MILL RIVER – Nearly 300 ceramic mugs, styrofoam cups, and fresh coffee are staying put at the Mill River General Store.
So are the daily lunch specials and the shelves stocked with groceries, wine, and fishing supplies.
Near the register, bouquets of flowers sit on shelves like trophies – welcome gestures to the new, young owner.
Jessica Holcomb recently took over the Mill River General Store after the store’s previous owner, Dave Herrick, wished to retired. She said the transition was a year in the making, but in the end, the sale was expedited.
The week of April 10 was Holcomb’s first full week. She said the transition thus far has been “wonderful.”
“You can’t come in and uproot everything,” Holcomb said. “But at the same time, they’re willing to adapt.”
“Change is good. Keeping it the same is respecting them,” she added, referring to the store’s foundation of customers.
The sale was confirmed April 2 for an undisclosed amount. The building and business, including a three-bedroom apartment upstairs, was listed for $699,000 by Wheeler and Taylor Real Estate in Great Barrington. The 11,325 square-foot commercial property had been on the market for 1,160 days.
Holcomb said the town has been supportive throughout the entire process. During a half-hour interview, the store’s phone rang repeatedly.
Once, Holcomb had just hung up the phone when it immediately came to life again.
“Did you explain to her why this phone always rings?” Holcomb joked to the store’s seven-year employee Lacey Leone, followed by “Mill River General Store, how can I help you?”
“This is like the second town hall,” Holcomb said in between calls. “Everybody comes here to figure out what’s going on. This is it. This is the hub.”
The store is certainly the area’s most popular destination. The property is surrounded by the New Marlborough Public Library and Town Hall. The town of New Marlborough, comprising five towns including Mill River, has approximately 1,500 residents.
Residents stop in for a cup of coffee, to catch up on town gossip, or to pick up mail – the post office rents a portion of the building.
“People will come in three, four times a day,” Holcomb said. “Once for their morning coffee, then for the newspaper, then their mail, and a cold drink in the afternoon.”
Most recently, residents are flocking to the store to pick up fishing licenses.
“It’s even crazier in the fall when people are checking in bears and deer,” Holcomb said.
During the appropriate season, hunters come to the store to check in game, weighing and measuring their catches so the state can keep on eye on herd sizes.
“I didn’t really believe that small towns still functioned this way, but it has to function like this because there’s not enough people to make things happen and everybody helps out and helps this little town run,” Holcomb said. “It’s not just a store or a building, it’s a piece of life.”
After growing up in Southborough, Massachusetts., Holcomb resettled in the Berkshires just 10 months ago. She previously lived in Tennessee and operated a number of bars and restaurants for 13 years.
“I desperately wanted to live out here,” the new general store owner said.
At 175 years-old, the Mill River Store is most consistently operating general store in the Berkshires: hours are Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 6 a.m. to noon. Store hours during the summer will be extended.
This article first appeared in The Berkshire Record.