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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 24, 2010

Medusa General Store re-opens:
An old-fashioned community center with a new business model

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — After being closed for nearly 10 years, the Medusa General Store is open for business, and owners Jason and April Roggio are taking steps to keep it that way.

“Our community was screaming for a general store,” Jason Roggio said last week. “As someone who grew up here, I knew the community well enough to know that the support we’re going to need to survive is here. We’re seeing it already, and we’ve only been open a couple weeks.”

His wife, April, sees it as a family endeavor.

“My husband and I wanted a place to work together, and we wanted a place for our kids to be as well,” she said. She is currently working towards her Ph.D. in decision sciences from the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.

The Roggios purchased the building after a tax foreclosure.

“Eventually, we found out we were the high bidder,” Jason said. “We had listed all the things we needed to repair to bring it back up to usable shape: The garage in the back needed a new roof, gas tanks needed major repair, and the overall building structure itself needed a little bit of a facelift. We redid the porch, paint work, and brought in the equipment to put merchandise up.”

After years of work, the store finally re-opened in mid-May, just a month after the closing of the Hilltown Market and Natural Food Co-op, which had been in Rensselaerville since January 2006. Though the re-opening of the general store had been planned long before the closure of the co-op, the Roggios have made an effort to continue serving those same customers by carrying many of the natural and organic products that the co-op sold.

“In April, the co-op had come out and said, ‘We’re closing our doors. Would you be interested in working with us, putting up some products and working with our customers?’ We felt we could do that and help the community,” said Jason. “Most of the products are for people who are health-conscious and looking for a specific item. We wanted to make sure we knew the products the co-op had, so we looked at their top-selling products, and we took those on, as well as about 400 other products.”

Part of that is carrying locally produced foods, including lettuce and eggs from White Knuckle Farms in Rensselaerville; meats from Morning Fog Farm in Berne; and kosher dipping sauces from Wild Thymes Farm in Medusa, to name a few.

“You get to really make sure the dollar stays in the neighborhood,” April said.

The Roggios are also taking measures to avoid suffering the same fate as the failed co-op. The main tool here, Jason said, is an up-to-date point-of-sale system, which collects computerized data relating to how much of which products are selling, and at what times of day they are selling the most.

“This way, there’s a lot more inventory control on the back end,” he said. “I can tell you the hour of the day that something is the best seller.”

One of the greatest advantages to this kind of system is that a storeowner knows when a particular product is not profitable. He used gas as an example.

“We want to make sure that, when people buy gas, they’re buying something else along with that gas to make up for the tiny profit we’re making on gas,” Roggio said. “Every year, these tanks have to be re-certified, and it’s expensive. If we’re not seeing that profit from gasoline sales, we might have to make the decision down the road that it’s not worth it. I can see that with my point of sale.”

Those interested in learning about recent or future additions to the store, or communicating with the storeowners, can do so online at the Medusa General Store blog, at www.medusageneralstore.blogspot.com.

“Things are coming together,” April concluded. “Some days are better than others, and we’re still working out the kinks, but it’s going well.”

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