Long before the advent of department stores and convenience marts, general stores were New England’s one-stop shops — the source for food, supplies, clothes, and hardware, as well as news and gossip. Although their roots extend back to before the nation’s founding, general stores (or country stores, if you prefer) really came into their own in the mid-1800s. Most have given way to changing times, but variously evolved versions of general stores remain fixtures in many New England communities. Some have gained new relevance as purveyors of fine food; others have become tourist centers. There are far too many ways for a general store to be great for a single list to suffice, so the following selections are admittedly based to some degree on personal taste. That said, here are a few favorite New England general stores, one per state.
Favorite General Store in Every New England State With a 195-year run from 1812 to 2007, the Conecticut’s Colebrook Store set a state longevity record. Since reopening in 2014, it has picked up right where it left off.
Founded in 1812, the Colebrook Store is Connecticut’s oldest general store. It was open continuously from 1812 until 2007, which gives it the distinction of being the state’s retail longevity champ. It was launched by Martin and Solomon Rockwell, members of one of Colebrook’s founding families. There have been multiple owners over the years, and each has put their own spin on the store’s offerings. In 2007, the shop’s owner put out a sign saying that the shop was “Closed for Vacation.” That break lasted seven years. The Colebrook Preservation Society now owns the building, and since its return the Colebrook Store has become not only a go-to place for breakfast and lunch, groceries, candy, baked goods, ice cream, and locally made products, but also an occasional performance venue.
Photo Credit : Photo by Magicpiano / CC BY-SA
Though the records get a bit murky, a good case can be made that the The Old Country Store is housed in a can’t-miss-it yellow building in Moultonborough, NH. Photo Credit : Cathryn McCann Old Country Store and Museum got its start in 1781. Built on land that was awarded to Jonathan Moulton for his service during the Revolutionary War, the structure was the only one depicted in its region on a 1784 map. Over the years, the store has also served as a library and a post office and has hosted town meetings. Today, the Old Country Store is a mash-up of tourist attraction and old-timey general store, complete with candles, toys, shoes, local products, kitchenware, and penny candy, with a pickle barrel, maple syrup, and a good dose of John Deere merchandise just waiting to go home with you.
By the time Dan Fraser and Whit Hicks purchased Merrill’s General Store in 1955, they’d each been working there for more than 20 years. Under their ownership, the name changed, but otherwise they continued to build on the foundation of the then-60-something-year-old store. Today Dan & Whit’s is still in their families, and the store has kept up with the times without losing its charm. Stop in for a breakfast sandwich in the morning, and you may well leave with a fresh eggplant, some new underwear, a bottle of wine, or a bag of feed for your sheep. Don’t have sheep? They may be able to help you there, too….
“If We Don’t Have It, You Don’t Need It” is not just a tagline at Dan & Whit’s — named one of Yankee’s Best 5 Vermont Country Stores — it’s a time-tested truth. Photo Credit : Courtesy of Dan & Whit's General Store
Located in the Russell Mills Historic District of Dartmouth, Davoll’s (or Slocum’s, as it was formerly known) has been serving the community since the 1790s. New owners took over in 2016 and have launched a top-to-bottom renovation of the building and shop, with a great many of the old touches lovingly preserved. Today, Davoll’s stays true to its roots: part restaurant, part grocery store, part antiques and gift shop. Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift made by a local artisan? A dozen fresh eggs? A hot cup of coffee? Take a trip down memory lane at Davoll’s, a throwback to days gone by that’s also looking forward to its next 100 years.
With roots stretching back to 1792 (the year that George Washington was re-elected), Davoll’s General Store has seen a lot of New England history. Photo Credit : Photo by John Phelan / CC BY
In 1809, Ira Evans purchased a 10-year-old building and established a general store. A dozen years later, Evans sold his operation to James L. Brown and William W. Hopkins, who operated it until 1964. There have been several ownership changes since, but the “Brown & Hopkins” name has stuck. Along with some others on this list, Brown & Hopkins claims to be the oldest general store in continuous operation in the U.S. Regardless of whether that claim is accurate, there still is plenty to cheer here. From the candy counter to the (now retired) original potbelly stove, this two-story shop achieves just the right blend of old-time charm and modern usefulness. Come to browse the framed prints, candles and quilts, light fixtures, and home accessories, but make sure you don’t leave without stocking up on homemade fudge and penny candy.
Opened in 1809, Brown and Hopkins General Store is one of several legitimate claimants to the oft-disputed title of “oldest general store in continuous operation.” Photo Credit : Heather Higginson / Courtesy of Brown & Hopkins Country Store
Visiting Maine and looking for that perfect selfie to send your friends back home? Look no further than Hussey’s General Store in Windsor, just 10 miles east of Augusta, whose sign proudly advertises “guns, wedding gowns, cold beer.” Opened in 1923, Hussey’s embodies the “you never know what you’ll find” spirit of the classic New England general store. Starting with groceries and a bit of clothing for men, founder Harland Hussey gradually added goods and services as customers requested them. Want some candy? New boots? A box of nails? A bean pot? The sign says it all at “Maine’s Largest Geberal Store,” Hussey’s in Windsor, Maine. Photo Credit : Photo by mountaintidetech / CC BY Moxie? You’ll find them all and a whole lot more in the 30,000 square feet of treasures at Hussey’s.
Do you have a favorite New England general store?