The Best Country Stores in New England
Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article
updated on 11/02/17.
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I love a classic New England country store -- the
quaint old-fashioned feeling, the chance to shop for hard-to-find
items, the aromas of candles and soaps, the proverbial pickle barrel,
peanut butter-making machine, and the delicious offerings of
local cheeses, fudge and maple syrup. Plus, as a bonus, these country
usually located in quaint, charming New England towns and villages
worth visiting! Also known as general stores, these retro places offer a
genuine way to experience the local flavor
traditional New England. Dating back to Colonial times as centers of
local commerce by selling a broad line of merchandise to meet the needs
of rural townsfolk, many country stores, thankfully, still exist and
thrive in New England. Some stores modestly
offer just enough to service the local public while others are outright
tourist attractions selling everything but the kitchen sink. But
all have great New England charm in one way or another, and a tremendous appeal to
those of us who like a nostalgic vibe and feeling that evokes
further ado, here are some of the best country stores in New England
that we have visited -- some amongst the oldest in the country and
others more modern but definitely following the
tenets of old fashioned, local retail goodness:
Country Store, Weston, Vt.
The Vermont Country Store, established in 1946, looks like a
its old-fashioned, front porch exterior, but once inside the store
seems to go on forever. It's like a living museum of country stores
with extensive toy, clothing, food and candy, and health and beauty
sections within a time warp, rustic country setting. The homemade
fudge, Vermont cheddar cheese and locally produced maples syrups are
amazing, and the hundreds of hard-to-find items including gems like
Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, Beemans Chewing Gum and Gee Your Hair Smells
Terrific shampoo will bring back warm childhood memories. It's not just
about nostalgia, however, at the Vermont Country Store. This is a store
for all generations with useful, quality modern day merchandise, and
lots of it! Vermont Country Store, 657 Main St., Weston, Vt. Tel. 802-824-3184. More on the
Vermont Country Store...
Country Store and Emporium, West Mansfield, Mass.
Old Country Store and Emporium
Surprise, a great New England country store proving that this kind of
retail business doesn't have to be located in Vermont or New Hampshire!
It can, in fact, be located in the fast-paced Boston suburbs as
in the case at the 1829 Old Country Store and Emporium in West
Once in quaint West Mansfield and then inside the country store,
however, the pace slows down to a quintessential country store mode.
One of the bigger country stores in New England with 12 rooms within 17,000
sq. ft., the Old
Country Store and Emporium is well-stocked with all the goods of a
real country store. For starters, the maze of rooms features home
goods, furnishings, food (including sweets and
freshly ground coffee, maples products, Vermont Common Crackers and a
peanut butter machine), toys, player pianos, bird feeders, books,
crafts, hardware, antiques and memorabilia, grandfather clocks,
cosmetics, and locally made furniture. Old Country Store and Emporium, 26 Otis St., Mansfield, Mass.
Tel. 508-339-8128. More
on the Old Country Store and Emporium...
Zeb's General Store, North Conway, N.H.
Zeb's General Store. Photo source: Zeb's General Store.
Zeb's General Store stands as one of the few
household-name general stores in New England, and with good reason:
It's located in a popular White Mountains of New Hampshire vacation
wonderfully capturing the essence of what makes a classic country
Interestingly enough, the old-time looking Zeb's is a relative newcomer
to the New England general store scene having first opened its 200 sq.
ft. store in 1991. Following the American Dream, Zeb's has meaningfully expanded into 6,600 sq. ft. with more
than 5,000 items for sale. The retro feel with antique store fixtures,
an old Coca Cola fountain and wooden shelves gets further enhanced
by the old-fashioned candy counter, a large selection of local
specialty foods (including some fabulous maple products), toy and
games, home and kitchen merchandise, clothing,
soaps and lotions, and a lot more. Zeb's is one of the cornerstone
anchor stores of a beautiful mountain town's downtown, and for many,
the first place to go even before unpacking for a North Conway
vacation. This is the embodiment of how a country store should look and
feel. Its young age has no bearing on the overall, memorable country
store shopping experience. Zeb's General Store, 2675 White Mountain Highway, North Conway,
1-800-676-9294. Web site: http://www.zebs.com
Country Store, Marlborough, Mass.
Wayside Country Store.
