Gray’s Store, America’s Oldest Continuously Operating General Store, Closing Today
Gray’s Store, a 224-year-old Rhode Island continuously running general store, is shutting its doors for good today. Its new owner says that the family business is no longer viable under the current economic conditions.
Owner Jonah Waite inherited the shop after his father died of cancer last month. He said Saturday it was a hard decision to close the store and leave behind all the history, but the shop’s finances aren’t sustainable and a supermarket down the street has siphoned away business.
In 2007, the governor of Rhode Island officially proclaimed that Gray’s was the oldest continuously operating general store in the U.S.
The store and one-time post office has been in Waite’s family for seven generations (since the late 1800s when Waite’s great, great, great grandfather, Philip Gray, bought it).
Jonah Waite is in his senior year at the University of Hartford and wants to break into sports journalism. His whole life to date has seemingly revolved around the shop, however; he grew up in a house that is connected to the rear of the store.
Customers at Gray’s Store would encounter “its old-fashioned marble soda fountain, cigar and tobacco cases, and Rhode Island johnny cakes” and “general store standards like penny candy and a small selection of groceries, as well as antiques and collectible knickknacks. ”
The Gray’s Store property is going up for sale after it goes through the probate process, and Waite is liquidating the items in the store.
Waite told EastBayRI.com that…
It’s been in our family, there’s so much value, it’s a precious commodity, a part of American history, a hidden gem.
It’s going to be real hard. Heartbreaking. It will go to the right person. It’s an absolute necessity that someone take it over and treat it right.
He added that his father Grayton Waite never pressured him about taking over the business and that his dad was interested in selling the store before he passed away.
[image credit: Swampyank]