Gray's General Store – Little Compton, Rhode Island - Atlas Obscura

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Gray's General Store

Founded in 1788, this Rhode Island institution is the oldest operating general store in America. 

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Gray’s General Store was founded in 1788 in Adamsville, Rhode Island sitting just 30 feet from the border with Massachusetts. Since its opening 235 years ago, it has sold penny candy, popsicles, cigars, tobacco cases, a small selection of groceries, collectibles, johnny cakes, and even boasted a marble soda fountain. They sold their own corn meal ground at their grist mill across the state line in Massachuttes, just 100 yards down the road. The general store also served as the first post office in Little Compton, opening in 1804.

Now, the store more resembles an antique shop, selling dishes, secondhand books, locally crafted jewelry as well as jonnycakes, a Rhode Island staple. Some sections are partitioned off to display old toys, antiques, or other remnants of the store’s nearly two-and-a-half centuries of operation, as well as what remains of the Little Compton post office.

In 2007, the then Governer Donald Carcieri and sitting U.S. Senator Jack Reed issued a proclamation naming Gray’s the oldest continuously-run general store in America. This 224-year streak would come to an end in 2012 upon the death of the owner, leading to a pause in operation for about a year. Gray’s General Store doors reopened in 2013 and despite losing “continually” from their title, have continued to serve the community as the oldest operating general store in America. 

Know Before You Go

Store hours are limited. As of most recent information, the general store is open between the months of June to October, Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

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