It was a fall night in 2001 when Kevin Christofora and his wife Kristen decided they’d settle down in Woodstock. They’d been in town for a year and a half, renting a house while Kevin put in twelve hour days at Woodstock Meats, the business he’d bought from his dad. “We both had corporate jobs when we lived in New Jersey,” Christofora remembered. “I got her to agree to give it up; to give Woodstock a try for two years. ”
It was a lifestyle choice. They wanted children. Woodstock Meats could make it possible for them to be a one income family. They’d sold everything they had to buy the business from Vincent, Sr. when he decided he wanted to sell. But it wasn’t an easy transition. “It was just awful. The house we rented when we moved here needed all kinds of work that we didn’t bother doing because it wasn’t ours,” Christofora said. “I was working all the time. Work was stressful. Home was stressful. We were at the end of our ropes.”
Christofora said he and Kristen sat down and decided it was time to compare their pros and cons list. They’d both been compiling them. It was six months before their deadline, but it was time to make a choice. Should they stay or should they go?
“We stayed up almost all night,” he said. “And somewhere around four in the morning we decided we’d stay. We’d buy the house, work on it, commit to the business and make a life here.”
The next day was September 11. Almost fourteen years later, the business that has supported his young family since then is on the market.
Woodstock Meats is one of the town’s anchor stores; a small market and community hub that’s now had four different sets of owners. Jerry Simonetti and his partners bought Woodstock Meats from original owner Phil Spinelli, and Simonetti eventually bought the partners out. Simonetti made Woodstock Meats in his own image, assuring customers through the sixties and seventies that his steak was “like buttah” to a constant loop of Louis Armstrong records. He sold the business to Vincent Christofora, who’d spent his career in the grocery business and ran a successful market in Olivebridge. Vince, Sr. can still be found behind the counter at Woodstock Meats.
Christofora’s brother, Vince, Jr., owns Woodstock Hardware and the new town laundromat at the corner of Mill Hill Road and Elwyn Lane. His businesses aren’t related to Woodstock Meats.
Kevin Christofora has become an integral part of the community and demonstrated an impressive ability to multi-task since taking over Woodstock Meats. He ran the local Little League (which he still coaches). He’s organized parades and community events. He started a raw pet food business called Butcher’s Blend and has written a series of books to encourage today’s technology-addicted children to play sports.
Business at Woodstock Meats is great, he said. The store is bustling. But he’s tired. He’s ready for a change. “I’m ready for a job that gives me a couple of days off. A job with vacations. Suit and tie or casual, I don’t care. But running a business is like having two full time jobs and eventually the time comes when you know you’ve had enough.”
He’s got nothing lined up. He said he can’t job hunt until he knows the store is sold. That hasn’t happened and he said there’s no timeline for that yet.
Will he stay in Woodstock? Maybe. Maybe not.
“I like it here, but if the next job is somewhere else, we’ll go.”
Christofora said he sees some real challenges for the Woodstock of today.
“Unless everyone, residents, business and town officials, decide to agree on what they want the town to be and start working together to make it happen, it’s not looking good,” he said. “We’ve lost industry because the town wouldn’t let companies expand. That’s meant fewer customers for every business in town. Our infrastructure is a mess. Our roads flood right in town. The parking situation is terrible. These are things we can fix. And if the problem isn’t one we can fix ourselves, we need to make noise where it needs to be heard until it is fixed. But that’s not happening.”
Christofora clearly has some regrets about saying goodbye to the business that has consumed him for more than 15 years.
“I always say if you want to really get something done, work at a deli counter. The world comes to you — every person who comes in is a world. I’ve met so many amazing people, people I’d never have met. And if I had met them somewhere else, we wouldn’t have had the kind of conversations we’ve had over my counter.”
He debates with himself how involved he should be with whatever the next chapter of Woodstock Meats will be. He and his store have been a lifeline, and a reliable source of coffee and supplies, for local residents after natural disasters and severe weather.
“I remember after Hurricane Irene people were lined up in the parking lot, many of them just wanting a cup of coffee. We were cooking on any hot surface we had, including a barbeque in the parking lot. I’m hoping the next owners are the same kind of resource to the community. But should I be demanding they keep Woodstock Meats just like it is? I don’t think I can. It’s going to be their store.”
And though the transition may prove to bring its own benefits, the ending of this chapter is a loss to Woodstock.