As the oldest general store closes in Rhode Island, both shoppers and the family who ran it alike experienced a bittersweet day of reflection as shoppers crowded in for an experience that’s becoming increasingly uncommon in American towns.
And as oldest general store closes, so too does another bit of America many living Americans may not even remember all too well. Gray’s store was the oldest continuously operating general store in the US, as we reported earlier, where not too long ago variety stores, dimestores or five and dimes dotted the landscape as the place where locals purchased every day items like laundry detergent, chewing gum, stick pins, small toys and other assorted necessities for day-to-day life.
The oldest general store closes in Adamsville, Rhode Island, and the reaction was kind of a distillation of how many in the US feel about the homogenization of the American shopping experience. Sure, we as Americans are grateful for our Targets and Amazons and their cheap prices and vast selection, but in the days before mega-retailers, shops like the oldest general store were a different sort of shopping experience for families.
Sure, shops like the oldest general store didn’t take credit cards — but they did extend credit to locals who needed it in lots of cases. And they may not have had every brand of dish soap in stock — but they’d often hold favored items for dedicated customers.
Jonah Waite, son of the recently deceased owner of the oldest general store, Grayton Waite, said that the store saw more customers its final day than it had in ten years:
“It’s definitely the end of an era as we know it. Today was probably the busiest day that this store has seen in the past ten years… Most of the local neighbors who came through, I haven’t seen in years and it was good to see them again and all the good blessings that they had.”
Indeed, perhaps the time for businesses like the oldest general store has passed — but the shop’s closing should be a reminder to us all to make an effort to patronize local family businesses before its too late.