A general store all about the details

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You can sip an espresso, treat yourself to a “ploughman’s board” with meat and cheese or drink organic wine with friends in the courtyard at a bocce court.

Welcome to Davoll’s General Store, was founded in 1793 and brings a taste of Ye Olde World to an Amazon world.

South Dartmouth’s Ben Shattuck – writer, painter, gallery curator and fiancé of actor / comedian / writer Jenny Slate – bought his hometown general store with brother Will last year. The doors were opened on July 22nd.

The vision lies somewhere between an old American post by day and a van Gogh-esque Dutch café by night: wooden chairs, candlelight, wine, bread and the violin.

Shattuck lived in the Netherlands from 2016 to 2018 on an artist visa. He came to South Dartmouth, the seaside town where he grew up, and longed for quaint Dutch pubs.

“It feels a bit like a hobbit story – going out and coming back and saying I would love to bring this experience here,” says Shattuck. Dutch pubs are “really different from American bars – no TVs. There is candlelight, dogs, children. I also missed the Dutch marketplace, that farmer’s market feeling. “

Davoll’s has had a special place in his heart for a long time. An artist With no retail experience, he bought the 228-year-old store essentially out of nostalgia.

“I wouldn’t have bought just any store,” he says. “My family has been in this city for over 100 years – my grandmother shopped here, my mother shopped here when she was a little girl. When my brother and I were kids, we rode bikes to get Penny Candys. It’s just a lovely old room that was the backdrop to our lives and part of the fabric of our community. “

In an age of scrolling Instagram stores, this is a place to browse. To pick up glasses and leaf through books. Suck a beer by candlelight. He also plans to start Irish violin sessions on Sunday.

Call a friend from a wooden phone booth outside – or call a secret number (hidden in the store) to hear Slate, a native of Milton, poetry by Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, or Mary Oliver.

“That place was near when George Washington was alive. It has weathered the storms of modernity in many ways, ”says Shattuck. “Why has this shop existed for 228 years? It’s the community investment. People who made up their mind even if there is a Walmart opening they will come here. There’s just some magic here. “

Shattuck’s ultimate goal is to build a community. “I was really thirsty for that town square feeling,” he says.

Last year he spoke to one of the previous shopkeepers, Kim Arruda.

“I said, ‘I wish there was a place where I could just grab a Guinness, hear someone play the violin, grab a bag of local potatoes, some grass-fed beef. A place where the community can gather. ‘ And she said, ‘If you’re so interested in this place, why don’t you make me an offer?’

A graduate of Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Shattuck sanded the floorboards on original wood and built the cafe / bar “with a large piece of American chestnut found in the basement.”

He brought his eye with him as a gallery curator – he also works at Westport Dedee Shattuck Gallery, owned by his mother – in selecting crafts and arts for sale and in creating the rustic aesthetic of the store.

Ancient tools adorn walls. The products are mostly local. A “Produce boat “is stocked with local beets, potatoes, lettuce, onions and spring onions.

“We don’t just import organic products from afar – you really immerse yourself in the Southcoast community,” he says. “We have Cuttyhunk oysters on Friday. The eggs are delivered from five kilometers away, the beef from eleven kilometers away. Then there are local artists – wooden bowls, ceramics, small bronze sculptures. “

Shattuck also brought his eye as a writer – he is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and won a 2017 PEN America Best Debut Short Story, among others – in the book section, which he equipped with authors from Mary Oliver to Chris Van Allsburg. on Slate’s collection of essays, “Little strange ones. “

The Pushcart Prize winner recalled: “My father actually illustrated a book with the title “Moonlight on the river” about me and my brother. I signed books here when I was 9. My first book signing. “

A “local” section includes writers from the region, from Herman Melville and Thoreau to Paul Harding and Geraldine Brooks.

Director of the Author residency on Cuttyhunk Island, Shattuck is also planning author workshops and a Davoll’s Book Club. He booked Nathaniel Philbrick to read this fall.

In a few years he finally wants to open a bed & breakfast in the four-room house attached to the shop.

He used to plan a garden center and slowly build a menu for them Cafe / pub.

The locals are apparently hungry for Shattuck’s vision.

“After three days, the poetry department was literally sold out,” he says. “It’s exciting. It was a pleasure to see people enter the store: the kids run to the Penny Candys. The adults look at the local products, maybe pick out an onion or a bouquet of flowers. Then everyone slowly moves in.” the bookstore. And one of the little revelations I’ve had that feels really valuable – they do together.

“When you shop online, it’s a single issue. It’s fast food, ”he says. “Shopping in a little room like this – where you can smell the old wood and see the light coming through the trees in the old windows, hear the door close – it’s like sitting down for a good meal.”

He is also impressed with the sense of history in the room.

“I found these old ledgers from 1884 and 1890 in the attic. The sides look stained with tea, the edges are torn. I always feel like looking at old documents, oh my god – someone wrote that was her hand on this paper. Something hits, an abstract emotion that we really long for. “

As a nod to the area’s fishing and maritime history, he “screwed oars into the side of the building and now the morning bell is creeping up the oars,” he mused. “I don’t think people will travel back in time, but they may be reminded of the simple joys in life – sitting in a bar with a candle flame between you and looking at a bouquet of flowers being plucked down the street. It’s satisfying. “


Lauren Daley can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ laurendaley1.



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