… and Electric Blue
Tolland Red and White
There’s this little gray-area category here on CTMQ of stores that have museum-like qualities. They’re certainly not museums, but they’re unique and interesting enough to slip onto the pages of this website. One such store is Tolland Red and White.
After visiting and scouring the joint top to bottom, I can’t tell you if everything I saw is for sale or not. I’m guessing not, as there were many historic items behind glass. Which feels right in what is a historic property.
And the story of how the store is still open is pretty incredible, seeing as it dates back to 1815 as a general store, more or less. It all started back in 1815 when Danforth Richmond built the corner grocery store, right on the Tolland Green. This corner store lasted – get this – 150 years! I think there’s stuff here for sale that has been on the shelves for almost that long.
The second floor was home to a harness making and repair shop at some point, and also served as home base for Henry Underwood who created his inventions there. I only mention that because the Underwood name is huge here in Tolland, and two Underwood houses within view of the store are really cool.
In fact, the second floor always seemed to be home to various Tolland creators over its lifetime. It was sort of a communal workspace 200 years before such things came into vogue in the 21st-century.
Different owners took the store over in the early 1900’s and ran it much the same way until it finally shut down in the 1960’s. The era of the general store had come to an end… at least in towns like Tolland near an interstate and a large state university.
The shop was transformed into an antiques and gift shop in the 1970’s and onward. From mercantile shop to grocery store to general store to antiques and gift shop to vacant building… to today’s Tolland Red and White.
But before that happened, a confluence of fortuitous events had to occur. Three like-minded Tolland women came together in 2015 to bring back the historic Tolland Red and White… but they didn’t even know each other.
They were unified in their love of their hometown and in their fond memories of place. Town kids would gravitate towards the corner store to buy candy and hang out for decades. Apparently, these women were wistful for such a shop to be reborn.
One of the women met with a realtor who told her two other women wanted to realize the same dream. And instead of fighting each other over it, they joined forces and entered business together, at the rehabbed Tolland Red and White.
(Seriously, this is their story. Three women who didn’t know each other, all from Tolland, all with the same vision, own and run the store together today.) The women have other jobs, so the store is a bit of a hobby I guess. And it’s all there again: the penny candy, the goofy Tolland-themed gifts, random pantry items, historical artifacts, and a sense that you’re in their home when shopping.
The store is beloved in Tolland. Its hours are infrequent (the other jobs thing and all), its stock is random and odd, and it feels like the store at which Laura Ingalls Wilder picked up sundries for her family.
I’m not one for knick-knacks and certainly have no need for Tolland paraphernalia. But I enjoyed poking around. There’s something energizing about an entire room of Christmas-themed stuff in June.
There are only a handful of true general stores left in Connecticut. In fact, maybe there’s only that one in Colebrook these days, I’m not sure.
That’s all I’ve got. A sweet story about a beloved old timey store run by three charming women selling cute little trinkets and treats. Group hug.
And if that’s not your bag, The Electric Blue is just a half mile down the road.