The Wayside Country Store has been around since 1790 and with a
fascinating anecdote; Henry Ford bought the building in 1928, became
owner and operator, and had the building moved by oxen to its
current location on the Old Boston Post Rd. (better known today as
20). It's a fabulous country store with a significant candy section at
the Old Tyme Candy Shoppe room. You'll also find an
impressive array of cheeses, gifts, collectibles and toys in this
quintessential New England country store. Wayside Country Store, 1015
Post Rd., Marlborough, Mass. Tel. 508-485-4978 More on the Wayside
and Hopkins, Chepachet, R.I.
Brown and Hopkins Country Store.
As one of America's oldest continuously running country store (since
1809), Brown and
Hopkins Country Store is a smaller-than-average country store, but
like tiny Rhode Island, comes up big with lots of nice surprises. The
accent here is on "primitive country wares, period lighting, home
furnishings, textiles." The old fashioned candy case is a revelation,
too, with some heartwarming, hard-to-find candies. The two floors, with
exposed beam and charmingly worn, settled surroundings is really
jam-packed with merchandise! Brown and Hopkins Country Store, 1179 Putnam Pike (Route 44), Chepachet,
R.I. Tel. 401-568-4830. More
on Brown and Hopkins...
General Store, Putney, Vt.
is a classic small Vermont town, and the Putney General Store greatly
helps create that quaint appeal. Everyone seems to know each
other, and the conversations are delightfully small town. If, however,
from outside the area, the locals make visitors feel
at home. That is the New England way, and the Putney General Store
follows that community-oriented, welcoming tradition. Perhaps the
prototype of a
traditional New England general store, the Putney General Store is not
only a most welcoming, likable store but also a brave survivor that
has overcome adversity, thanks to a close-knit community. The building,
dating back to the 1700s and suffered through two separate fires in 2008
and 2009, but locals bonded to help raise the needed funds to bring
this landmark store back to life with a 2011 reopening. Then, the
Putney General Store closed temporarily in December 2016 after owner
Jim Heal died of cancer. The current store is managed by Lyssa
Papazian, a historic preservation specialist and Putney Historical
Society board member, along with historical society board member Betsy
MacIsaac. The Putney General Store still shines in traditional general
store greatness with a restored look that never compromises the
old-fashioned feel of the store. It's simply a wonderful place
grocery items, a deli with amazing sandwiches and a great coffee bar,
breakfast items, homemade baked goods, beer and wine, local produce and
products (like maple syrup and dairy items) and gifts. Putney General Store, 4 Kimball Hill
Rd., Putney, Vt. Tel. 802-387-4592. More on the Putney General Store
Hills General Store, Marshfield, Mass.
there is a knock on some general stores in New England, it is that they
have become tourist traps by focusing too much on selling t-shirts,
trinkets, bumper stickers and tacky, self-promotional merchandise.
Ironically, one of the general stores in New England that has not "gone
Hollywood" is owned by one of Hollywood's most recognizable comedians:
Steven Carell! What could have turned into a celebrity tourist
attraction is the exact opposite -- that is, a general store that having
more in common with 1917 than 2017. That's a good thing as the
modest-sized, 790 sq. ft. Marshfield General Store sticks to its
traditional New England roots with a heartwarming, affordable,
old-fashioned, one-stop shopping mix of gifts, toys, clothing, penny
candy, homemade baked goods, freshly-made popcorn, beer and wine,
groceries, and coffee. The building dates back to 1853 with many
businesses having been there through the years before becoming the
Marshfield General Store in 1969. Further sticking to the New England
of the past, there is even a U.S. Post Office connected to the
Marshfield Hills General Store! Located in a beautiful, historic, quiet
neighborhood not too far from Cape Cod (some say it is part of Cape
Cod, but not so sure of that), the Marshfield General Store delivers on
what general stores were supposed to do in the first place: bring
people together to foster a sense of community while providing a
valuable neighborhood service. Carell, a Massachusetts native who
vacations in Marshfield, has turned in his best performance, to date,
with the Marshfield Hills General Store by showing a love for historic
preservation (the building is a restored gem), community togetherness,
and a respect for the concept and value of a traditional general store.
Before recently leaving the general store with a warm, just-baked
peanut butter cookie, and an even warmer "Enjoy this great day!"
farewell from the store employee, I felt like I had returned to a
gentler, kinder New England before heading back to the frantic 21st
century ways of Route 3. What a beautiful experience. I can hardly wait
to return! Marshfield Hills General Store, 165 Prospect St., Marshfield, Mass. Tel. 781-834-8443. Web
Williamsburg General Store, Williamsburg,
Williamsburg General Store.
Photo source: Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism Flickr page.
The Williamsburg General Store provides a valuable service
to the local community, as well as a regional attraction for those
traveling the foothills of the scenic Berkshires of
Western Massachusetts. There's simply not much to see and do
Williamsburg -- that is, the way we have come to expect in the suburbs
and cities. But the Williamsburg General Store has everything one
needs -- and then some -- in one of the most charming, quaint store
settings in New England. This local landmark looks like a general
store, feels like a general store, and is definitely the prototype for
what one expects in this type of traditional shop. The
original store started business in 1876 and changed hands several times
with the Williamsburg General Store taking over in 1977. The
oak floors remain from 140 years ago and the original old drawers
contain all kinds of merchandise. It is a place of talented bakers,
and wonderful aromas
coming from that craft in the form of pies, breads, pastries and
cookies. The rest of the shopping experience ranks up there with the
best of New England country store shopping, including handcrafted
silver sterling jewelry, Pennsylvania Ice Cream, toys, plenty of candy
(and yes, lots of chocolate!), herbs, spices, jams, jellies, soaps,
lotions, oils, kitchen tools and gadgets -- the list goes on and on in
the most satisfying way. Williamsburg General Store, 12 Main St. (Route 9, Williamsburg, Mass. Tel.
413-268-3036. Web site: http://www.wgstore.com
Gillingham and Sons, Inc., Country Store, Woodstock , Vt.
F.H. Gillingham and Sons.
This well-established, beloved downtown country store dating
1884 is loaded with lots of Vermont goods like maple syrup, specialty
foods, farmstead cheese, soaps and gifts. You'll also find a nice mix
of books, toys and games, home goods and furnishings, hardware items,
clothing, lanterns, fishing and snowshoe gear, and even musical
instruments. The quaint feel of F.H. Gillingham and Sons fits in
Woodstock -- one of New England's most charming, picturesque towns.
They seem to have everything here! F.H. Gillingham and Sons, 16 Elm St., Woodstock, Vt. Tel.
802-457-2100. Web site: http://www.gillinghams.com
The Country Store in Petersham, Mass.
The Country Store in Petersham.
Located across the street from one of the
most beautiful town greens in Massachusetts, The Country Store in
Petersham focuses more on natural foods and locally-made products like
Vermont cheese, honey, and maple syrup. Sadly closed not too long ago
but happily resuscitated by a community (bought by the East Quabbin
Landtrust) who knew the value and service of a great country store in a
small town, The Country Store in Petersham now thrives again with
locals Ari and Jeanneane Pugliese managing with passion and a
meaningful connection to their community. It's a great place to buy the
paper, do some grocery shopping, enjoy a cup of coffee and
conversation, buy a gift or two or three, and have a delicious
breakfast or lunch. The commitment to healthy
eating is nice to see, too, as local produce, gluten-free items, and
meats with no nitrates peacefully co-exists with baked fresh daily
homemade scones, muffins, cookies and ice cream. The Greek
that dates back to 1840 is still a delightful work in progress, yet
feels like being in a beautiful New England place with its close-knit
rural ambiance, slow pace, helpful store owners, and traditional design
touches with wood floors, tin ceilings and antiques. The Country Store in Petersham, 2 North Main St.,
Tel. 978-724-2000. Read
more about The Country Store in Petersham
Wilbur General Store, Little Compton, R.I.
Wilbur General Store.
It might be strange to say in a world where chain stores surround us
from all angles, but Little Compton still needs the Wilbur General
Store. This beautiful little town really isn't close to anything, and
the residents like to keep it that way with nothing getting in the way
of its quiet, scenic coastal community. With that said, the Wilbur
General Store provides a much-needed service, the way it did when first
starting in 1893. Like Rhode Island, the Wilbur General Store looks
small from the outside, but once exploring the inside reveals many
several rooms. The grocery store with deli and meat counter seems to
dominate the store's inner landscape, but this classic general store
also impresses with its gifts, clothing, toys, cards and a hardware
department. Nothing as extensive as a chain store, mind you, but
that's the point: The Wilbur General Store sells just what the locals
needs. In a world of bombast and overwhelming choices, it's nice to
a trip back in time to a general store like The Wilbur where sense of
community, an American flag hanging proudly outside and a commitment to
serve a quiet town is all that is needed to satisfy the public and
visitors in need of some old-fashioned retail authenticity. Wilbur
General Store, 50 Commons, Little Compton, R.I. Tel.
more about the Wilbur General Store
Weston Village Store, Weston, Vt.
