In 1792, the Warren General Store in Warren, Connecticut, first welcomed customers. Over the next couple of centuries, the store migrated from the original building to another nearby built in the late 1880s. Then sometime in the late 2000s, the store closed, leaving the space empty for a decade. But today, the Warren General Store is once again open for business.
The story of its revival started with a vision John Favreau had to revive the town’s only commercial center. A year ago, he purchased a cluster of buildings, including the original and former store structures. One of his goals was to “bring back the general store, so our community and visitors can get a good cup of coffee, a sandwich and essentials,” he said.
Laying the Groundwork
While Favreau thought the store should occupy its former building, he didn’t want to assume the location would work. “It seemed like an ideal spot, since the building’s at a major crossroads in Litchfield County, but I did my research to make sure,” he said. Favreau talked to previous store owners and looked at traffic counts to see if the location would support a convenience store.
Once he determined that, Favreau took a hard look at the inside space. The store revamp started with refinishing the flooring. “The floor turned out so well that I used that as the starting point for the rest of the store,” he said. “It’s a small space that most recently had been a bake shop, so I wanted to think about what the natural traffic flow would be before putting up shelving.”
He added two deli cases and tucked a kitchen behind a counter. The color scheme picked up the clean lines of the shelving, with the flooring a coffee color, the walls vanilla and accent colors caramel and chocolate. Stainless steel brings a modern element throughout the store. The store also offers limited seating inside and picnic tables outside for guests who want to linger over coffee, breakfast or lunch.
I try to sell things I would eat and that are more healthy.
“I wanted to create a very welcoming environment, one that looks beautiful and sophisticated yet still evokes the country, since we are a general store,” he said.
Favreau had an eye for specialty when thinking about product assortment. Warren General Store has unique cheeses in a charcuterie case, along with meats from an Italian market. A local coffee roaster creates custom blends for the store, while a local tea purveyor provides custom tea blends.
“I worked with as many local vendors as possible to bring in ice cream, milk, eggs, preserves, etc.,” he said. “From my own history of buying specialty food, I curated a collection that I think speaks to my local and weekender customers in a universal way that’s also affordable.”
The mix of specialty foods extends to snacks, such as Norwegian flat bread and cauliflower chips. But the store also carries bag and bar candy, among other traditional c-store snacks. “I try to sell things I would eat and that are more healthy,” Favreau explained.
Like with many convenience stores these days, Warren General Store emphasizes fresh foodservice. Favreau developed the menu himself, which focuses on classic sandwiches named after the town’s streets, as well as an array of house-made muffins, brownies and pies.
The popular takeaway menu includes classic deli salads and a number of vegetarian salads, vegetarian lasagna, ribs and wings and prepared entrees, such as chicken pot pies, meatloaf and quiches. “We have a rotating menu that allows us to experiment with different takeaway options,” he said.
The menu has been “very well received by the community,” turning the store into a popular spot for breakfast sandwiches and dinner takeaway meals. “The dinners to-go continue to sell strong,” he said.
Getting the Word Out
In relaunching the store, Favreau turned to social media and the local press to let the town know about the store. “We’ve connected with the community rather well, as I’ve done quite a bit for local organizations and charities, in addition to social media and word of mouth,” he said.
For Favreau, running the store is all about being personable, approachable and welcoming to customers. “It’s really about connecting with every customer who comes through the door and creating the relationships that become part of the store itself,” he said. “I want customers to leave satisfied, happy and with a warm feeling and a sense of pride in their community.”
Overall, Warren General Store has begun to find its place in the community. “We’ve created a convenience for the town and those commuters passing through the area, as well as a destination stop for lunch and specialty grocery items,” Favreau said.