If you’re at the Mattapoisett town beach this summer and want to grab something to eat, stroll over to the new Town Wharf General Store. And if you need a chair to sit on, a hat to block the sun, or a Wiffle ball and bat to play with, they have that covered, too.
“I hold the Vermont Country Store in Weston, Vt., as the model of a great general store,” said Chris Demakis, who with husband and lawyer Vince Cragin, both 44, opened Town Wharf in late May in a 1798 building they refurbished and have lived in for the past 14 years. “I’m an ad/marketing guy, and want to grow the Town Wharf brand.”
Business has been brisk, Demakis said, owing to a Facebook campaign he launched to generate interest, gaining nearly 900 friends in short order. During my visit on a late Thursday afternoon, several customers said they’d been following the store on Facebook and were eager to check it out.
The store is about 500 square feet and still smells of new wood from the renovation, which left in place the original ceiling beams. The structure was built by a master carpenter who worked in the Mattapoisett shipyards, and over the years has been a post office, deli, natural foods store and a real estate office, among other things.
Here you’ll find all manner of items, mostly food, most of that from local and regional farms and producers. A comfy canvas-and-wood beach chair ($140) sat in the corner, from the Cape Cod Beach Chair Co. in Harwich, near wall shelves brimming with foods like Pemberton’s sauces from Maine ($10), Bar Harbor clam chowder ($6), Namaste Foods gluten-free pancake and waffle mix ($15), Jim’s Organic Coffee ($15) from Wareham, and Amma’s hand-made dish cloths ($16 for a two pack) from Mattapoisett.
“We have a lot of interesting food here, a lot of that New England based,” said Demakis, who with his husband also works at the store late in the day and weekends. “You won’t find Coke here, but you will find Spindrift soda of Charlestown and Maine Root soda [both $3].”
In a small cooler on the back wall there is a variety of smoked meats and cheeses, including Great Hill Blue from Marion; a unique and very tasty camembrie cheese and thick Maplewood Farms bacon, both from Vermont; and imported Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano .
At a gourmet food store, it’s easy to run up a tab, but I got a pretty good range of food for $99.
That night, I sliced up some of the camembrie cheese, which was smooth and silky, and topped it with some super good Dalmatia fig spread ($10), a sweet-and-seedy coating that brought the cheese to life. I rolled up pieces of La Quercia American prosciutto ($10) into tubes and served with them a jar of Mezzini Turkish olives ($7), which provided a delicious assortment of the fruit in a briny mix of red pepper, garlic, capers, and oregano.
On impulse, I basted some sole I bought from Mattapoisett’s Turk’s Seafood with the olive brine, baked the fish and then topped it with Pemberton’s sweet mango salsa, made with succulent chunks of mango and spices. Sole can be bland, but not done this way, the fruit topping a perfect finishing touch.
I hadn’t had the stuff in ages, so later I heated up some Indian pudding from Bar Harbor Foods, a deliciously sweet mix of cornmeal and molasses, imbued with ginger and cinnamon, and topped it with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream.
The new store is a throwback to the days of general stores offering a variety of products, from food to housewares, including handmade fireplace brooms. There’s more to come, Demakis said, such as cast-iron cookware and clam rakes. The store will also offer ready-made sandwiches from a local deli, and the owners are working with the town to provide a launch service to bring goods to boaters moored in the harbor.
The store is a work in progress, physically and virtually: In coming weeks, expect www.townwharfgeneralstore.com to add online options, Demakis said.
Town Wharf General Store “puts a new spin on an old tradition,” he said. “Our brand is about introducing new, well-crafted and local products when we can get them, on a regular basis, and creating a fun environment to shop.”
So far, so good. In a seaside town where much happens on the waterfront, the new store seems to be a perfect fit.