hill country observerThe independent newspaper of eastern New York, southwestern Vermont and the Berkshires


News & Issues February-March 2021


Restoring the hub of Pawlet

Historic general store finds new life, new vision after five-year hiatus


Gib Mach, the owner of Mach’s Market, stands inside the revamped store, which reopened last spring after being shuttered for five years. Joan K. Lentini photo


Gib Mach, the owner of Mach’s Market, stands inside the revamped store, which reopened last spring after being shuttered for five years. The landmark building in the center of Pawlet, above, was originally built as a hotel in 1804. Joan K. Lentini photos


Contributing writer


On a busy Saturday afternoon at Mach’s Market, a physically distanced line of people forms at the cash register.

Most are buying edible delights such as crab cakes, orzo pasta salads, smoked BLT’s, and pizzas from the brick oven. Some cradle armloads of kale and kohlrabi from the produce section – or loaves of house-baked organic sourdough.

The scene is quite a contrast from the many decades when Mach’s functioned as the all-purpose local general store – a place where people stopped in to pick up quarts of milk, loaves of sandwich bread, hardware and other supplies. That version of the store shut down in 2015, and its landmark 200-year-old building in the center of the village stood mostly empty for five years.
Now, after a lengthy renovation, Mach’s Market has been reborn, thanks to the vision of owner Gib Mach.


The store’s retail history dates back 71 years. Gib’s uncle, John Mach, bought the former hotel in 1945 after serving in the Marine Corps. He too spent several years renovating a dormant building, ultimately reopening it as Mach’s General Store.

Back then, there were no shopping malls or big-box stores, and most people didn’t venture too far from home to shop. Gib Mach remembers how the inventory reflected the store’s mission in the post-war era, with selections of paint, hardware and glass as well as groceries. There was even a toy department upstairs.

His uncle was a graduate of a national butchering school in Toledo, Ohio, and customers came from well beyond the town limits for his cuts of farm-raised beef, handmade sausage and his signature baked beans.

John Mach ran the business for nearly 30 years before turning it over to his daughter Jennifer. When she wanted to sell in 1979, Gib bought the business and the real estate, which sits at the edge of the Flower Brook. He ran the store until 2001, when he decided he could no longer operate a general store in addition to his drilling and blasting business.

“My other job meant working 15-hour days,” he recalled. “I’ve always said that at a mom-and-pop store, mom and pop need to be there. And my wife didn’t want to run the store alone.”
After Gib sold the store, it went through several owners before closing in 2015.

“It was sad to see it close,” Mach recalled. “The community tried to get together to keep it open, but it didn’t happen.”

He decided he had to save the landmark property that was so entwined with his family history.
“I knew it would need a lot of work,” he said. “But I never thought it would take five years.”
The no-detail-spared renovation involved bringing the building up to current fire safety code, a time-consuming asbestos removal and lead-paint abatement.

“The place was gutted,” Mach said. “And in the process, we discovered beautiful brick walls from 1804, when the hotel was built.”

The renovation was self-financed, he said, and included a few unexpected twists, including damage from the 2011 flooding caused by Hurricane Irene – and a lightning strike of a tree behind the building that ignited an explosion in the propane line.

The project took nearly a village to complete, with architects, plumbers, insulation specialists, contractors, and structural engineers all contributing to the outcome.


Adapting to a new era
But Mach had more than just a structural makeover in mind. He also envisioned a streamlined inventory -- with prepared food as the centerpiece.

“I knew I wanted to hire a chef,” he explained. “Times were different, and I couldn’t compete with Home Depot and Tractor Supply Company. But if the food was good enough, we could become a destination.”

What he couldn’t have foreseen was that the Covid-19 pandemic would arrive just as he was preparing to reopen the market.

As it turned out, the pandemic meant that most of the region’s second-home owners morphed into full-time Vermont residents. The moment was perfect for a culinary rewrite in Pawlet.

To recreate the store as a food-oriented destination, Gib Mach recruited a team of key players, starting with daughter DeAnna Mach, whom he calls the “organic guru” in charge of the produce section and the pizza-making operation. The team also includes executive chef Zachary Baker; head baker, extended family member, and town treasurer Julie Mach; and Billy Jamieson, who runs the deli counter and also heads the market’s craft beer and wine sections.

DeAnna Mach’s history with the market runs deep, dating back to her days running checkout while standing on a milk crate. She began making pizzas in the store’s brick oven in 1999. When she began her new role at the market last year, sustainability and supporting local farmers were her top priorities.

