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Orient business district undergoes youthful changes
In a community with such rich history as Orient, many things continue on as they’ve always been.
A tree on Main Road is adorned with a plaque announcing it was there on July 4, 1776. Some steps away, the village cemetery contains many of the same names found in a current phone book — families who have stayed in the community for a millennium.
But some things have changed; for instance, the brand of coffee served at the Orient Country Store.
“They always had Maxwell House,” said Miriam Foster, 25, who bought the country store with her husband, Grayson Murphy, 26, last year. “They told us, ‘Don’t change the coffee,’ but we brought in some roasters that we know from Massachusetts, and everyone loves it.”
The coffee, of course, is secondary to the people that brought it there. Foster and Murphy not only took over from Linton Duell, who owned the country store for more than 30 years, but they’re “from away,” as people in Orient call people not from Orient.
The couple, who bought the store in April 2011 and were married in September, had been living in Massachusetts, where they both attended college. Foster was working at a bakery and Murphy at a chocolatier. They wanted to move on and find a way to work for themselves.
“We wanted a project,” said Murphy, originally from Texas. “We were looking for a farm on the North Fork and we ran into this place.”
They are the fourth owners of the pre-Revolutionary building since the turn of the last century.
If the newcomers were a shock to the regulars, then the precious Village Lane business district experienced another one this spring when 19-year-old Rosy Brown started scooping ice cream at the storefront two doors down from the country store.
She called her ice cream parlor The Idle Hour, a throwback to the ice cream and soda shop that was there more than 50 years ago. Brown, who shares a last name with one of Orient’s founding families but is not related, took a year off between high school and college and decided to pursue her culinary interest, particularly in sweets.
Brown, who is from Manhattan but spent summers in Orient since she was a child, said she has been overwhelmed by the positive reception.
“There are actually tons of people here, and tons of people eating ice cream,” the cheery redhead said. “I’ve been surprised by how many people there are here and how wonderful they’ve all been.”
Brown said through her time spent in Orient, she could appreciate the fact that the community has been so willing to accept the new business owners, though she said her shop has typically changed hands every three or four years.
“I guess that’s what everyone is talking about,” she said of herself and the country store owners. “Miriam and Grayson, that’s a big change.”
But in less than two years, Foster and Murphy are as ingrained into the community as the store owners before them.
When a customer requested pineapple juice, Foster said she ordered a case of 12 cans. It took her almost a full year to sell them all, but the important thing was the relationship she’s developing with the customers.
“They ask me for something and I’ll have it by next Thursday,” she said. “I would really do almost anything for my customers.”
Murphy said he and Foster, whose parents help out at the store every day, didn’t realize the full impact of their purchase until after they started getting to know the community.
“I realize now what a big deal it was for news to drop that Linton was selling this place,” he said. “People rely on this place for more than merchandise.”
Joseph Soito, 75, who was born and raised in Orient, said over the years, he has seen plenty of things change. When he was young, he would buy bread for his mother at the country store but the young people would hang out at The Idle Hour.
Now, he and a group of comrades meet at the country store every day at 4 p.m. to sip on coffee, read the paper and catch up on the day’s events. Many days, they sit on the porch long after the store closes at 5 p.m.
“They’re doing fine,” Soito said of Foster and Murphy. “And I guess, really, things have not changed.”
Above: Miriam Foster and Grayson Murphy purchased the Orient Country Store last year. (Aug. 2, 2012)