'Saying goodbye': A general store in Cheshire first opened in 1844 closes its doors

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CHESHIRE — The "penny" candy remains behind the glass display case. Plumbing and hardware items still hang from the pegboard. The store office is packed with decades of paperwork, with several generations of family photos above the desk.

In the coming days, Jim Reynolds and his mother, Evelyn, have plenty of inventory and files to sort through and remove from H.D. Reynolds General Merchandise.

The pre-Civil War mom-and-pop store on Church Street closed for good Saturday, finally succumbing to the post-World War II economy.

The more profitable family-run power equipment/lawn mower business behind the store remains open to meet the needs of homeowners and lawn-care businesses in the area.

Jim Reynolds, who owns the store with his older brother George, said with the advent of supermarkets, automobiles and convenience stores over the years, the general store business model slowly became outdated.

"Financially, it wasn't terribly viable to keep open," he said, "and being an icon in the community, it was hard to let it go,"

Evelyn Reynolds, 92, the family matriarch who still worked at the store, said she realizes it's time to let go, but she'll miss the loyal customers.

"You get to see different people every day," she said.

Jim Reynolds views the closing as an opportunity to move on as the business moves out in favor of a future occupant.

"We're saying goodbye to one era and saying hello to another era," he told The Eagle. "This is not a funeral."

Established in 1844 as Dean's Store, Harold Reynolds and his wife, Hilda, bought the general store located near town hall in 1937.

The couple's son, Stanley, joined the business after serving in the Navy during World War II, and in 1952 he added the first rotary lawn mowers to the general merchandise. When Harold's son Stanley returned from the Navy after the war, he joined the business, and in 1952 took on a new product, the Lawn Boy rotary mower. Stanley eventually built the successful power equipment dealership that currently operates in a separate building behind the shuttered general store.

Jim Reynolds is confident a new commercial venture or possibly an artistic collaborative will reuse the space.

"Going forward, we are interested in looking at creative uses for the space that are in keeping with the the role the store has played as a central gathering place and resource for the community over the years," he said.

Reynolds believes Cheshire center has become more desirable in recent years with volunteer groups staging community events throughout the year and the advent of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams.

"Mass MoCA has done a world of good for those of us along Route 8," he said. "There's a huge amount of community pride here."

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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