When Matthew Connell and his wife, Andrea, bought the Todd General Store, they knew they wanted to give it a new life and future. The store had been closed for four years before its reopening in July, and is now back to being a general store with room for potential.
The couple had a vision for the store when they purchased it, of its former glory as a place the people of Todd could go when they needed something.
“There’s something great about a general store, just the idea of getting what you need without having to go far away for it,” Connell said. “We want this to get back to that, to be a place where someone can stop in for something they need quickly.”
According to Connell, the store showed its lack of love and attention when they purchased it. Immediately, they set up an auction to get rid of certain items found in the back, basement and top floor of the building. Next was arranging the store to make it more accessible and comfortable to visitors, followed by setting up the store to sell general wares.
A pet project of Connell’s was preserving things like ledgers and past books found in the store. He said many people have come to the store asking to see them, wanting to relive the long and storied past of the general store. Currently, they are on display next to interesting items found throughout the building, as a way to preserve its history.
Connell said there’s still a lot of work to do, but that the end product will all be worth it. Early on the list is the kitchen, which has received very little use in the past. Connell said the plan is to serve simple breakfast foods and smoothies, adding that he doesn’t want to make the food aspect to big for a small staff to control.
He also wants to take advantage of the outdoor area behind the building, as well as the house that sits on the 0.64-acre property. The back patio was turned into something of a storage site, but Connell said the plan is to add it to the options for visitors, as well as make it a fun place for kids to play. Connell said the house is the last thing on the list of priorities, given its near-dilapidated state. He hopes that down the road they can get it fixed up to the point of being able to rent it out or turn it into an Airbnb site.
As for the store, there is still a lot of work to be done upstairs.
“We know what we want the store to be,” Connell said. “There’s a lot of work left, but if we can get it where we want it, it will all be worth it.”
Connell said they want to turn the upstairs area into an artists’ workspace, with pottery wheels and studio space for public use. Andrea Connell is an artist with clay herself, with many of her pieces in the general store. The plan is to give people in the surrounding area a place where creativity can thrive, and a studio that many clayworkers have not had in the past.
Connell said it will take years to get the store to where they want it, but the couple look forward to getting it all done. He added that just the process of giving it new life has been a reward in itself, it has not always been easy, but it is coming along.