GROTON — Patrons braved late hours and falling temperatures last Saturday night to take part in a wine-tasting event held at the new Clover Farm Market in West Groton.
New owner Janice Hurst is transforming the former “corner store” into a vital “happening” place that has residents buzzing about the future of their neighborhood.
Adding to the tony atmosphere of last weekend’s wine-tasting was an encore screening of “The Keeper,” a short film by David Melpignano. The film chronicles the transition of the store from 50 years of ownership by local icons Winnie Sherwin and his sister, to that of Hurst.
“I think this is all great and long overdue,” said West Groton resident Jonathan Foster, balancing two wine glasses. “Win had a great store but this is the next stage for West Groton.
“Everybody here lives in West Groton,” said Foster, gesturing to the people crowding the newly-renovated variety store. “And if you look around, there’s not a tuxedo in sight. Nothing’s changed much from when Win had the store. We’re all still West Groton people.”
“I think it’s very exciting,” said Hurst, looking out over the milling crowd and the line of people waiting their turn to sample wines offered by Sue Nordberg, of Martignetti wines. “I had no idea that the community would be so accepting of the new store.”
Since reopening the Clover Farms Market last spring, Hurst has marked her tenure with a series of events. One such event was September’s grand opening gala, with its theme of “Down Upon a Squanee River,” that featured the premiere of “The Keeper.”
Last weekend’s wine-tasting featured a number of fine wines, highlighting the store’s offerings of wines and spirits.
“Holding a wine-tasting at this time of year is a natural, with the holidays coming up,” said Hurst. “I’m not surprised at the crowd we have here tonight. I definitely think they come down for the wines we offer and sales are definitely growing. People like to see that sort of thing right here in West Groton.”
“We were hoping to have a good turnout tonight and we did,” said Nordberg as she worked the busy sample table. “We thought that this kind of an event would be a good combo, between her store and myself, and with the holidays coming it all fell into place. The personality of the store’s ownership is what people are really looking for and this event fits in well with that. We thought it would be fun to whip up a crowd!”
And a crowd was certainly attracted, as the store began filling up well before the official start time of 7 p.m. and people lingered long after the 8 p.m. conclusion. Besides the wine, appetizers and conviviality all around, there was also the film screening, which managed to draw an SRO crowd in the store’s back room. The film drew viewers in with its combination of sentimentality and transformation.
“The premiere went very well and played to a packed house,” said Melpignano of the film’s initial screening in September. “I was satisfied with how the film came out because I tried to capture the character of the store while balancing it with its new ownership and the rebirth of a gathering place. When things happen in West Groton, people tend to come here. Through the good will of everyone in the neighborhood, ownership of the store has been successfully passed on.”
That good will, as captured on film, will soon be available to everyone when “The Keeper” is transferred to DVD and placed on sale.
“I know Janice and David and was here for their last event,” said friend and Peterborough, N.H., resident Amy Haynes. “They’ve done a wonderful job remodeling the store and an event like this is great for getting people together, especially on a cold night!”
“It’s great and it’s local,” said Shirley resident Linda DeLong, amid the bins of local produce and shelves featuring local merchandise. “I like the change.”
Others liked it so much that their enthusiasm got the best of them.
“It’s about time!” declared Janet Shea, also a product of West Groton. “With our own school building at Tarbell, a post office, and employment at Rivercourt Residences and Hollingsworth & Vose, this kind of thing will make West Groton complete. We should secede! We have everything now!”