COLCHESTER — Dick Mazza’s General Store has gone through many different seasons since it opened in 1954 and working through the pandemic has been no exception. Store Manager Dick Mazza has had to deal with shifting supply chains and shrinking revenue.
While times have been challenging for the store, Mazza, who is also a longtime senator in the Vermont Legislature, and his employees have been making the best of it.
“Things have been spotty. It's getting better now, but we’ve been lacking the Canadian tourists,” he said.
Canadian tourists were a big source of revenue for the store, which he said has suffered from the shut borders during the pandemic.
He said the weather has been changeable, but that on nice weekends boaters and campers stop by to shop.
“It’s usually the first two weeks of July or the last two weeks of August that we get the most business,” Mazza said.
The store has primarily been making ends meet through takeout. The store's grab-and-go sandwiches and snacks are popular for weekend cookouts.
The store has been having some issues sourcing some of their food and supplies, often because of the pandemic's impact on the supply chains of different products.
“You have to watch your inventory. Our grocery order came in today, and we had forty items crossed off the invoice that they couldn’t supply," Mazza said.
Getting wine has been an issue due to a shortage of bottles.
“A mustard company couldn’t send their mustard out to us because they were out of plastic covers. Beef is hard to get because of the lack of truckers,” he said.
The increase in prices has made Mazza feel bad for the consumers.
“Some items are going up 5 or 10 percent from where they used to be," he said.
A shortage of labor was partly responsible for the lack of goods,.
“It’s a frightening time, we're continuing to pass out money, and I know people need it, but it’s hard to hire help now," he said.
Mazza thinks the pandemic ending would help bring costs down, as well as help encourage people to go back to work. He knows he was lucky to have employees that stayed with him for decades, as well as those who are home from college or are high school students.
“We’re a lot more fortunate than a lot of other places that all have help wanted signs when you pass by them," he said.
The store had partly done so well due to the variety of goods it sells. The store is full of wine and other picnicking essentials and is located across the street from Colchester Bay, making it a prime location for boaters to grab essentials.
“If people can come in here and buy everything like bread, hot dogs, mustard etc. they don’t have to go to other places,” Mazza said.
The friendly staff, service and convenient location made a big difference as well.
“I was able to keep everyone employed, but you have to plan on those rainy days," he said. We’ve been here a long time and there was no way I was going to let my staff go unemployed, so we hung in there,” he said.