- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

STONINGTON, Conn. (AP) - The Old Mystic General Store, which has been open since the early 19th century, is closing Nov. 26.

“We’ll miss you,” said Theo Hamell, 82, reaching over the counter to hug Fini McGlinchey, who has co-owned the business with her husband, Paul, for 18 years. Hamell has lived in the same house near the store all of her life and uses a cane now, but made a special trip Tuesday to say goodbye.

“The Old Mystic Store, to those of us who grew up here, it’s just part of home,” she said.

The wood-frame store at 47 Main St. opened more than 200 years ago to serve workers of the Old Hyde Bros. cotton mill, which was built in the early 19th century along the banks of Whitford Brook.

Customers of the store span generations. Many remember going as children themselves.

Less than two weeks ago, the longtime Grossman’s Seafood retail store on Noank Road and another outlet on Gold Star Highway closed. Grossman’s Seafood dated back to 1916.

Fini McGlinchey said she and her husband own The Old Mystic General Store business but lease the building. About eight months ago, she said the landlord told her she was raising the rent by almost $200 a month.

“We just said, ‘That’s enough. We can’t,’” she said.

Yet it wasn’t just that, McGlinchey said. She knew the rising costs wouldn’t stop.

In Connecticut, the store paid “an entity tax of $300 a year just to open our doors,” she said. “So how many sandwiches do I have to sell to pay for that? Plus my electricity, my rent, employees, workers compensation, insurance because you have employees…”

“We didn’t even have our own health insurance, because we couldn’t afford it,” she said.

The store serves sandwiches, pizza and breakfast food and keeps a stock of convenience store items and beer. It has a single glass table near the window with two chairs.

In March 2010, floodwaters dumped 18 inches of water in the store, then left everything covered in thick mud, forcing the business to close for weeks. But it reopened in June, and people in the village re-emerged, returning to a favorite spot for fresh coffee and the morning newspaper. The Old Mystic Post Office is located in the same building.

Business has been slow the last couple of years, though, McGlinchey said.

“We take care of most of the working-class people around here, and they don’t have the money to go out to lunch anymore,” she said.

But the store was important to her; it was never really a moneymaker. It was the place where she worked and raised her son. The customers are her friends.

“They saw him learn how to walk, talk,” she said about her son, Brian. “There aren’t many places where a working mother can raise their kid and it’s acceptable.”

Brian is 15 now. The store was open every day, and for at least 15 years, McGlinchey said, she worked seven days a week.

The McGlincheys own two other local businesses: Oak Tree Wine & Spirits and Old Mystic Wine Cellar, both in Groton. She said they were initially going to sell the Old Mystic General Store business, but negotiations over a lease failed.

Kenneth Brown, 19, one of the general store’s two remaining employees, said news of the closing “just came out of nowhere for me.”

“I’ve been coming here since I was 4 years old,” he said. The hardest part, he said, is “just trying to come to a realization of this place actually closing and just deal with that.”

Customer Rodney Eltonsinger, 67, said he would stop it - if he only could.

He can recall visiting the store with his father in the 1950s, when the building had an elevator and a hardware store upstairs, and the general store sold milkshakes.

“If I had the money, I’d buy it and give it to Fini,” he said. “I don’t want the money back, I’d just give it to her. Just give me a grinder or a soda or something.”

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