Davoll's reopens under new ownership
Growing up, Ben Shattuck and his brother Will would regularly stop by Davoll’s General Store for some candy on their way to Friends Academy.
Now, the two are the very owners of that town icon after they purchased it late last year with an intent to create their own cafe-style gathering spot while maintaining the historic charm of the building that first opened in 1793.
After months of renovations, the store once again flew its open flag on July 23 to what Shattuck said was “a very busy weekend” for the 228-year-old building.
“Taking the reins of this has been part store owner, part historic preservationist” he said. “One of the most important parts of Davoll’s is to make people feel something like stepping into the past — especially since our shopping experience now is so solitary and online.”
To honor that 228 years of Dartmouth history, Shattuck said that the store is decorated with antique photos, original wood, and “the oldest things we could.”
During the opening weekend, he noted that a customer came in for a drink and provided an old Christmas card of the new owners to be used as a decoration.
“I mean, I had to put it up,” Shattuck laughed.
The brothers also paid homage to all of the previous owners through a sign listing their names above the store’s entrance.
“You want to continue a tradition,” Shattuck said. “We’re standing on the shoulders of lots of great things that came before.”
The Dartmouth native likened the renovations to “rigging an incredibly complicated ship.” He noted that along with securing the proper permits from the town, there was also a lot of collaboration with local businesses in order to create a “tapestry of businesses.”
Along with nonperishables, the store also offers local meats and eggs, along with produce from the Ivory Silo and Skinny Dip Farm in Westport and the Flying Carrot in Dartmouth.
There are also crafts made by local artisans.
“Shopping at an old general store is about seeing all the local produce, books you might not have bought, and smelling the old wood floors,” Shattuck said.
The section that Shattuck takes most pride in, he said, is the new book section. He noted that of all the products for sale, the top seller has been books.
“What a wonderful community we live in where you have a general store that has pretty much everything and flying off the shelf is books” he said. “I can’t keep up with the book demand.”
Along with broadening the local products available in the general store, the Shattucks also expanded into the former Wild Honey space to create a café and pub unlike the “typical American bar.”
“It’s kind of like a European-type pub,” he said. “It’s about making a place that doesn’t have TVs going on, but instead candles and evening chatter.”
There’s also a phone booth outside the store where, if you call a “secret number,” you can hear Shattuck’s famous actor fiancée Jenny Slate read a selection of poems.
As the new Davoll’s continues to develop, Shattuck said there are plans to host live music, poetry readings, along with author and writing workshops — all in an effort to create a “bottleneck of activity in the South Coast.”
“We care so much about Russells Mills Village,” Shattuck said. “It feels like a little planet and I just wanted to add some goodness to it.”