Mansfield Center General Store seeks new life

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Mansfield - posted Tue., Mar. 5, 2013
A Tom Menard depiction of the Mansfield Center General Store. Contributed photo. - Contributed Photo

Since 1886, the Mansfield Center General Store has served as a gathering place for local residents. At one time known as Barrows and Burnham, the building’s second floor, known as Elmwood Hall, used to host gatherings and recitations. In 1957, the Robb family became the third owners of the store, and Ann kept the business going after her husband, Willard, passed away in 1964. After Ann’s retirement in 1997, there were short-lived, unsuccessful attempts to revive the business.

In 2008, sisters Keleigh Shumbo and Lisa Rich took over the store, and turned it once again into a comfortable gathering place for locals. They received largely glowing reviews for their homemade chili, soups, sandwiches and quiches. There were popular Sunday brunches, live music and antiques, in addition to grocery offerings. For a few years the business survived. But a lack of local support and the opening of a new coffee shop in the new Storrs Center complex proved to be too much. Shumbo and Rich officially closed the doors on Feb. 16, and the Mansfield Center General Store once again finds itself in search of a new incarnation.

“They weren’t very experienced, and I think the businesses down in Storrs did them in,” said building owner Neenah Shafer. Shafer said that Shumbo and Rich are opening a new business in downtown Willimantic. “We wish them the best of luck,” she said. The new business – Lady Chatelaine’s/Lady C’s Chocolates, will be located in the bright yellow Willimantic Victorian Neighborhood Association  building next door to Fred’s Horned Toad Café at 875 Main St. Scheduled to open March 1, the business will feature chocolates, fresh flowers, vintage jewelry and other items.

Meanwhile, Shafer is seeking a new tenant for the building at 534 Storrs Road in Mansfield Center. While another general store would be great to continue the tradition, “We’ll talk to anybody who might have any ideas,” said Shafer. “It’s about more than just money. The store has a long history in town.”

Contact Shafer for information about the location at 860-608-6827 or 860-465-9271.

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