By Erin Place
NORWAY—With what started out as a misunderstanding between a South Woodstock man selling medicinal mushrooms and the Aubuchon Hardware district manager will have a happy ending.
Troy Ryerson, who says his customers know him as “the Fiddlehead Guy,” has been selling the plants on and off for 20 years in the south parking lot of the Norway Aubuchon Hardware Store on upper Main Street. This year, he decided to break into a new wild edible endeavor and began collecting chaga mushrooms.
According to Ryerson, he wanted to sell his chagas at Aubuchon like he does with his fiddleheads every spring and, on Sept. 14, he said he received permission from an employee to set up in the parking lot. He decided to return the next day to do the same thing and was getting ready to pack up after three hours of selling the mushrooms when an employee Ryerson didn’t know came out and told him the district manager saw him and said he would have to leave, but did not have an explanation why, he said.
“When I saw the fellow selling mushrooms on the parking lot I called the store they weren’t aware of it at all, I called the president of the company he wasn’t aware of it,” said Aubuchon district manager Chuck Arbor by phone. “The way I understood the situation, no one had contacted the company to do this. I told them to politely ask him to remove the stand.”
Arbor added the company actually encourages vendors to set up shop on their property, but Aubuchon’s insurance company needs to be notified, and usually a small fee is charged.
“We’ve gone out of our way to help our vendors,” he said.
Before Ryerson and Arbor spoke on Monday, Ryerson didn’t have any idea why he had been asked to leave and said he always leaves the parking lot in better shape than he found it and would often give Aubuchon his business when he needed supplies. He also pointed to people selling seafood and strawberries in the store’s parking lot every year.
Ryerson noted he’s a carpenter by trade but forager at heart, and had a lot of repeat customers who knew to look for him in the parking lot of the hardware store.
“A lot of my customers return every year and can hardly wait to see me sitting there,” he said about the springtime when he sells the fiddleheads. “It has been something I look forward to every year to supplement my income.”
In addition to making ends meet, Ryerson said he wants to spread the message of the medicinal effects of chaga mushrooms. He uses chagas every day, which can be made into tea, tincture, soap, cream and even beer. He said since he began consuming the mushrooms, his stomach problems have went away, along with his dry skin, and he feels fantastic. He added that chagas have been used in cancer treatment since the 1960s in Russia, along with treating diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain and psorious.
Before their conversation on Monday, Ryerson was looking for new spots to hawk the mushrooms and had considered somewhere south of Market Square in South Paris or possibly north of Hannaford in Oxford. Fortunately for him, it didn’t have to come to that.
When contacted by the Advertiser last week, Arbor said he didn’t realize Ryerson had been selling fiddleheads there for the better part of two decades. He did say that the store manager told him he had given Ryerson permission to sell those specific plants there in May.
“He is all about me setting up there, he doesn’t even know if there will be a fee since I’ve been doing it for so long,” Ryerson said about Arbor on Tuesday and said they had plans to speak again on Wednesday.
But for now, the Fiddlehead Guy will be able to continue doing fiddlehead and mushroom business in Aubuchon’s parking lot in Norway.