Throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont—away from the larger cities of Portland, Portsmouth, and Burlington—you’ll find quaint stores that hearken back to the days before giant supermarkets and big-box stores that sell everything under the sun. The general store played a role in small communities as a place to buy food and household items, mail a letter or buy stamps, and, more importantly, meet up with other locals to exchange news or enjoy some carefree conversation. Today, many of these country stores also serve as a great place to pick up breakfast, lunch, or dinner, to eat onsite or take home. Here are a dozen stores to check out while you explore Northern New England.
1. Calef’s Country Store
Barrington, New Hampshire
From the worn wooden floors to the warmth of the wood stove at Calef’s Country Store, you’ll feel like you’re perusing a true relic. This store offers some basic grocery items, as well as house-made salad dressings, dip mixes, and barbecue sauces. An array of pickled foods, cheeses, and jars of what used to be known as penny candy will tempt young and old alike. At the deli, choices include a house-made meatloaf sandwich, a veggie wrap, and a filling Reuben. Lighter options include a variety of salads and soups. Just be sure to leave room for the locally made cookies, brownies, bars, and whoopie pies for dessert. Open daily at 10 a.m.; closing hours vary. (603) 664-2231.
2. Craftsbury General Store
Known as “The Genny,” this rustic shop offers basic grocery items along with numerous products from Vermont producers, such as chocolate from Rabble-Rouser, beer from The Alchemist, and dried sausage from Vermont Salumi. At the deli, you can pick up a heat-at-home casserole, try a range of delicious sandwiches like the Genny Muffuletta, or grab a decadent browned-butter chocolate-chip cookie. Stop by for one of their Wednesday night Globetrotting Dinners, where the fare ranges from Vietnamese-inspired cuisine to green chili enchiladas or New Orleans–style gumbo. Also make sure to check out their other location in Albany, about 10 miles away. Open daily, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. (802) 586-2440.
3. Danbury Country Store
Danbury, New Hampshire
Since 1875, the Danbury Country Store has served as the grocery store and general meeting place for the community and those who are passing through. Selling groceries, gas, and old-fashioned candies, the store has continued to thrive into the time of giant supermarkets and big-box stores. Order a custom-made sandwich at the deli or try one of several salads, from the basic Good Earth to the more filling Chef Salad. Soup, chili, and seasonal chowder can be ordered separately or to accompany a half-sandwich. If you plan a visit from late spring through early fall, try a cone or cup of fresh ice cream—root beer is this year’s newest flavor. Open daily, hours vary. (603) 768-3100.
4. Day’s Store
Belgrade Lakes, Maine
This family-owned institution has served locals and visitors in the Belgrade Lakes region for more than 60 years. You’ll find all of the items on your shopping list, from milk, cheese, and meat to canned goods and cereal. The store also sells a variety of locally made products, including chocolate and beer (be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol). And there’s a gas pump so you can fill up your car while you’re there. Day’s also has prepared food: Start your day with a scrumptious breakfast sandwich or burrito, or stop in for lunch or dinner to enjoy a freshly made sandwich, pizza, or quesadilla. Open daily April–November, 8 a.m.–7 p.m. (207) 495-2205.
5. Dorset Union Store
First opened in 1816, the Dorset Union Store takes you back in time with its wood-plank floors in a quaint village setting. A side room features international and domestic wines, souvenirs, and Dorset-made lotions and soaps. The store’s main area houses grocery items, cold drinks, wine and beer, and the deli, where you can pick up made-to-order sandwiches, 2 daily soups, and, on Fridays, their award-winning mac-and-cheese. The store also bakes pizza with daily topping specials. For a sweet finish to your meal, grab one of their flaky apple strudels or a generously sized ginger molasses cookie. Open Tuesday–Saturday, 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m. (802) 867-4400.
6. Hope General Store
This all-purpose store has a little of everything: groceries, fresh produce, snow shovels, locally made beauty products, and beer on tap. The town’s post office is in the back, near a vintage stove that serves as a display case. Talk about a one-stop shop! You can pick up a premade meal, like vegetable quiche or haddock chowder, to heat up at home. Or you can order a sandwich or wrap, a pizza, or a calzone. Be sure to save room for the store’s homemade baked goods. Open daily, hours vary. (207) 763-2816.
