Monday, July 30, 2012

Shuttered: America's Oldest General Store Closes Doors

A mercantile in Rhode Island with the claim of being the oldest general store in the US has officially closed its doors after 224 years of business.

Gray's General Store located in Adamsville, Rhode Island, had been in business since Colonial times, first opening its doors in the year 1788. The young country would not have an official president until the following year, when General George Washington was inaugurated as the first US president in 1789.

The mercantile served as the tiny village's main supply of food and other necessities for many generations. The store's current owner, Jonah Waite, inherited the store from his father, who passed away in June. Waite made the difficult decision to sell the store after inspecting the finances. It seems the supermarket down the street had siphoned away much of Gray's business over the years, although the store was still popular with tourists visiting the area in search of a photo opportunity and a few cheap souvenirs.
In 2007,  Senator Jack Reed and then-Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri issued proclamations naming Gray's as the oldest continuously run general store in the country.

"Obviously, I understand the historical aspect of it, and I would really love to keep it the way it is, but it doesn't seem to me that that's the most feasible option," Waite told local media regarding his decision to shutter the store's doors. "With the economy ... the place has lost its attraction, lost its luster," although he had seen an influx of visitors since announcing the closing. Waite is set to be a senior at nearby University of Hartford in Connecticut, where he is majoring in journalism.

The store officially closed its doors for good after business hours on Sunday.

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