CABOT — On Main Street, the lively sounds of keyboard, song and laughter drift from the hardware store, as the man behind the bar serves up eight craft beers on tap to thirsty patrons.
At a time when entrepreneurial spirits often enable small villages to thrive, the owners of Harry’s Hardware have taken a new approach to reinvigorating a 100-year-old Vermont business. With The Den at Harry’s Hardware, they have created a new meeting place to bring people into town for a good laugh and a cold beer.
Bobby and Stephany Searles own the Cabot Village Store, the only place to buy groceries in the village. When the hardware store next door was put up for auction in 2014, they made the winning bid, and installed new gas pumps out front.
It soon became apparent that they would need to do more than sell paints and pipes and gas to stay in business, so they started looking for fresh ideas. The recreational opportunities in the surrounding area and the creamery tours brought tourists to the area, but how to get them into the store was a puzzle.
Bobby has deep roots in Cabot. His father was raised in Cabot, and his name appears on the WWII Memorial in the center of the village green.
Across the river, Johanna and Rory Thibault purchased a 200-year-old farmhouse last year. They became frequent visitors to the hardware store. Johanna, a law professor, and Rory, a Vermont Deputy States Attorney, became close friends with the owners of the hardware and village stores.
“It was fun meeting in the hardware or grocery stores, but we really felt we needed a casual place in the village to meet up with other friends where we could sit down and relax,” said Johanna. “The hardware store had so much potential to become that type of space.”
In January, one of their discussions led to the Thibaults offering to become partners in Harry’s Hardware. The two couples explored ways to use the space to greater advantage. They decided to eliminate some retail space and open a pub inside the hardware store. The village council was excited and helpful in green-lighting the necessary permits, as was the State of Vermont. In mid-April, the partnership was finalized and the liquor license was soon on its way. The last weekend in June, the 15-foot polished African black granite slab (purchased in Barre) for the bar was installed, and The Den at Harry’s Hardware became the third hardware-store-plus-pub combination in the USA.
With eight Vermont craft beers on tap — including Green State Lager, Switchback Ale, and Maple Stout — the pub is drawing locals and tourists alike with its unique concept. Each beer boasts its own unique creation story. The pub is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until 9 p.m. On Friday nights, “Papa G” entertains with a piano keyboard and leads the sing-along. You can still pick up that roll of duct tape you came in for on your way out.
A Grand Opening Sidewalk Party and Music Fest (FOUR BANDS!) will rock Main Street this weekend (Aug. 19), with food provided by Brock Miller’s Backyard BBQ.
Bobby Searles added, “We hope to have a music festival every year.”
In addition to an annual music fest, the pub has plans for a Christmas market this winter and a fishing derby in the spring, as well as lending support to the apple pie festival this fall.
And someday, in the not-too-distant future, a Cabot-brewed craft beer may just join the others on tap.