CHESTER, Vt. – After a long line of family history and pride engrained into the store, R.B. Erskine Inc. Grain Store will soon close their doors.
Richard “Dick” Erskine came to Chester from Maine in 1939. Dick worked for Park & Pollard Feeds. Park & Pollard was located where Erskine’s Feed Store is today. Dick learned the grain business and in 1952 opened his own grain store. This store was the location of the old family center near Yosemite Firehouse.
Dick Erskine, Mike’s grandfather, was a very generous and kind man. When local farmers fell behind in their charge account, Dick continued to extend credit as long as the farmer paid something on his account each month. Dick didn’t want the farmers’ animals to go hungry. That’s my definition of a fine man.
In 1962 or 1963, Dick bought the Park & Pollard store where Erskine’s is now located. Dick’s son Bob graduated Chester High School in 1954 and went in the service. Bob was in the Airborne for 20 years. For seven or eight of those years, Bob was in Special Forces, retiring as master sergeant. He served two tours in Vietnam.
Bob returned to Chester in 1974, working for his father a year. When Dick retired, Bob bought the store.
Mike Erskine, Bob’s son, graduated Green Mountain High School in 1978. Mike spent nine years in the Army. Mike then worked for UPS during and after college. Mike returned to Chester in 1992 and worked with his father for six years. Mike bought the store from Bob in 1998.
The “seeds” of this family business were sowed by Dick Erskine. Under Bob’s management the business grew. Mike continued doing business the old-fashioned way.
Erskine’s was much larger than Chester alone. Mike had customers from many area towns. Anyone with animals frequented Erskine’s. Many newcomers have memories when they were just getting started with gardening, sugaring, or farm animals. They found Mike extremely helpful. You could ask Mike “how to” and he would take the time to offer his advice.
Every spring, there was “Chick Day.” Area residents would order chicks from Erskine’s in advance. Some might order meat birds with others ordering laying hen chicks or turkeys. My earliest memory is 1956 or 1957 when my mother took me to Erskine’s Chick Day to get some baby chicks.
A young boy walking into Erskine’s was fascinated with the surroundings. There were large platform scales, and 100-pound bags of grain in burlap bags. The chicks were all peeping away. To a young boy, it was a symphony. “Peep, peep,” the chicks chirped. There were several hundred chicks awaiting their new homes, all peeping at once.
Mike has closed the grain store to the public, but is still open Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can call in your order and Mike will have it on the dock when you arrive. Call the store at 802-875-2333.
Mike can certainly hold his head up high. The Erskine family has served us faithfully for decades. Erskine’s is the last vestige of old Chester. We are all better having been part of it.