The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 20, 2009


For the first time in 150 years, alcohol to be sold in Carlisle – Ferns Country Store opens its new space


Proprietors Robin Emerson and Larry Bearfield take a break from preparations for the opening of their expanded space at Ferns Country Store. (Photo by Mollie McPhee Ho)

The grand opening of the Ferns Country Store addition is this weekend, Saturday, November 21.

It was almost six years ago that Larry Bearfield and Robin Emerson opened Ferns Country Store, which stands on the site where a general store has operated under one name or another for the past 165 years. And in those six years, they have made a handful of significant changes. First they built a farmers’ porch, in the tradition of New England’s venerable general stores, with benches and rocking chairs. Window boxes, potted flowers and leash hooks for dogs complemented the appearance of the store, as did the new yellow paint. Next was the brick piazza, with its umbrella-topped café tables and professional landscaping, providing a gathering place where Ferns customers can eat, visit, read or even take advantage of the store’s free WiFi.

But the biggest change will be unveiled on Saturday: a newly constructed section of the store which links the old part of the building with the structure that was once a commercial garage and in recent years had fallen into disuse. With the newly expanded space, not only will Ferns have a bigger inventory and a more inviting traffic flow, but it will put to use its hard-won liquor license. For the first time in 150 years, beer and wine will be available for purchase within Carlisle town lines.

In anticipation of Saturday’s grand opening, we spoke with co-proprietor Larry Bearfield about the changes.

What’s the plan for the big day?

Face-painting, jugglers, clowns, marching bands…will not be present. This is a simple event, a “soft opening” to welcome people to our newly expanded store. We’re going to open the doors at 6 a.m. and welcome everyone in. We’ll start selling beer and wine at 10 a.m.

Describe the changes to the store.

Well, the biggest challenge for regulars to get used to is that there are two new entrances, both in the new section, one facing the front parking lot and one facing the back. The new link section houses our grocery department. There you’ll find our regular assortment of products along with some new things. With more space, we’re able to organize our inventory better. We have a big new cooler for dairy and soda. The checkout counter is in the main section as well. In the old store building is the deli, the bakery and the coffee. In the future, we’ll be implementing a coffee bar that will offer cappuccinos and lattes along with regular drinks. We’ll also expand our bakery to sell whole desserts.

And the big news - what about the wine and beer department?

Our new wine and beer department is located in what was once the garage. The space has been totally transformed. We’ll be featuring a large selection of 430 varieties of wine and over 80 different beers. We conducted a survey through our electronic newsletter to ask people what they wanted, and we got a terrific response. We are confident that we’ll be able to accommodate 95% or more of the requests. We want to both offer what people currently drink and help buyers expand their horizons with selections they might not be familiar with.

Our new wine and beer manager is working with a host of distributors to put together a great selection of wines, including labels from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Italy, France, Oregon, Washington and New England, at all price points. For beer, we’ll have the staples along with craft beers from small, independent brewers. Our operating philosophy has always been to deal with small local firms when possible, and this will be reflected in our wine and beer inventory as well.

What other changes will take effect with the grand opening?

We’re expanding our hours. We’ll now be open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wine and beer will be sold Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to closing and won’t be sold at all on Sundays.

What about indoor seating?

We can’t offer indoor seating until we can implement public restrooms, and that won’t happen yet. It’s definitely a goal for the future, though. We’re in discussions with the Department of Environmental Protection over public water supply, which will eventually determine whether we can have public restrooms and consequently, indoor seating.

So what will be the first alcoholic beverage sold in Carlisle in 150 years?

We held a free drawing through our electronic newsletter. The winner gets to be the first person to purchase alcohol in Carlisle in 150 years. So the choice is up to that person.

What are the next steps?

Right now, the main section of the store will be handicapped accessible but we are still working on making the old part ADA compliant. We had a very good meeting with the state governing board earlier this week about that and are optimistic that we will be able to meet their requirements soon.

Overall, how have you fared during the construction process?

Our customers have been very patient. I also want to give credit to Robin who has been managing the store and keeping operations running smoothly while I’ve been concentrating full time on the construction process. Our staff has been superb. Some of our staff members have attended a state-run training program for sellers of alcoholic beverages which offers pointers on selling responsibly, checking identifications and so forth.

Other thoughts about the grand opening?

One person did ask us who was the last person to buy alcohol in Carlisle, 150 years ago, before the town went dry. Anyone who chooses to research that question probably has too much time on their hands. In any case, we hope to see everyone show up to celebrate the opening with us. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito