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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 stores are 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 of 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 simpler times..

Without 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:

Vermont Country Store, Weston, Vt.
Vermont Country Store, Weston VTVermont Country Store.

The Vermont Country Store, established in 1946, looks like a modest-sized country store from 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...


Old Country Store and Emporium, West Mansfield, Mass.
Old Country Store, Masnfield MA
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 Mansfield. 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 in 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 town, while wonderfully capturing the essence of what makes a classic country store. 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, N.H. Tel. 1-800-676-9294. Web site: http://www.zebs.com


Wayside Country Store, Marlborough, Mass.
Wayside Country Store, Marlborough MA
Wayside Country Store.

The Wayside Country Store has been around since 1790 and with a rather 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 Route 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 Boston Post Rd., Marlborough, Mass. Tel. 508-485-4978 More on the Wayside Country Store...


Brown and Hopkins, Chepachet, R.I.
Brown and Hopkins Country Store, Chepachet RI
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...

Putney General Store, Putney, Vt.

Putney General Store, Putney, Vermont
Putney General Store.

Putney 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 right 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 for 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


Marshfield Hills General Store, Marshfield, Mass.

The Marshfield Hills General Store, in Marshfield, Mass., is owned by comedian Steven Carrell.
Marshfield Hills General Store.

If 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 Marshfield 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 site: http://www.marshfieldhillsgeneralstore


Williamsburg General Store, Williamsburg, Mass.

Williamsburg General Store, Williamsburg, Mass.

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 in 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




F.H. Gillingham and Sons, Inc., Country Store, Woodstock , Vt.
Gillingham Country Store, Woodstock VT
F.H. Gillingham and Sons.

This well-established, beloved downtown country store dating back to 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 perfectly 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.
Country Store in Petersham, Massachusetts.
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 lunch meats with no nitrates peacefully co-exists with baked fresh daily homemade scones, muffins, cookies and ice cream. The Greek Revival-style building 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., Petersham, Mass. Tel. 978-724-2000. Read more about The Country Store in Petersham

Wilbur General Store, Little Compton, R.I.
Wilbur General Store, Little Compton, Rhode Island
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 treasures within 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 take 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. 401-635-2356.  Read more about the Wilbur General Store
 

Weston Village Store, Weston, Vt.
Weston Village General Store, Weston, Vermont
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, 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. Tel. 508-839-4898. Web site: http://www.graftoncountrystore.net

Calef's Country Store, Barrington, N.H.
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 fudge, maple products from New Hampshire, old-fashioned candies and even its own "famous 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, Holliston, Massachusetts
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, the 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, 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 outstanding variety of goods and services, a strong customer base, and a clear mission to 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. Tel. 978-430-0062. Web site: http://www.harvardgeneralstore.com.




Ferns Country Store, Carlisle, Mass.
Ferns Country Store in Carlisle, Mass.

Ferns Country Store
is a perfect fit for Carlisle, an upscale semi-rural community with old New England charm in its 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. Ferns serves a valuable purpose for those locals and out-of-towners as a place to buy 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 waterfall!

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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