7. Ira Miller’s General Store
Milton Mills, New Hampshire
Carrying an assortment of groceries, household items, and toiletries, Ira Miller’s General Store has served the community of Milton Mills on and off since the 1880s. The store also stocks locally made gifts, toys, and art. If you’re hungry, pick up a breakfast sandwich with ham, bacon, sausage, or plant-based protein, or a warm croissant with maple butter. Later in the day, the deli offers a wide selection of panini sandwiches, including the Turkey, Cheddar, and Maple-Bacon-Onion Jam and the Ploughman’s, filled with ham, cheddar, red onion, tomato, mayo, and farmhouse chutney. There is also fair-trade coffee, ice cream, and a rotating menu of baked goods. Open daily, hours vary. (603) 473-1029.
8. Marshfield Village Store
A favorite for campers heading to Groton State Forest, the Marshfield Village Store is the spot to pick up supplies for a campfire dinner, including local meat and cheese, as well as some Vermont-made cider doughnuts and cookies. For a quick bite, build your own sandwiches or select from the store’s popular offerings, such as the Classic BLT or the DB Special with roast beef and horseradish cheddar cheese. Pizza is available by the slice or you can order a whole pie. Try the Saucy Swine, loaded with bacon, ham, and sausage with a maple barbecue drizzle. Open daily, hours vary. (802) 426-4321.
9. Monson General Store
About 15 miles from Moosehead Lake, the Monson General Store is well stocked with kitchen provisions, souvenirs, and games for the whole family. The store is known for its local meats and vegetables, jewelry and crafts made by Maine artisans, and delicious prepared foods. In the fall and winter, the deli offers daily lunchtime soup specials and $11.99 grab-and-go dinners, such as beef Stroganoff and maple-glazed salmon, available between 4 and 6:30 p.m. Grab a table outside and enjoy a freshly made meal al fresco. Perhaps you’ll even see a moose nearby. Open daily, 6:30 a.m.–7 p.m. (207) 997-3800.
10. The Original General Store
Located on Route 100, around 12 miles north of the Killington Ski Resort, The Original General Store serves up the complete Vermont experience. Locals and visitors alike can find souvenirs, grocery items, and Vermont-made beer chilled in old-fashioned wood-faced refrigerators. The deli offers breakfast dishes, from a quick egg-and-cheese sandwich on grilled brioche to the hearty Three Meadows plate with 3 farm eggs, your choice of meat, home fries, and toast. For lunch or dinner, tasty selections include a Cubano, a mozzarella and tomato panini, and a half-pound local-beef burger. House-made soups and chili are also available. Open daily, hours vary. (802) 746-8888.
11. Rumney Village Store
Rumney, New Hampshire
Situated near the south end of the White Mountain National Forest, the Rumney Village Store bills itself as the “County Store With More.” Constructed in 1850, the building initially housed a blacksmith shop but has served as a general store almost continuously since 1865. It now offers a full selection of grocery items, a wide array of cold drinks, wine and beer, and a range of New England foods and souvenirs. At the deli, you can order a freshly made sub with potato or pasta salad or coleslaw on the side. Stop in on Fridays and Saturdays for house-smoked meat, hand-rubbed with the store’s own seasoning and served with house-made barbecue sauce and a variety of side dishes. Open Tuesday–Saturday at 7 a.m.; closing hours vary. (603) 786-6020.
12. The Washington General Store
About halfway between Portland and Bangor, The Washington General Store offers an extensive selection of groceries, hardware, books and gifts, home goods, and food and drinks. Originally built in the 1930s as a lumber barn, the store still retains an old-time feel, thanks to the current owners’ use of found pieces such as old doors and tongue-and-groove siding. The store works with local producers to stock vegetables, meat, and a bit of cheese from nearby farms. Bait worms are available for those who want to catch their own fish. If you want to eat right away, pick up one of the deli’s fresh sandwiches or melts, or try a flavorful salad or the soup of the day. The store also offers mouth-watering baked goods—be sure to try a lemon square or macaroon. Open Monday–Saturday, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. (207) 845-2007.
Pamela Hunt is a freelance writer in Burlington, Vermont, who writes regularly for AAA publications.
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