A Genial Welcome at Etna General Store
Kristen Greene shares her experience baking for the store
In many ways, walking into the Etna General Store feels like walking into a friend’s home. The building itself is worn, but its shelves are stocked with homemade cookies and donuts. Importantly, the affordable coffee is hot. Even warmer is the welcome visitors receive from the owner, Victor Dube and his family. Dube, his wife, daughter, and son-in-law greet customers as if they were guests.
Many people come to the store because of its convenient location – it is one of the few places in Hanover that sells pantry staples east of Lebanon Street. Besides offering bread and milk, the General Store sells grain, lottery tickets, toothpaste, breakfast sandwiches and lunch specials.
During the lull between lunch and after-work milk runs, I talked to Kristen Greene, the General Store’s baker and Victor’s daughter.
When did your family purchase the General Store?
We bought the business 14 years ago from a local family. [The Dube and Greene family commutes from Haverhill, NH.] We were their first non-local family to own it, but my dad knew the owners and the neighborhood. Dad was a vendor for Pepperidge Farm, but he wanted something that he and Mom could do together.
I worked at the store while I was in high school to pay for my car insurance. Later I worked at Dartmouth College. When I was pregnant with my first son when the woman who did our baking retired, and I took over.
Did you have experience baking?
No. I jumped in and started experimenting.
What is your favorite baked good at the store?
The chocolate peanut butter bars. The customers seem to really like them – probably because they taste like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
Oooh. That sounds delicious. Who are most of your customers?
Much of our lunch business comes from the companies down the road, Hypertherm and Fujiflim Dimatix. Other people find out about us through word of mouth. We will have a group we call the “usuals” because they come at the same time every day.
One customer, named Jill, has been coming here for eight years – just after my daughter was born. She wants her sandwich made in a very specific way that I only I do. Last time she came, I made her sandwich and then we talked for over a half hour. She’s a friend as much as a customer.
A lot of our customers are like that, and we care about them. I worry about not seeing the customers when the store is rebuilt. We may be closed for nine months. It breaks my heart because I am used to the people.
There are plans to rebuild?
The building is in rough shape, and the owner hopes to rebuild sometime soon. The plans have been approved by the town but are on hold with the state. We hope to have more space to offer more local products, including produce and meat. We also want to make more meals for dinner and possibly pizza and ice cream.
What kind of local products do you sell?
We found most of our local suppliers through relationships and conversations with our customers. We started offering local products by selling maple syrup. A farmer in Etna supplies our eggs. When people found out we had local eggs, we sold out. We can’t seem to keep them on the shelf. We also carry local honey and coffee roasted in White River Junction. A customer is interested in selling his meat here, and that would be our next step to offer more local products. We think it’s important to support the little guys.