“I’ve always used organic grain from the Champlain Valley Milling Corp. for our pizza and wanted the rest of the menu as well as the produce section to be sourced from local purveyors,” she said. “Having partnerships with local farmers for the past 20 years has allowed me to bring more in for the market.”


Spotlight on food
Mach’s Market officially reopened last Memorial Day weekend, with a sparkling new interior and a menu of handcrafted and locally sourced foods.

Depending on the season, the shelves abound with carrots, field greens, spinach, turnips and tomatoes, with handwritten nutritional notes beside each one.

“The produce we sell informs our dining,” DeAnna Mach said. “We have an incredible pizza with an olive-oil-based crust topped with fresh beets, chevre, garlic, and kale, which crisps like a chip when it’s done.”

All of the pizza toppings, from cheese to pepperoni, are from local purveyors.
“When we reopened, we decided we wanted to make a difference in the community by not only creating jobs at the market but by supporting local farms and food makers,” she explained.
Baker, the executive chef, said that in the months since Mach’s Market reopened, its menu has grown to include house specialties that people clamor for: hand-cut french fries made from local potatoes, house-smoked brisket sandwiches, hand-pounded chicken cutlets topped with broccoli rabe, and breakfast burritos and sandwiches.

“Gib gave me a blank canvas to set my own style with the menu,” Baker said. “It’s been crazy busy here, because takeout is the predominant style with Covid protocol.”

Baker, who previously was sous-chef at The Copper Grouse in Manchester, said the starting point for his menu was the market’s smokehouse. From there, he relied on a mix of inspiration and customer feedback. The result is an eclectic menu ranging from “Mach and cheese” and in-house cured salmon to slow-roasted turkey clubs and cheeseburgers on brioche buns.
Most of the specials are gluten-free, he said, and everything baked or fried is dredged in rice flour.

The response from customers has been gratifying, Baker said, and the biggest thing he’s been missing amid the pandemic is the ability to plate a meal with his usual flair – something he looks forward to doing when dining in is an option again.

In the meantime, he channels his penchant for presentation while stocking the store’s deli case.
“Each morning we spend at least an hour plating the meats and salads so they look full and well-presented,” Baker said.

Judy Lake, whose Lake’s Lampshades is two doors down from the market, said she was delighted when the store reopened and now visits nearly every day for takeout.

“Their spring rolls are my favorite, and their breakfast sandwiches are top-notch,” she said. “And I had a piece of almond nut cake the other day that was incredible.”

Mach’s Market also boasts its own craft beer cave with an entire wall dedicated to sour, stout, dark, and Double IPA craft beers from across the state.

“Most people are surprised, at first, how big our inentory is,” Jamieson said.


Carrying on a tradition
Although the fare has a more upscale flavor than in the past, the revived Mach’s Market once again fills one of the time-honored roles of the local general store – as an unofficial community hub.

The store participates in the Vermont Everyone Eats program, a state-backed food relief effort that engages local restaurants to provide meals to anyone affected by the economic upheaval of the Covid-19 crisis. (More details of the program, including a list of meal distribution locations and times in Rutland County, is available on the website of the Vermont Farmers Food Center, at www.vermontfarmersfoodcenter.org/everyone_eats .)

“We make the time for it, and make it work,” Gib Mach said.

One day in late January, his wife, Doreen, who does the store’s bookkeeping, was busy in the kitchen helping to wash and cut 150 pounds of local potatoes for the weekly project.

Floyd Caruth, the proprietor of Vermont Barrel Aged LLC, a hot sauce line, makes his locally sourced sauces at Mach’s commercial kitchen and also pitches in once or twice a week to help with meal preparation for Everyone Eats.

“There’s a real community here at the market,” he said. “Using their kitchen keeps my overhead down, but being here means being a part of something bigger.”

Other traditions from the Mach’s Market of old have been revived. Gib still makes his uncle’s baked bean recipe and carries on the sausage-making tradition using the family recipe.

Someday in a post-Covid future, he said, he hopes to offer table service in the spacious dining room overlooking the Flower Brook – with a tavern and piano bar.

When he’s not working behind the counter, Gib relishes his role as Pop, chatting with customers and fielding compliments on the tenderness of the brisket or the unexpected pizzazz in the slightly peppery french-fry aioli.

“When I was developing the new business plan, people said no one would come past a 15-mile radius,” he said. “But I knew we could draw from Burlington to Albany, N.Y. My goal was to make Mach’s Market a destination, and we have.”


Mach’s Market is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at 18 School St. in Pawlet. Visit www.machsmarket.com or call (802) 325-3405 for more information.