The General Store
There is a piece of Ashland history that played a huge role in my life; The Ashland General Store- or if you prefer; The Ashland News Store!
Originally located on Main Street where Lunkers is today. This old red building was built in 1835 and was intended for residential and commercial businesses- some things never change. If you look at the building from the train track side, you will notice that the original structure looks similar to The Ashland House down the street next to the Police Station- a traditional two story brick colonial. The first floor storefront addition was built around 1927-37 and is the view that many of us recognize today. It took me a long time before I noticed the original structure hiding behind the addition, sometimes you don’t notice what is right in front of you!
One of the first stores at this location was owned by S.W. Wiggins (1841). He ran a general store on the first floor and a boot shop on the second- Wiggins would later m
ove his boot business to Front Street. Next, carpenter Richard R. Brewster (1846), ran a shop and a lumber yard which was located in the back of the building! John West (1867) followed and opened a tailor business. I am amazed at the diverse businesses that occupied this location during the building’s first 100 years!
Now that we have the history out of the way, let’s take a trip down memory lane…The Ashland New Store name can be credited to shopkeeper, Arnold Bean (1940’s). If you have been in town long enough you might remember it. The book Images of Ashland says that it was “the exclusive distributor of newspapers in town”. A prestigious honor during a time when papers were not sent electronically! Newsies and locals would stop in to grab the paper and maybe a pack of gum or a Cola. You could also get a haircut at the barber shop (where Ashland Threading Spa is today).
Let’s move forward just a bit to the 1990’s when Carolyn Kennedy and Dick Horrigan ran The General Store. THIS is the store that I remember because I used to work there! Making your muffins, selling you cookies, and burning your bagels (it was the toasters fault, I swear!).
There are so many stories that I could tell you about the store, it’s customers, the ghost (Don’t worry, we will get to that in a later edition!). They are not stories of old- but someday they will be!
The Ashland General Store was the heart of the town. The regulars would grab their “usual” and sit down at the front window for town gossip or politics- which would sometimes get feisty! The after church crowd would pop in and take a look at the antiques while they enjoyed their coffees. Firefighters and policemen would try to get a bite to eat before getting a call- only to have the alarm sound and be waved through by the counter staff with a “Take it with you, we will see you when you come back!”. Then there was Red and Alice. Red worked in the general store for many years before I worked there. As a child I thought he lived there! Alice Jordan was another regular shopkeeper, I had the pleasure of working alongside Alice. Her dry sense of humor was amazing; I remember her laugh the most. As a child Alice used to scare me- I thought she was so stern- boy was I wrong!
Kids would come in for cookies or penny candy (which was .10 cents in the 90s). A couple would come in for two apple dumplings every Sunday. If you were lucky enough to get an apple dumpling before they were gone, you know how amazing they were! Then there was the bread cutting machine which took center stage. The machine would cut an entire loaf of homemade bread into slices- in one very shaky and very loud motion. How it never shook off the table is a mystery?! Watching it was better than sliced bread!
Once the rush cleared out, an older woman would sit at the window alone and talk about the different streets in town where she lived over the years. She would tell me stories about her life in a small town, not very long ago. Those are the stories that we take for granted, but some day, they will be treasured stories from our past. Looking back, I should have asked her if I could write them down.
Source: 159 Main Street. Ashland Historical Commission Building Survey
Images of Ashland. Ed Maguire
Image By Cliff Wilson. The General Store.