Rhode Island general store closes its doors after 224 years

Ron Recinto

Gray's Store in Adamsville village in Little Compton, R.I., was known by customers for years with its old-fashioned marble soda fountain, cigar and tobacco cases, and Rhode Island johnny cakes, the Associated Press reported.

The store near the Massachusetts line opened in 1788.

Owner Jonah Waite, 21, inherited the shop after his father died of cancer last month. He told the AP that closing the store Sunday was a hard decision, but the shop's finances aren't sustainable and a supermarket down the street has siphoned business.

"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 the AP. "With the economy ... the place has lost its attraction, lost its luster."

Gray's Store featured general store standards like penny candy,  a small selection of groceries, and antiques and collectible knickknacks. It's been in Waite's family for seven generations, since 1879, and comprises the front part of the family's home.

In 2007, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and then-Gov. Donald Carcieri issued proclamations naming Gray's as the oldest continuously run general store in the country. However, other stores also make the same claim.

Bob Wordell, a mechanic who works nearby, remembers gathering at the store in the summer with his friends when he was a child years ago.

"We'd eat freeze pops on the front steps," Wordell told The Providence Journal. "I think they cost a nickel."