Convenience Meets Community at General Stores

Offering a little something for everyone, hometown general stores continue to thrive on the South Shore.

Written by Brendan Martin Coyne  Photography by Jack Foley

For centuries, general stores have been at the heart of many small New England towns, including here on the South Shore. These businesses provided whatever staples and provisions the locals needed, as well as a homey atmosphere where customers could meet and mingle with friends and neighbors. 

In today’s world, which is dominated by e-commerce and big-box chain retailers, hometown general stores have found creative ways to adapt and diversify their offerings to serve their customers. More than just destinations for fresh baked goods, craft beers and hostess gifts, these stores inspire a nostalgic experience reminiscent of life in days gone by and create a strong sense of community that keeps people coming back. Here are three standout general stores to visit this summer. 

When it comes to being community-oriented, look no further than the historic Marshfield Hills General Store. Visitors are greeted by friendly staff and the aroma of delicious coffee and pastries. The shelves are stocked with local products from around the region, including: SlackTide coffee (Marshfield), lip balms, salves and honey from Queen Bee Honey Products (Pembroke), savory chocolate milk from Hornstra Farms (Norwell), and an ever-rotating selection of craft beer from Untold Brewing Company (Scituate). 

The Marshfield Hills General Store has something for everyone: onesies for your beach baby, craft soda and candy for the “youngsters,” and a premiere wine and charcuterie board selection for the perfect date night or last-minute gift. You can find plenty of convenience items too, such as flour and eggs for making homemade cookies, grab-and-go-prepared foods, and one of the best greeting card selections on the South Shore—which comes in especially handy since there is a post office located next door.

Situated at the intersection of Prospect Street and Old Main Street, the structure was built in 1853 by Elisha Hall. It once served as a civic center for the area and during the Civil War, government uniforms were sewn upstairs. The building has housed a post office since the 1920s, was home to a Civil Defense Center during the 1940s, and has seen a variety of other uses over the years. There has been a general store on the site ever since 1979. In 2008, actor Steve Carell stepped up to purchase the store to help preserve its legacy. His sister-in-law, Tish Vivado, manages the business and has worked hard with her team to ensure the store provides everything customers could need in a pinch, along with an enchanting shopping experience. 

“General Stores connect us to a simpler time,” says Carell. “They bring neighbors together and create a sense of community—and they have candy.”

Marshfield Hills General Store 165 Prospect Street, Marshfield Hills 781-834-8443 marshfieldhillsgeneralstore.com

As you pull onto Cohasset’s Main Street, you can’t help but notice the flags waving outside the Anchor & Sail General Store. Once the site of “The Bakery” at the historic Red Lion Inn, the site is now home to a bustling new business. 

Opening up a general store has been a dream come true for proprietor Megan Fales, who moved to Cohasset with her family a few years ago. With a background in interior design and television production, Fales completely transformed the historic space, giving it a classic-meets-modern look. 

The vibe at Anchor & Sail is inviting, with an outdoor patio and wicker chairs that are perfect for relaxing and enjoying a casual lunch with friends. The store is known for its gourmet sandwiches and prepared foods. If you’re hungry, order a Nor-Easter, a take on the classic Pilgrim sandwich (turkey, cranberry mayo, cheddar cheese) or a McGillicutty (grilled chicken, prosciutto, mozzarella, avocado), presumably an ode to the Irish Riviera, while relaxing on the patio watching the hustle and bustle of Main Street. If you can’t stay for lunch, then try the prepared foods: chicken salad, coleslaw, meatballs, mac and cheese—even an entire turkey for your holiday feast. 

Half of the store is dedicated to showcasing small specialty gift and gourmet food items, such as olive oil, authentic Italian pasta, artisanal cheeses and jams, as well as stylized cards, stuffed animals and artwork. If you’re looking for some local flair, you will find products sourced from around the South Shore, including Speedwell Coffee (Plymouth), Duxbury Saltworks (Duxbury), Stellwagen Brewing (Marshfield) and Untold Brewing (Scituate). 

Planning for the perfect beach picnic or backyard summer soiree? A stop at the Anchor is a must. Pick up freshly baked bread, craft deli meats, delectable pastries, and even some ice cream if you have a cooler. Or, if you happen to be staying at the Red Lion Inn, ease into the day with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and watch the world pass by.

Anchor & Sail General Store 85 S Main Street, Cohasset 781-923-6071 theanchorandsail.com

 

You’ll find the quintessential New England general store on Hingham’s Main Street. Incorporated in 1837 as “The Cracker Barrel” (unaffiliated with the chain restaurant of the same name), and known as the E. Wilder and Son Grocery Store in the 1900s, this popular neighborhood haunt is now known simply as The Barrel. 

Owners Maryellen and Hugh McLaughlin purchased the business in 2015 and have since made significant structural improvements to the rustic building, while retaining its historic charm (original floorboards were repurposed on the store’s ceiling). Aiming to serve as a community hub, the shop hosts a seasonal walking and running program and keeps a charitable tip jar on the counter to make donations to local causes.

The Barrel’s wooden shelves brim with an assortment of local products, from Boston’s Meat Grease BBQ Sauce (Pembroke) and cookies from Ginger Betty’s Bakery (Quincy) to travel mugs in Hingham Harbormen red, and candles with an “Entering Hingham” emblem and the zip code 02043. 

Catering to discerning shoppers, The Barrel offers locally sourced cold brew coffee and fresh Kombucha on draft (four flavors of each). There’s also a full kitchen in the back (with a chef) and a full deli menu of specialty salads and sandwiches. Try the Harborman (ham, salami, provolone) or the World’s End (grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar). If you’re in a rush, there are homemade dips and an assortment of grab-and-go offerings. A large sign indicating “The Coldest Beer In Town,” hangs by a cooler filled with craft beer from breweries on the South Shore and around New England. 

Kids will appreciate the “Candy Shoppe” section of the store as well as the walk-up ice cream window located on the side of the building. Order a soft serve with sprinkles or a Richie’s Italian Ice and relax at an umbrella-covered table (don’t forget to visit Ray, The Barrel’s resident bunny, in his hutch across the lawn).

The Barrel 613 Main Street, Hingham 781-749-5001 thebarrelhingham.com

More General Stores to explore

Green Harbor General Store

Stop by the “Genny” in the village of Green Harbor, just minutes from the beach. This 100-year-old general store has a full deli, cold beer and penny candy. Try the famous chicken salad or a giant chocolate chip cookie as you relax at a bistro table on the popular farmer’s porch and watch the world pass by.

40 Marginal Street, Marshfield, 781-837-3995 greenharborgeneralstore.com

Sand Hills General Store

Sand Hills will remind you of summer vacations on the Cape. Stop in on the way to visit Old Scituate Light, to “play the numba,” or before you head to the beach. Order a fresh sandwich with top quality Boar’s Head meat (hot pastrami
on a bulkie is a fan favorite), some
roasted red pepper crab bisque, or a deep-fried empanada.

166 Turner Road, Scituate 781-378-0169 scituateharborma.com/sand-hills-general-store.html

White Horse General Store

On your way to the Lobster Pound at Manomet Point, make sure you stop in at the White Horse General Store. This unique store has all-things-vintage, including action figures, rare used books, old glass bottles and even telephones. The store also strives to partner with many local businesses, the newest being Melinda’s Sweet Treats.

121 White Horse Road, Plymouth 508-224-3951 whitehorsegeneral.com

 

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