It took eight days, and a handshake and Troy Kingsbury has a deal to sell the Village Grocery in Waitsfield to Talmage Jestice, Waitsfield.
“Knowing that there are two families committed to each other to continue this, I’ve given Talmage all the picture and history of the VG. We know we’re just stewards of this institution while we’re here and now my family is passing it on to the next,” said Troy Kingsbury in an interview this week.
“That’s exactly right. It’s stewardship, taking the thing and steering it and for that amount of time you steer it until you hand it over to the next captain. I like that we both see it that way and I think that’s a really important underlying part of the ethos of the VG in general and of this community. It’s another thing Troy and I completely agree on,” Jestice said.
Kingsbury announced that the Village Grocery was for sale during his weekly spot on WDEV on August 2, with the news posting concurrently on The Valley Reporter’s website and social media.
“The reason we broke it on WDEV and The Valley Reporter is because my realtor Steve Robbins said it takes seven to 10 days to get out on the internet. I knew it had to be somebody local. And we wondered how to get someone who didn’t represent a huge corporation, someone for whom this wasn’t just an investment property. We wanted it to be someone who was going to be here in our community, pushing for it and working on it,” Kingsbury said.
“My mom said it would take a year of weeding out potential buyers to make sure we found the right person to continue the VG and it took eight days!” Kingsbury said.
He and Jestice were interviewed in the VG office where they appeared side by side on the Zoom screen. Jestice joked that he tried to buy just the creemee machine and Troy made him buy the whole business.
Jestice said he’s been looking at businesses to buy in The Valley since moving here. He grew up in Middlebury and moved here with his late wife Mariah McGill seven years ago.
“I always knew I’d buy the right business when it became available. I looked at everything that came up. And then I saw that the VG was for sale. I thought ‘that seems really cool. I'm going to go look at it. Not really thinking that it would be necessarily the thing that I would do. But I wanted to look at it because it's such an institution and such a big part of the community. And I love this community,” Jestice said.
“I got here and met Troy and thought the vibe was awesome. I love the way this feels. I checked it out again, went over the numbers, thought about it and then I was reading The Valley Reporter where someone had written about the things that they hoped the VG would be in the future and those were exactly the things that I hoped for the future of the store. I took that as a sign and I made an offer. He took the offer and we’re rolling forward,” Jestice said.
Kingsbury said that Jestice initially came with a group of people and he originally thought he was part of the group.
“I looked at the group and I thought, I’m still looking for the guy that’s going to be all in. You put your whole body and soul into the business. When Tal came back and made the offer last Friday and I realized he wasn’t part of that group and that he was the right person to continue and that he understood what the VG stood for, we shook hands and that was that. I live a mile north of the store and he lives a mile south, so that sealed it,” Kingsbury said.
Jestice has a long career in the food and beverage industry, in Middlebury and Boston and then in Vermont. His experience runs the gamut from dishwashing to catering to management, to executive chef and more.
“When I moved to Vermont, I was trying to find the right fit. One of my friends told me Joey Nagy at Mad Taco was looking for help with their catering program. I sat down with Joey and he offered me the job and I took it on a handshake. It’s been awesome. I’ve worked there in many different ways since I’ve moved to The Valley, catering, chef, in the various shops, in the commissary kitchen. A big shout out to Joey for being as cool as he is,” Jestice said.
Talmadge said he loved every minute of working for the Mad Taco and particularly appreciated how Nagy cares for his staff and cares for his community.
“I want to continue here along those lines of just quietly pushing along and doing things that are great for people you work with and people who visit your place,” Jestice added.
Kingsbury pointed out that the new owner didn’t yet know how closely intertwined the business community is and said that in the fall when Mad Taco harvests its local meat, Nagy will come to the VG and empty the ice machine to help with food processing as they have to chill the meat.
“There’s still a relationship. That’s how it is in The Valley. People work together. Even though Tal is not working there anymore, he’s going to be working with Joey,” he added.
Jestice’s daughter Maisie Jestice will be 12 later this month and she’ll be starting sixth grade at Fayston Elementary School. She’s already dedicated to bagging ice and taste testing ice cream, he said.
Kingsbury noted that he started working at his parents’ convenience store when he was 12.
“That’s poetic,” Jestice said.
“Literally full circle,” Kingsbury responded.
Once the sale closes, Kingsbury will stick around to work with Jestice for six week and/or longer if needed. The lawyers are currently lawyering, the pair reported and in the interim Kingsbury is teaching Jestice the lay of the land and the details of operations.
“He is going to be kind enough to let me continue to the do the metal artwork I do in the back shed as well, so I’ll be here onsite for him for at least a year and we’re going to do the Lobster Run in October and we think we’ll be able to do Wheels for Warmth as well. I’m on board with doing that work. We will have a long-term relationship. And we’ll make the transition seamless for our community. I see our relationship growing and if he needs help a year down the road, three years down the road, I’m stepping in to make sure he is well taken care of so the VG continues to be the VG,” Kingsbury added.