New owners of historic general store awarded for renovations

Jun 1, 2019

Kim Arruda has never won an award for anything before.

But on May 21, the owner of Davoll’s General Store in Russells Mills — along with co-owner Jim Chouinard — received an award from the Waterfront Historic Area League in recognition of their work fixing up the historic building.

Davoll’s has been a general store since 1793.

Located at 1228 Russells Mills Road, the building houses the store as well as a cafe next door.

The Sarah R. Delano preservation award is for “Outstanding contributions to the rehabilitation, restoration, and interpretation of the historic character and environment of Greater New Bedford,” according to the framed plaque now on a prominent wall.

It took Arruda and Chouinard nearly a year and a half to renovate the store, which re-opened in September 2017.

“It needed everything. We had to re-do all the electrics, plumbing, new septic,” she said.

She and Chouinard live above the store with their two teenage boys and their dog Tucker, who occasionally acts as store greeter.

When the couple bought the building in June of 2016, it was still full of unsold stock, with clutter lining — and in some cases even hidden inside — the walls.

“The building had really never been cleaned out since the 1800s,” Arruda said.

Arruda and Chouinard found old tins and tubs of nails in the attic, and boat knees — even an old Indiana Jones-style hat — in the walls.

“We have so many treasures. Some of them are on display — there’s a lot of really neat things that are original to the store,” Arruda said.

The couple cleared it all out and re-did everything from the roof to the basement — but kept the outside the same except for small tweaks, like a new sign and fresh paint.

Arruda noted, “The outside we really wanted to keep looking the way that it always had.”

And since Chouinard is a contractor, he was able to do most of the work himself.

The owners switch off their time working at the store, as they both still work part-time at their jobs — Chouinard at his contracting job and Arruda as a physical therapy assistant.

Arruda said that like previous owner Joseph Glennon, she and Chouinard wanted to keep the store’s name.

“There’s a little bit of magic with the Davoll’s name,” she said. “You know, everyone sort of has memories of coming here as a kid for candy...we wanted to keep the character. There’s a whole new generation of penny candy kids that are coming in.”

And although penny candy no longer costs mere pennies due to inflation, young customers were still trickling in — some with skateboards — to get their sugar fix from affordable classics like pop rocks and ice cream.

“Once we saw it we just fell in love with it,” Arruda explained, noting that they wanted to uphold the store’s reputation as a community space. “It’s worked just how we had hoped. Neighbors are meeting each other here.”

She added, “Jim was a collector of many things for many years, he loves antiques. And I think Davoll’s was the best antique around...We’re just really happy that we could keep it going.”