void in Chester that will not get filled. 😢

  18. Polly Montgomery says:

    I join the others in expressing my sadness and thankfulness. All of you have given such good advice over the years regarding gardening, irrigation, chickens and our pets. Our chickens Eyeliner and Dotty were so special. The ostrich bones were a favorite of our dog Coco. I loved the handwritten receipts. Sigh. I wish someone would buy the building and turn it into a cafe, pub or something that we could all continue to enjoy. We would toast the memories!

  19. david howald says:

    I am very sorry to hear that another historic, iconic member of the community is closing. Erskines has been so much more than your average business. Always friendly and helpful with everyone.
    Thank you to all of you.

  20. Claudia Shropshire says:

    Guys, thank you for all of your help with caring for my first horse. I knew nothing about fencing (and other things), and you were so generous with your time and knowledge. We’re losing both history and a huge resource in the town. It was a pleasure doing business with you.

  21. Susan Brace says:

    Dear Mike & Catherine & crew,

    I have been sad since I first heard you were closing for good. You, especially Mike, were so friendly and helpful when we first started keeping chickens and goats and started up our little farm. I learned so much from you and always looked forward to my weekly visits to your store. Business is really all about relationships and your business is one of a kind. I wish you well in your second act.

  22. Kevin Day says:

    Sure gonna miss having you in town . loved to stop in to get miscellaneous items I needed. So sorry to see you go.

  23. Walter Spinrad says:

    This is sad news indeed.

  24. John Clark says:

    Michael, so sad to hear of your closing. One of my fondest memories – Working with your uncle Barry ( my best friend) as kids unloading grain bags from rail cars into your gramp’s facility. thought we were being punished for something we did wrong at the time. Boy those 100 lb. bags of grain were heavy for us boys and that was hard work but made us appreciate what was involved in running the grain business. Your family has always been a close part of ours. Love you folks, wish you all the best. John Clark

  25. Lance & Pauline Magnuson says:

    My wife and I have a home in Andover…..we are from Ct……and could always find whatever it was we needed for around our home and if not you would get it for us. We and the dogs are going to miss you guys, your friendliness and your desire to please your customers had no equal. This little corner of Vt. will never be the same!

  26. We are so sad to hear the store is closing. We have been buying our seeds, bird seed etc there for over 30 years.It has been part of our life in Chester. All the best in the coming years!

  27. Beverly Lauren says:

    Mike and Catherine,
    Charlie and I totally understand. “The times they are a changing.” Even though we will miss shopping at Erskines, sharing gardening knowledge and our bee stories, we wish you both a great new adventure together. Thank you for all your years serving the community. Best of luck to you both and many blessings going forward.
    Bev and Charlie Lauren

  28. Cheryl Cook says:

    It has been almost 10 years since we left Chester but I will not forget this little piece of Americana. I went there as a child with my father. My kids went there as children. The Erskine family have always been kind, gracious business owners. Thanks for being a part of history in this small town.

  29. Manuella and William Eastman says:

    Oh,there simply are no words….I understand your decision, but I am so sad. I wish you well, but Chester without Erskines’s grain store I can’t even imagine. May God be with all of you and keep you safe.

  30. Paul Stumpf says:

    To all of you at Erskine’s, your warm smiling faces will be missed. Your knowledgeable and friendly service will never be replaced. Thanks for all your years of providing our community with the kind of quality and integrity that is so rare these days. You will be greatly missed, but the memories you have created for so many will be a lasting legacy to be proud of. Best wishes to you all.

  31. Fiona & Stuart Morton says:

    This is just the saddest news, Mike & Catherine!
    Your store has been a huge part of our lives for so many years. We have loved coming in & knowing everyone’s name – chatting, getting the best advice on all sorts of topics, the wonderful warm & welcoming smell of the place & the friendly faces.
    We will miss you all so, so very much.
    Wishing you the very best in your future endeavours & will never forget all the great conversations & help.

  32. Cheryl Wylie says:

    Thank you both for helping us over the past 10 years with great service, advice and help with our assortment of unusual special orders. You both have been wonderful and we will miss our weekly visits. Good luck with everything!

  33. Ruth Holleran says:

    Oh, no! I’ll miss you. You’ve watched my kids grow up and bring grandpa in for this and that. Erskines has a permanent place in their childhood. We always enjoyed going in and we’ll miss it. God bless on your new path.

  34. Katherine Henry says:

    This is a terrible loss to the community.
    I hope that you have wonderful new adventures planned.

  35. Cheryl Joy Lipton says:

    It’s very sad to hear this news. Thank you for all the help as we started keeping chickens, sugaring, and bringing our gardens back. Erskine’s has been one of the things that makes Chester special, and part of the reason that we made this town our home. We will miss you as neighbors.

  36. Jane Davis says:

    I am so sad. It was always such a treat to come into your warm and welcoming store! I loved the atmosphere, friendly greeting and sound advice on gardening and chicken raising! I will miss Erskine’s and all of you. Thank you for your service to this community. Love and best of luck to you.

  37. Barre Pinske says:

    I am saddened to hear this news! Everything about the grain store is iconic. The sounds, the smells, the inventory it’s all unique and irreplaceable. It would take a movie production team to recreate anything like it. I’m grateful to have had the experience of shopping there and having the vibe in the neighborhood. Thank you and best wishes moving forward.

  38. Wally Kangas says:

    Dear Mike and Catherine,

    Donna and I are so sorry to read of your closing plans.
    You’ve been a wealth of information to us and your very friendly nature in doing business has been simply wonderful.
    We have at least the knowledge that we still have you for neighbors.

