Event New England's General Stores: Exploring an American Classic with Ted Reinstein

March 19, 2019 | 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

The general store is literally as old as America itself.



It harkens back to a simpler time and a more innocent and rural nation. It conjures a country-like place where kids come in to by penny candy, and adults to buy everything from swaths of fabric, to fresh vegetables, to four-penny nails. It was a place to pick up mail, the newspaper, and perhaps tarry a bit on a cold, winter’s morning to chat over a cup of coffee and a warm wood stove. Long before “Cheers,” the general store was the vital and inviting heart of a community, where everyone not only knew your name, but how you took that coffee, how many kids you had, and how’s your dad doing, anyway? And in tough times, it was a place that often treated customers like family, extending credit when no one else would. In short, the general store was real-life Norman Rockwell—deeply woven into America’s cultural identity, an integral part of the nation’s self-portrait from its earliest days. But over the last 50 years, many of New England’s general stores, competing with behemoths like Wal-Mart and Target, began to disappear. But then a funny thing happened: people really missed them. And in many towns, decided to hold onto them.

In talking about New England’s General Stores: Exploring an American Classic, broadcast journalist Ted Reinstein shares the rich and colorful history of this iconic institution, how they figured in the rise of early American commerce, why they began to fade, and why—like another New England icon, the diner—they have begun to come back and even be re-invented and re-imagined for a new era. Told with anecdotes from a variety of local landmark stores across the region, the presentation is accompanied by the award-winning photography of Art Donahue.

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