Two pairs of golashes. Two pairs of work boots. Three pairs of snow boots. One pair of sneakers. Back to golashes, work boots, and snow boots.Sneakers trudging through the single glass door into Castleton Corners Deli and Citgo are a rare sight. The family-run business is a hub for locals who are looking for some conversation in the early winter mornings before heading out onto the ice, snowmobiling or to work.
Muffins and Coffee
Forget the gas. It’s all about the coffee and muffins.
Quickly entering, the “regulars” go straight ahead from the door to the coffee, their faces bright red showing that it “certainly is cold enough”. A “Hey, how are you today” personally welcomes each chilly customer, whether Lorraine Keller yells it from the back or speaks it quietly up front.
Moving to the cash register, few can pass up a freshly baked muffin tantalizingly sitting right next to it. Within 10 minutes, five have vanished. Meanwhile, the muffins’ neighbors, the pastries, are ignored.
The Men in Her Life
Lorraine, the only one working this Sunday morning, is the wife of owner Timothy Keller. But, the void of not having her husband around is filled with all the men hanging out. Never alone, there is always at least one male presence.
With shoulder length black hair and glasses, Lorraine strikes up a conversation with everyone who enters. It could be about the news, the kids, or the inevitable, the weather. Easily, she finds out that the three snowmobilers that just gassed up are headed out onto Bomoseen.
As the Coca-Cola clock ticks away, the gathering inside briefly grows. With coffees in hands, 15 minutes pass, 20 minutes.
Still, the chatting continues.
While the men talk, Lorraine tries to sneak in an odd job between customers. But, it isn’t long before the glass door swings open again. This time, she can’t pass up stopping to talk to the man in the “True American Grandpa” baby blue sweatshirt.
“Bring that baby. Bundle her up,” Lorraine tells him, although adding that if it is too cold, not to bring her out. One of the centers of conversation is the kids and grandkids. And the proof is in the photos on the wall behind the counter.
Baby blue is unique to the gas station and stands out among the normally dark clothing. Greens, browns and all around camouflage take center stage but the all essential baseball or hunting cap accessory can’t be forgotten either. Overalls, suspenders and the sound of whisking snow pants break up the common style of jeans.
Taking two wrapped gummy watermelons, a tall lanky man puts them up to his mouth like he is about to put dentures in.
“When we were kids, we use to take two of these and see if we could open our mouths,” he says, smacking his lips that have been curled over his teeth together.
He continues to joke around with Lorraine and another customer about rednecks, the weather causing him to lose his tan and Exxon’s gas prices being lower. He’s not the only one as he is jabbed back with jokes like “town drunk” and “he’s good at blocking the pumps for an hour.”
Each knows at least one other. Sometimes words are not even needed. Without asking, Lorraine hands a customer a copy of the New York Times.
Knowing each other like brothers and sisters, Lorraine asks one man, headed to the South, who he’s going to talk to.
“I’ve already got a new deli picked out.”
After a half-hour or so, the decision to leave is finally made.
“Stay warm and have a good day,” Lorraine says smiling as a man’s back turns to leave.
“I may be back later.”
On a quiet Thursday afternoon, Tim strolls around the little isles of goodies. With stories abound, just floating in his mind, he could write a book. In fact, it’s a goal.
“I’ve got thousands of stories. I’ve really lived,” he said, playing with his glasses. “Most have just existed.”
When he was young, the NYC native use to come to Vermont and found he really liked it. Then, later on, all it took was the decision to move.
As a true New Yorker, Tim is a Yankees fan. And the local Red Sox fans reactions?
“We have a lot of fun,” he said. “We generally have a lot of hoo-ha about the two teams.”
Tim says that the key to having his place as a gathering location is that he can communicate with people very well. Just one conversation can lead to a new friend.
“This fellow walks in one time and gets lunch. He sits down to eat and when he finishes he walks up to the counter. He says, ‘you know who I am?’ Nope. ‘If I come in here, a lot of people won’t.’ I said well, then, I guess they won’t have to leave. It was a meeting of the minds and we became damn good friends.”
From the first day on the job, Tim has met several New Yorkers, from a firefighter to a fellow high school graduate, only a year ahead, whom he never knew. Even a music teacher that walked the same halls has come through the glass door.
“It’s a very strange thing. This area seems to draw people. You never know who’s going to walk in.