By Tom Killin Dalglish
ADAMSVILLE— The venerable Gray’s General Store in Adamsville — that until it closed last summer had been in continuous operation for 224 years since opening in 1788 — re-opened July 1 after taking a year off.
The store closed at the end of July, 2012, it was thought forever, following the death of its owner Grayton Waite, who had operated it since 1986. Mr. Waite had taken the business over from his father, who had run the place since 1966.
The store’s new manager is Judy Wilkie, Mr. Waite’s cousin, who worked in the store with him for 16 years. She is renting the premises from Jonah Waite, 22, Mr. Waite’s only son and heir.
Jonah grew up in the old family home that connects to the rear of the store, and still lives there. He continues to own the store, and is renting it to Ms. Wilkie.The store is located on 5-6 acres of land (part of which lies in Westport), which includes a greenhouse, four barns, and one acre of open field.
Last summer when the store closed, Jonah was about to enter his senior year in college, and had other goals than operating the store. Ms. Wilkie was facing hip replacement surgery and could not manage the store.
Jonah graduated this last spring from the University of Hartford with a degree in journalism, and is pursuing a career as a sports writer.
Ms. Wilkie said, “I’ve now recovered, and am able to have another go at it.” She is settling into her new role managing the store. “I’ve done it for so long, and Jonah seemed to welcome it. He can now prepare for his career.”
She said she has no new plans for the store. “It’s much of the same. Kind of everything sprinkled in. We’re going basically for collectibles, antiques, and gifts. There’s a local niche. We have cards, bagged candy, frozen candy bars, ice cream novelties. But we’re not doing penny candy.”
Ms. Wilkie, who lives in Little Compton but was born and brought up in Adamsville, said, “I’m happy to be back. People are stopping by, going by and tooting their horns, saying welcome back. It’s a good feeling.”
What she likes most “is doing the jewelry. And I like it when I can get a good antique. It’s just like being back with old friends again.”
Thanks to Jonah, she said, the store is working on a website and has an e-mail address: email@example.com. It is also developing a Facebook page, she says.
The store at 4 Main Street, Adamsville, Rhode island, 02801 can be reached at 401-635-8638.