Of course, there is the danger that this razzmatazz could harden, like candy or plastic. Or that it could succeed too well: some quintessential Vermont companies have become so big, they’ve left their country-store past behind. One part-owner of the Glover country store, Julie McKay, talks about watching the Cabot dairy truck drive by without making a stop. To most of the Northeast, the Cabot name is synonymous with Vermont "quality," but for precisely this reason, the farmers who make up this collective no longer find it cost-effective to sell directly to the Julie McKays of this world, and so she must buy her Cabot cheese and butter from a distributor in New Hampshire.
At the moment, however, the danger seems a long way off. Back at the Adamant Co-op, customers are arriving and talking knowledgeably about one another’s daily lives. Samosas made by a Congolese refugee in nearby Montpelier are for sale, as are calzones prepared by a town resident. The atmosphere is close and intimate, yet not confining. "The store almost closed a few years ago," the Co-op’s presiding spirit, Janet MacLeod, says. "We’d always sold cigarettes and beer, but people wanted wine—people in Vermont didn’t use to drink wine. And they wanted organic food." And so the store evolved, like the rest of the stores in the Alliance, responding to local needs. "We used to sell Twinkies," Janet says, "but not anymore."
Adam Lehner is an editor at the Drawing Center, in New York City.