WELD — It may have a different look inside and a different purpose, but memories of the former Weld Elementary School live on.
Kevin and Holly Cochran of Weld and family are opening Skoolhouse Variety at 6 a.m. Saturday, May 8, on School Street, also known as Route 156.
The couple grew up in Weld, one street away from each other, and attended school there as youngsters. They both graduated from Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. They got married and traveled where Kevin’s U.S. Navy career took them until he retired.
Nearly two years ago, they moved back to their roots.
“Kevin has dreamed of owning this sort of business in Weld for a long time,” his wife said.
Gone are the books, desks and the classroom supplies from the old school. But those who went to school and lived in the area will always know that is where Weld children were educated for many years until mid-2008.
The bookshelves near the windows in the store gleam with fresh paint. Accents of red, blue, green, yellow and other colors highlight the white interior.
“We were trying to stick with the schoolhouse theme and we have all the colors from your first box of crayons,” Holly Cochran said.
The Skoolhouse Variety sign above the checkout counter has each letter colored in a different crayon shade.
Two classrooms are now used for the variety store and a café, and a third is used for storage and office room. During the last year the school was open, teaching Principal Arline Amos taught children in grades kindergarten through third. That room has been turned into a café with WiFi access.
Holly Cochran filled the small drawers that kindergartners used to use with crayons and coloring books for children.
The playground equipment is outside with a use-at-your-own-risk provision.
Chalkboards are at the back of the café replacing the whiteboards that were once used at the school. There is a community bulletin space on a side wall.
In the variety store portion, which was also a classroom, there is a small grocery staple section, coolers of beverages, lots of snacks, a coffee bar. Some basic hygiene products, trial size over-the-counter medications and other necessities line the shelves.
Mostly family will work in the store with daughter Lila Haynes helping out. Kevin Cochran’s mother and father, Henry and Carol Cochran, and his sister Chris have all been pitching in. Purse Drapeau will be in charge of the kitchen that will serve mostly pizzas and sandwiches to go or eat in.
While the store and café have new flooring, the flooring tiles in the hallway have been shined just like they had for first days of school. The Cochrans left the coathooks up so snowmobilers, who may visit via a trail out back, have a place to hang outer garments.
The third room, the size of a classroom, is being used for storage and office area.
The kitchen’s stainless steel appliances are ready. The family has already practiced making pizza.
The town has a lot of seasonal visitors as it is home to Mt. Blue State Park, Dummer Beach and Webb Lake.
The couple has ideas for the future as well but plan to take one day at a time.
“A little bit of everything that’s what we need,” Kevin Cochran said.