Royalston Country Store closes its doors 


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-24-2023 3:46 PM

ROYALSTON – In August 2019, Heather Golding and Rob Sylvester purchased the Royalston Country Store, located at 21 Main St. in the town’s South Village.

About two months later, after a soft opening, the couple held a grand opening and ribbon cutting during the First Annual South Royalston Fall Festival. The store offered all-day breakfast, lunch items and a variety of sandwiches, in addition to the usual staples one might find at a general store.

On Friday, March 17, the store – a gathering place for locals to trade a little news or gossip over coffee, bacon, and eggs – closed its doors for good. This follows the closure of popular eatery Pete & Henry’s after a fire in 2018, leaving the South Village with no businesses to speak of. Linda Alger of the Royalston South Village Redevelopment Committee (RSVRC) said the initial reaction to the closing was a mix.

“I think it was both expected, yet still a bit of a shock,” Alger said. “I think (Golding) really tried to be successful, but then the pandemic happened and she didn’t get to do all the things she wanted to do.”

Alger added that the increase in prices and capacity issues also played a part. Her sister and brother-in-law owned the store many years ago, and her brother owned it in the late 1990s, from which she saw the need for balance between supply and demand.

Alger said she purposely bought items at the store that could be found elsewhere at a lower price, but wanted to support the local business. The RSVRC also did what it could to boost the store during special events held at the gazebo in South Royalston, but the number held wasn’t enough to keep it afloat.

“There’s a lot of people in the village here, and I think throughout town, who made a conscious effort to try and support her,” she said.

In response to the closure, the RSVRC has scheduled a community meeting on April 12 to discuss the impact of the closing and a possible future for the store. The purpose of the meeting, said Alger, is simple: “Ideas. We want to save the store.”

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“It’s a vital part of the South Village,” she said. “We’re trying to revitalize that part of the village and all of a sudden this icon, this store that’s been in existence for 100 years, is all of sudden not going to be there.”

Alger explained that Peter Gagliardi presented the committee with an article regarding the importance of country stores and what other communities have done to preserve them.

“He brought us an article about thinking outside the box,” she continued. “These country stores are alive and well in some places, but it’s an effort. Petersham has a nice country store.”

Alger said the committee discussed options, such as asking a non-profit to look at the store. They considered the co-op in Orange, which she said is run by a non-profit. But in the end, the members felt that it should remain a store.

The community meeting will be held on the second floor at Town Hall in Royalston Center; a choice that was made with a purpose in mind—that this was a town issue.

“This doesn’t just affect the village,” Alger said. “Yes, it’s important to the revitalization group, but it’s a bigger issue. With Pete & Henry’s burning down, and now this, there’s nothing here. We had one restaurant, and that burned down. And if the store goes, too, it leaves a big hole.”

The public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on April 12 at the Town Hall, 13 On the Common.

“We really did want more people to feel included, having it in the center,” Alger said. “It doesn’t impact just the South Village group; it impacts the entire town.”

Greg Vine can be reached at