Weston Village Store.
I love the Vermont Country Store probably like no other, but there are
times when I would rather forgo the crowds and several departments and
shop at the Weston Village Store. Located right across the
street from the Vermont Country Store, the Weston Village Store --
established in 1891 -- is more modest in size and not quite as well
known to travelers, but offers wonderful appeal with a candy counter up
front, and enough specialty Vermont cheeses, maple syrup and homemade
fudge to make the visit more than worthwhile. Plus, they have an
amazing snack bar that sources much of its food locally and makes it
baked goods from scratch. It's a great place to sit and take in the
wonderful ambiance of a classic small Vermont town. Additionally, the
Weston Village Store packs a lot of gifts, clothing, souvenirs,
nostalgic signs and seasonal Christmas merchandise into a relatively
modest space (compared to the Vermont Country Store). To experience the
best of two country store worlds, definitely make sure to shop at both
the Vermont Country Store and Weston Village Store to get a full
spectrum, old-fashioned Vermont retail experience. Weston Village Store, 660 Main St.,
Weston, Vt. Tel.
802-824-5477. Web site: http://www.westonvillagestore.com
Grafton Country Store, Grafton, Mass.
Grafton Country Store.
For the Dauphinais family, the Grafton Country Store is a way of life.
Husband and wife Craig and Carol grew up in Grafton and work at the
Grafton Country Store with their four daughters. Carol actually grew up
four houses way from the Grafton Country Store. The
current building was constructed in 1806 with the Grafton Country Store
opening in the 1980s. It's a charming, little country store with an
appealing mix of jewelry, stationary, gifts, pottery and candles
with a good percentage of the merchandise created in America. One
of the main draws of the Grafton Country Store, however, is the
sun-filled attached cafe with a huge picture window giving view to the
ldyllic Grafton Common. This quaint dining space offers gourmet coffee,
teas, ice cream, cookies and smoothies. What a great way to soak in
quintessential small town New England! Grafton Country Store, 2 Grafton Common, Grafton Mass.
508-839-4898. Web site: http://www.graftoncountrystore.net
Calef's Country Store, Barrington, N.H.
Calef's Country Store. Photo source: Calef's Country Store Facebook fan
page at https://www.facebook.com/CalefsCountryStore/
Calef's Country Store is my favorite country store in New
Hampshire. With its wide front porch and old wood spindles, an
American flag, Colonial white paint brining out the best in the building's look and an old Coca Cola sign, the
outside of Calef's is enough to feel good about this country
store. Once inside, however, it gets even better. Calef's, which has
been in business since 1869, prides itself of buying locally -- more
than 90 percent of the gifts and specialty foods are from New England,
according to Calef's web site. Calef's offers many country
store staples like baking
mixes, pickled items, local cheeses, gifts, jams and jellies, homemade
products from New Hampshire, old-fashioned candies and even its own
smoked ham." Additionally, the in-store deli offers fantastic
sandwiches made with locally-sourced vegetables and breads. Be sure to
add some Calef's "Snappy Old Cheddar" including varying degrees of sharpness and flavors like maple
bacon, steakhouse onion, and roasted garlic. Busy but by no means an overwhelming
tourist trap, something feels so genuine about this country store
with creaky floors, nostalgic items wherever you look, and the
friendly local folks working here. Calef's Country Store, 606 Franklin Pierce Highway,
Barrington, N.H. Tel. 800-462-2118. Web site: http://www.calefs.com
Fiske's General Store, Holliston, Mass.
Fiske's General Store.