    Wishing you the very best in your future endeavors.

    Wally Kangas & Donna Dearborn

  39. John Nunnikhoven says:

    Chester continues to leak those neighborhood businesses that are an essential part of maintaining a community spirit. Chester Drug, the old Jiffy Mart and other small businesses–gone; only the Country Girl. the Heritage Deli, Lisai’s, and the Chester Hardware standing between a community and a Vermont version of a down county bedroom town.

  40. May Lillie says:

    Noooo… we will be so sad.

  41. Jeanette Haight says:

    I am so sad to hear this news. My family has been buying farm “stuff” from your family all my life (50+ years). We will miss you but wish you all the best!

  42. Dan Cooper says:

    I was there in the early days. Knew and love the original Richard and Mary. Thank you for your decades of service. Wish I could visit the store one more time before you close. Great memories.

  43. John Hoover says:

    As a relative new comer to Vermont from a populous urban area going to Erskines’ was a wonderful treat. We may have gone to the store for a specific reasons, garden supplies, mouse traps, bird seed, but once there we couldn’t leave without walking around and checking out what was available. In many ways it was a trip back in time to a much more gracious era. Thanks for being there when we needed you and we will most certainly miss you.

  44. Mary-lynn Wright says:

    I will miss your store and you
    A piece of Vermont slipping away.

  45. Bill Cooley says:

    Thank you, Mike, to you and your crew for the recent years. My fond memories go back to the early ’70s when I used to get pickup truck loads of 100 lb. bags of grain from Dick Erskine for Landman’s store in So. Londonderry. Wishing you all the best!

  46. Barb Calhoun says:

    And the hits keep coming…a tremendous loss, to the people who loved this wonderful store and esp to the town of Chester.
    Am having trouble imagining you all not there.
    Thank you for the years.

  47. Ken Slater says:

    We will truly miss you and the crew at the store, and your great selection of products. Truly a Chester icon, a real asset to the town. Thanks for making Chester a better place to live for all these years, and best of luck to you in the future.

  48. Wow. So sorry to hear. I didn’t have much occasion to avail myself of your store, but when I did I knew I could always count on advice that was worth listening to, and always served with a smile. Will miss you Mike and John.

  49. Penni Thomas says:

    Such sad news but a break well deserved. Such fond memories of coming there when little with my grandfather, Dad or Uncle and now as an adult working my own bit of land. You and John and your staff are the living encyclopedia of all things agricultural. For Steve and I you are always our go to for things unknown and you have never steered us wrong. Thank you for all you have done for us thru the years. We will miss you.

  50. Kenneth O’Connor says:

    So very sorry to hear you’re leaving..although I didn’t frequent your store a lot, you always were helpful with needed items. You will be missed! You didn’t mention anything about it, but my Dad worked there, in that building, under Worthmore Feeds, in the early ’60s, remember crawling around on the bags of grain! God bless!

  51. Wanda Purdy says:

    This is very sad news for all the people who shop there and for the Town of Chester. We will miss you all and wish you well for the future

  52. Christopher Wallace says:

    Erskine’s has been SO much more than just a feed store; it truly has been everything a small locally owned business should be, offering levels of service, help and compassion not found in any big box chain store. Thank you Mike for all you have done to serve the community.

  53. Francis Stoddard says:

    Sorry to hear this. sold Dick Erskine the building by the fire station in 1953. I fondly remember several summers being allowed to go on deliveries with Bob Rounds where I learned what work was all about. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  54. Abbie Holden says:

    Sad to hear this! Thank you for serving our community for so many years. Many memories of coming in as a kid with my Dad for various projects.

  55. Francis Stoddard says:

    Sorry to hear this. My dad sold Dick Erskine the building by the fire station in 1953. I fondly remember several summers when I was allowed to go on deliveries with Bob Rounds. Progress and sign of the times are not always a good thing. Good luck.

  56. Krystina Lankone says:

    Thank you for being a rock for all of my yard adventures. Chickens, gardens, fences, you patiently answered my redundant questions each season with a friendly smile. Heart of Chester, you will be so missed!

  57. Britta Gustafson says:

    Your store will be hugely missed!! Thank you for all the years of horse feed and wonderful help and information. There’s nothing quite like a small town feed store.

  58. Donna whitney says:

    I am devastated one of my favorite places and people. Thank you for many happy transactions and grab sessions

  59. Tim Roper says:

    I’m at a loss for words. This is sad news, indeed.

  60. Jeff Holden says:

    Very sad to hear it. Will miss it. Loved the old style feel. My dad worked part time for your grandfather unloading rail cars of grain, way back when. Good luck to you all.

  61. I have loved going to Erskine Feed store for years. It was such a wonderful place and I loved buying grain,etc. there. It is very sad to have it close but I wish good luck and stay safe and healthy to the owners!

  62. Suellen Slater says:

    So very sad. Erskines is one of my favorite stores. You have everything. You helped make Chester a very special place.

  63. Mary Clough says:

    Michael, I am sorry to hear this. It was lovely that you kept things the same. My parents used to love to come in and see you. Enjoy your retirement my old friend. Mary

  64. HarrietteSherwood says:

    I’m so saddened by this. Yes this is the end of a era. I hope your future is all you want it to be.

  65. Scott MacDonald says:

    This town won’t be the same without you guys. Thanks for helping my landing in Chester be a better one than if I never stepped through your door.

  66. Kathi Dixey says:

    This is the saddest news yet. Will miss all of you.