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Talking Politics At The Canterbury Country Store In New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s Canterbury Country Store is from another era. The combination post office general store offers up groceries, wool mittens — and community.

Here & Now has been visiting for years and met up with Toni Halla, who runs the store, and a number of residents to talk politics ahead of the state’s Democratic primary on Tuesday.

When we last visited in 2016, Halla was an ardent Trump supporter. But this year, she’s having doubts about him.

“He became very very crude,” she says.

“A lot of it is harsh, punitive, vindictive, not good,” she adds, referring to some of the president’s actions. “But I still don’t know what I’m doing [in 2020]. I really don’t feel comfortable with the Democrats, and there are no Republicans. I’m not comfortable with any of them. It’s a shame.”

But not everyone in the store has soured on Trump.

Hugh Fifield runs a sawmill down the road, and he supports the president.

“He’s a little coarse maybe with his language, but he gets his point across and I think he’s helped the working people pretty well,” Fifield says. “I know I sold more lumber this year than I usually do.”

Another customer, Stephanie Jackson, is on the other side of the political spectrum.

“Hugh and I are on opposite sides, but we’re both good people,” she says. “I don’t think they’re bad people because they’re misguided about Trump.”

In a small town like Canterbury, people of opposing views have no choice but to get along, says Rick Crockford.

“There is something to be said for a scale of a small town, where if the store keeper and I didn’t get along, I don’t have another store to go to really,” he says. “Pragmatism does have a place.”

“We agree to disagree,” Halla adds. “And most of us have a good time disagreeing. It doesn’t have an impact on the relationship.”

But despite the store’s importance to residents, it’s struggling to stay open — facing competition from online retailers.

“It’s a shame to even think of something like this not being here,” Halla says.

The store also serves as a place for people of opposing views to discuss and understand each other, Crockford says.

“If you don’t have a community place where people can, in a very friendly way, be adversaries, then they sit in their little hidey hole and it builds and it builds and people fester,” he says. “Here, at least, I look and there’s a human face to the point of view that’s diametrically opposed to mine. And it’s Toni, and it makes it much better.”

“More palatable,” Toni laughs.

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Toni Halla at the Canterbury Country Store. (Jill Ryan/Here & Now)
Toni Halla at the Canterbury Country Store. (Jill Ryan/Here & Now)