Fiske's General Store is an ideal
place for families with its mix of toys, board games, puzzles, candies,
party goods, helium balloons, craft kits,
household items and artist supplies. It's really not the type of
general store that tourists travel distances to, but more of a beloved
local store. With that said, I would rather shop
here than the big box stores as everything here just seems so real and down-to-earth. Any traveler near Holliston should
definitely stop here to get a true retro sense of a surviving, old-time
general store. The owners really care about their community, the people
and their store, and don't give in to modern merchandising trends. You
won't see a lot of electronics at Fiske's and the times I have been
here, one of the most unusual phenomenons has occurred: Very few people
are tethered to their cell phones! They are actually talking with each
other, and the owners who don't mind long conversations at all. I know, strange it seems, but so refreshing in
this often impersonal world. Somehow I get the feeling James F. Fiske
-- who founded the store in 1863 -- would be smiling with pride at the
way the 21st century version of Fiske's has carried on a grand, local
retail tradition. Added bonus: Fiske's General
Store is located across the street from another old school treasure,
Holliston Suprette. It's one of the last neighborhood grocery stores in
the Boston area (first opening in 1960)! Fiske's General Store, 776
Washington St., Holliston, Mass. Tel. 508-429-4041. Web site: http://www.fiskesgeneralstore.com.
Harvard General Store, Harvard, Mass.
Harvard General Store.
After school, the Harvard General Store looks like something
out of a 1940s movie with student's book bags stacked up in the foyer
and kids doing homework over cookies and other baked goods at one of
the dining area tables. The rest of the time, this classic general
store brings in people of all ages to enjoy a wide variety of services
for the community and travelers in this idyllic north central
Massachusetts town. Revived several years back by owner Scott Hayward,
the Harvard General Store is not only a place to buy groceries,
prepared foods and convenience items, but also wine and beer, gifts and great produce at its Saturday farmers
market (always call ahead for seasonal dates and times). The Harvard General Store even holds wine tasting events! The old-time
general store ambiance of the cafe provides a perfect, traditional
dining out setting for breakfasts, sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads,
quiche, vegetarian dishes, variety of coffee and related specialty
drinks, hot chocolate, teas and baked goods. There's a bike sales and
repair shop in the General Store, and a 2,500 sq foot public venue
facility called Upstairs @ The General that is often used for
entertainment, receptions, fund raisers, rehearsal dinners, showers,
birthday parties, corporate holiday parties and seminars and luncheons.
Located across the street from the scenic Harvard town common, the
building has been around since the early 1800s with many tenants and
types of businesses occupying the site. The current Harvard General
Store, however, looks like a business in it for the long run with its
variety of goods and services, a strong customer base, and a clear
follow the critical tenets that have made so many general stores in New
England successful. Just a few years in business, the
Harvard General Store already ranks among the very best of general
stores in New England. Harvard General Store, 1 Still River Rd., Harvard, Mass.
978-430-0062. Web site: http://www.harvardgeneralstore.com.
Ferns Country Store, Carlisle, Mass.
Ferns Country Store is a perfect
Carlisle, an upscale semi-rural community with old New England charm in
homes, farms, churches and winding, scenic country roads. I would
imagine drivers and bicyclists not familiar with Carlisle discovering
Ferns for the first time and feeling so good to see a welcoming,
beautiful country store to stop for a while.
a valuable purpose for those locals and out-of-towners as a place to
groceries, beer and wine, baked goods, deli items, soups and pizza. The
indoor and outdoor Smiling Duck Cafe -- "THE social place
to meet in Carisle," as stated on Ferns web site -- is a
cozy and a wonderful place for some breakfast, lunch or dinner (Ferns
makes an incredible homemade chili, by the way).
The outdoor dining area has attractive surrounding gardens and a
Ferns also has a nice selection of gifts, including items made in
Carlisle. Some of the merchandise offered: hats, shirts, handbags,
drinking glasses and mugs, and shirts.
The building -- which has housed general stores since 1844 -- didn't
always look great, but newest owners Larry Bearfield and Robin Emerson
had the store beautifully restored starting around 2003. Ferns
now looks like the winner of a country store beauty contest with yellow
paint coating the exterior, green shutters, draping American flags,
a wraparound front porch with benches and rocking chairs,
a spiffy new sign that looks old, neat-as-a-pin landscaping and a
refreshed, attractive country store interior. Now, Ferns is the
centerpiece and anchor of a quiet downtown that looks "New England" as
any small town you'd see in Vermont and New Hampshire. Nice that
it is only 40 minutes or so from Boston! Ferns Country Store, 8
Lowell St. Tel. 978 369-0200. web site: http://www.fernscountrystore.com.
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