AN icon of the King Valley is back operating and sure to get plenty of patronage if the weekend is any indication.
The Whitfield General Store was reopened on Saturday with a steady stream of customers attending in the past two days.
Most of those arriving were locals, but others travelled from Myrtleford, Wangaratta, Myrrhee and Glenrowan.
Steve Sartori organised the rebuild of what has in the past been a hub for residents in the region.
But there has been a mixture of feelings.
His mother, Barb, died in the fire that burnt down the 110-year-old store in February last year.
Mrs Sartori, 52, was a devoted wife and mother of four children who touched so many lives in the North East and further afield.
She was one of the Three Nonnas who shared their skills in Melbourne Food and Wine Festival cooking sessions in the idyllic valley.
One local said yesterday: “She has been gone 18 months, but still has an influence on this valley.”
It was in May last year when Steve, and his wife Jessica, decided to rebuild the store.
A planning permit application was made about June, but it took until December for council approval.
Work started about April and the finishing touches were still being made yesterday with Mr Sartori helping his father Wally cement in a post at the front of the store.
“It is significantly smaller than the old building. There is no indoor seating any more,” he said.
“We have used the space slightly better for a modern building.
“We have done it in a similar style at the front.”
Mr Sartori said his wife would run the store, which will be open each day, and he will continue working as a policeman in Benalla.
He plans to establish a garden with seating for patrons beside the store when the weather improves.
There was a constant flow of customers on Saturday, but not too many at the one time.
Mr Sartori said he was able to meet and greet the people attending.
There were motor bike riders and quite a number of cars pulled up at the store yesterday morning.
Many came to inspect the building and offer their best wishes to the Sartoris.
The store incorporates a post office, which opens today and operates from 9am to 5pm daily.
Mr Sartori believes there is plenty of potential for day-trippers to attend, particularly with Wangaratta just 30 minutes away.
“We are happy if groups want to come out. They can make this a stop on the way to wherever they are going,” he said.
The store is open from 7.30am to 6.30pm during the week and 7.30am to 7pm at weekends.
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