Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eclairs are still big as store reopens

Addison Todd, above, owner of the Colebrook Store, left, mans the register on his second day in business. Todd, who has lived in Colebrook for five years, hopes to keep old traditions alive, like éclairs, penny candy and Friday night pizza. Kristen Domonell Republican-American.

COLEBROOK - Bob Grigg remembers the taste of the Colebrook Store's éclairs with great fondness.
"They had a recipe for éclairs that they shouldn't have allowed it to be sold it was so good," Grigg said. "People came from miles away, they really did. They were huge and God only knows how many calories were in them and they were so good and they were so big."
After being without for more than three years, residents of Colebrook will have their beloved éclairs back.
The Colebrook Store reopened under new ownership Monday, bringing basic necessities and a favorite gathering spot back to town. The éclairs sold out in the first hour.
Grigg, 77, was born in Colebrook and retired here. He served as the curator of the Colebrook Historical Society and is now the municipal historian. He said he has been "sick at heart" over the store being closed and is glad to have it back.
"In a small community (of 1,532 residents), such as Colebrook, you need some cohesiveness," Grigg said. "You've got the town hall, the church and the historical society; all of them are open to the public but they aren't places the public would necessarily go to or gather. The store more or less rounds out what constitutes a small town, a small village."
Addison Todd, 40, a 1998 graduate of Johnson & Wales University's College of Culinary Arts and a Colebrook resident for five years, has reopened the store, keeping old traditions at the forefront of his business plan.
He plans to make pizza next Friday, Oct. 29, in keeping with the popular tradition of Friday night pizza. At some point in the future, he'd also like to sell prime rib takeout dinners on the weekends. And he hasn't forgotten about the éclairs - they're as big as ever - although now he knows he'll have to make the batch a whole lot larger each day.
"My dad actually commented, 'Son, how on earth could one person eat that, I think you should make them normal sized, normal éclairs,'" Todd said. "I said, 'Dad, you don't know the history of the éclairs.'"
Todd grew up having penny candy and éclairs from the general store when he'd visit his grandfather on weekends and holidays. The store had closed in the summer of 2007. When Todd purchased it just over a year ago, there was so much water damage to the floor that he couldn't open one of the front doors.
"I live in town and I kept driving by this beautiful building that was just going into the ground," he said. "I don't think anyone had walked in for two and a half years. It was so close to being the end."
The interior has been refurbished and a few antique signs and the like have been recovered from the basement, but there weren't many left. The rest of the antiques decorating the store have been in Todd's family for years.
Right now, Todd is slowly working on bringing in more inventory, but patrons can find locally-grown organic eggs from North Woods Farm in Colebrook, milk, butter, yogurt, bottled beverages, coffee and tea, and bathroom and pet necessities. The deli menu features soups, breakfast and lunch sandwiches and baked goods.
In coming weeks, Todd plans to stock the shelves with odds and ends that Colebrook residents can easily get in a pinch without having to drive to Winsted or Torrington, as well as penny candies, olive oils and specialty food items. In a month he hopes to be licensed to sell beer. Todd said he foresees catering as the "bread and butter of the operation," but he hasn't gotten that far yet.
Before the previous owner of the store, Lora Murphy, closed shop without warning in July 2007, the Colebrook Store, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, had been the oldest continuously-operated general store in the state, opening in 1812. Todd said he may look into the legality of the issue and see if he is able to "rescue that claim to fame."
"It's sad," Todd said, of the years lost. "I can make T-shirts that say 'Was the oldest general store. Two hundred more years to go.'"

Originally appeared 10/20/10 in the Republican-American

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