I live in Easton, Connecticut, a small town of about 8000 people. We are proud of our rural, suburban character and our many acres of protected fields and woods. Many of us cling to our strict residential only zoning laws because we want to preserve the beauty and character of our town.
There is no main street or any street at all for that matter. But there are several working farms in town. There are also four farm stands that have expanded into larger, more diverse stores. In addition, we have an old inn that is now just a breakfast and lunch restaurant.
We have also had two general stores since the 1920’s or 1930’s. Recently, these two stores have modernized. One, The Easton Village Store, became a deli that also sells pizza and some essential grocery items.
The other just reopened after a major transformation and is now my favorite place in town. It’s called Greiser’s after the two generations of store owners. I remember Greiser Sr. from my childhood. The Post Office was part of the general store and Mr. Greiser was both postmaster and store manager.
I was thrilled as a kid that my grandfather would let me hold the mail when we went to the post office. But I was nervous that I might drop some of it into the pickle barrel that sat between me and the post office boxes.
When the son, Richard (my age) took over the store around the 1980’s, he petitioned the town to move the post office into its own room, attached to the store. After much wrangling with the zoning board, he was finally granted a zoning variance and the Post Office declared its independence!
Richard continued to sell a smattering of supermarket items. He also had a small deli counter and sold lots of sandwiches to workmen in the area.
But his real passion was ‘antiques’ – old stuff, the kind of items which are closer to junk than heirlooms. He collected lots of old stuff and started a side business. He had interesting things like an old gas pump, old phones and typewriters and a full-size carousel horse I adored!
A sad aside – Richard was divorced and subsequently fell in love with the Post Office manager. They married and were very happy together for many years. Then she died suddenly from a massive heart attack in the post office, right next door to her husband.
Richard has recently decided to retire and neither of his two children wanted to take over running the store. So he rented the front rooms of the store and kept the back room for his antiques.
The woman he rented to, Adriane, decided to totally reinvent the space. She turned it into a ‘gourmet’ country store and coffee shop. It also sells miscellaneous items like candles and soaps, blankets and aprons and trendy teas. It has a distinctly upscale country vibe.
The décor is warm, comfortable and rustic. There are places to sit down to enjoy your coffee, both inside and out, in an armchair or at a table. And there is still friendly conversation, with Adrianne and with other customers. The experience is still small-town intimate.
But the food is high-end city. The refrigerator section houses vitamin waters, fancy cheeses, cultured butter, frozen pasta and packed, marinated vegetables. The teas and coffees served are in the cappuccino, macchiato, espresso, matcha and chai latte vein.
The baked goods are delicious croissants – almond for sweet and bacon and egg, ham and cheese and spinach and ricotta for savory. The cakes and muffins are flavors like orange spice, morning-glory, and almond poppy-seed. The ‘sandwiches’ are paninis, like Brie and fig preserves on whole grain, locally baked bread.
The funny thing is that The Easton Village Store and Greiser’s are no more than two miles apart. But they are in and represent, two totally different demographics. They are worlds apart.
The Village Store is in the one-acre zoned part of town, which is more suburban and middle class. It’s food tastes run more toward the deli and salad counter at the local supermarket. Simple and traditional. Greiser’s is in the three-acre zoning area and is more rural and upper middle class. Food tastes here run more high-end urban. More Whole Foods than Shoprite.
I’m thrilled with the new Greiser’s. I love the vibe and the food. I’ll be even more excited when their chef (yes, they have a real chef) starts making cooked meals for dinner take-out.
I never thought I would be able to sit in a comfy chair and enjoy a cappuccino or latte just one mile from my home! (I tried making them at home but without a foam machine, it doesn’t really work).
So one small part of my town is slowly inching its way into a more urban, 2018 food culture. Easton now has a place to go with atmosphere, personality, and charm as well as good food and good conversation. Now I can have a touch of urbanity in my otherwise rural life.