PEPPERELL -- Upon walking into the building that was once McNabb's General Store on Main Street, customers who were accustomed to the carpeting and the counter at the back wall where the pharmacy once stood are in for a bit of a surprise.
The family photos and Pepperell-themed decor that filled the walls has been removed in order to apply a fresh coat of paint. The carpets and an underlying layer of linoleum have been peeled back to reveal a hardwood floor more than 100 years old that has since been sanded and stained. The back counter has been removed to open up the floor space, making the room appear even larger. The space once occupied by a deli has transitioned into a quiet spot for playing Keno.
And a new smiling face stands behind the main counter: That of Sunny Patel, who is sprucing up the shop in preparation to open his own business, Sunny's Liquors, in the space that had previously been occupied by the store with Pepperell's oldest active business certificate.
Patel is having a grand opening for his business on Jan. 11. A huge banner posted in the window proclaims deep discounts on a variety of wine brands: Woodbridge, Yellow Tail, Sutter Home, Barefoot and Beringer at $10.99 for 1.5 liters, or two for $20.
Patel, who also owns Townsend Package Store in Townsend, bought the Pepperell business on Nov. 26 as McNabb prepared for retirement.
"I wanted to expand my business," said Patel.
The first step was transferring the store's liquor license into his name. Since then, he has spent his spare time, when not occupied by his Townsend business, in Pepperell, giving the space a facelift.
"Not every single day, but whenever I have time, I am working on it," he said.
And the carpentry was no simple task.
"It's not easy. I never did this kind of work, removing carpet and tiles," said Patel.
Still, the hard work paid off. Although not much about the landscape of the store has changed other than the removal of the counter, the new paint and hardwood floors make the interior feel like a brand new space. A new image for a new business.
Another notable change in the interior is its empty storage, as Patel awaits delivery of his products. Although the space behind the counter is stocked with plenty of package store items, the coolers lining the walls are currently empty, as are the rows of new shelving units that occupy the back floor space.
But this won't be the case for very long; within a week, Patel said, the new shelves will soon be fully stocked with a huge variety of wine and other liquors, while the coolers will contain various malt beverages. Patel said his focus will be more on liquor and wine and less on beer, but the shop will be a full package store.
Although the grand opening is Jan. 11, after the products are delivered, Patel plans to open his doors to the public before that.
"What I have, I can sell," he said.
Patel moved to the United States from his native India in 1993.
"I wanted a better life," he said. "There is a better life here."
He first lived in Lowell before transitioning to Westford. He and wife and daughter recently moved to Townsend to be closer to his business in order to save on the cost of traveling. Since opening his business a little more than a year ago, he said, he has been embraced by the community.
"I was searching for a business and saw (the location) and liked it," said Patel. "It's very good and friendly."
John McNabb, meanwhile, is still the landlord of the building and has every confidence in Patel as a business owner.
"They're a very nice, hardworking family. And he's customer-oriented," said McNabb. "He is so friendly and he likes people. I think he will do very well."