“Oh! It smells so good in here! What is that!?” That’s the exclamation we hear most behind the counter at the country store when folks step over the 200-year-old threshold. Truthfully, all we can answer is it’s a combination of pine soap, beeswax candles, penny candy and old wood. Usually people are so caught up in visual delights by that time they haven’t heard the reply. They’re too busy pointing out the banana Turkish Taffy and Blackjack Gum to friends and family they’ve walked in with as nearby shoppers smile in recognition of the sentiments just expressed.
Williams & Sons Country Store, a shop that in its many iterations has been the center of Main Street in Stockbridge since the 1820s, with shelf after shelf stocked from wood floor to tin ceiling with “something for everyone,” is a celebration for the senses — which finds particular relevance in these fast-changing times. Visitors are regularly delighted to find this intimate gem of a store tucked smack dab in the middle of a literal postcard — not to mention a famous painting by Norman Rockwell.
...are from folks who stopped in every day after school when they were children, back when Stockbridge had a school on Main Street. Others tell us about their own neighborhood store frequented after school in the small town neighborhood where they grew up. Some remember the shop as a hardware store 50 years ago. We hear stories from former campers who came to the Berkshires from the city summer after summer stopping for supplies at the country store — an annual pilgrimage they remember as a fond part of Berkshire summers. And we love that present-day campers are continuing this tradition!
The holidays are always filled with shoppers coming year after year to buy their stocking stuffers — remembering how they shopped for their children, and now they can’t resist coming back each year to do the same for their grandchildren. A Christmas tradition! There’s a special ownership all these storytellers have in common, and we listen with goodwill and gratitude for what the place has meant to so many people.
The country store at 38 Main Street was built circa 1822 by shop owner, Cyrus Williams, who around the same time built the Housatonic Bank building a few yards west on Main Street. The two brick buildings are the oldest buildings remaining on the central Main Street block — the Red Lion Inn having been destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1896. Cyrus was not only the shopkeeper, but he later was the President of the Housatonic Bank and even donated $3000 for the town’s first public school — now the present-day Stockbridge Town Hall. When Cyrus moved from shopkeeping to banking, he sold the store to his partner, Henry Plumb, who then partnered with his employee, George Seymour. The store has gone through different ownership but has been a mainstay for the village center.
The store supplied the community with hardware and paint, tobacco, fishing tackle, baseball equipment, groceries, guns and ammo, and even homemade bread. At the time, Mr. Seymour was skeptical about selling bread because people didn’t buy bread, they made it. In fact, when Adam Schilling (who worked for George Seymour and later purchased the store from him) was interviewed in 1934 when he was 73 years old, remembered at 16 years old, seeing the first loaf of bread ever sold in Stockbridge. And according to Mr. Schilling, the loaves sold readily.
Mr. Schilling went on to own the Country Store for a while in the 1920s with Mr. Noble — when it was called Schilling & Noble. We even found a Farmer’s Almanac dated 1922 with their names on the back cover! We are humbled that the stewardship of this treasured store is in our hands more than 100 years later.
The store has changed ownership a few times throughout the years. In the 1960s, the WillIams Family changed the name to what we all now fondly know as Williams & Sons. In the 1970s, Phil Creelman owned the Country Store. And in the 1980s, Stephanie Bradford became the new owner — giving the store the inviting feeling that it has today.
In 2008, Teresa and Alan O’Brient became stewards of this historical landmark — keeping care of this treasure and adding their own special touches. Including keeping up the tradition of the Country Store's Annual Holiday Candy House.
When a shop has been around for something like 200 years, many traditions emerge that connect us to a place and a time. One such tradition is the Annual Country Store Candy House. Where over 45 years, shortly after Thanksgiving, we welcome the holiday season by unveiling a new candy house to enjoy in the Country Store front window to be enjoyed by customers and passersby throughout the holidays and winter season.
When Vivian Creelman made the first one in the 1970s, she likely never dreamed she was beginning something that would mean so much to so many and become a tradition for all time in this most Christmassy of towns.
When the Creelman’s sold the store to local businesswoman Stephanie Bradford in the 1980s, she kept up the tradition, first with her helper Paula Pickett and then with her imagination. Using everything from her own Stockbridge home and St. Basils Cathedral as inspiration.
And then, she passed the tradition on to us in 2008. With the help of family and many, many friends, we’ve been delighted to keep it going each year. It’s starts as an idea and a picture of what type of house or building we’d like to create. Over the years our inspiration has come from a storybook castle, a neighbors elegant house, the Stockbridge Train Station, the 7 Arts Building, and other architectural gems both far and near.
Each year the creation is unique, special, and made with a lot of love and laughter. Year after year, little children as well as the young at heart stood at the window and marveled at the creativity and the fairytale feel of something made with colorful candy and sugary icing. From the ribbon candy chimney smoke and the holiday lights made of licorice laces and candy-coated sunflower seeds, the smiles are contagious to never stop delighting all of us who have worked at the Country Store through the years and are privileged to watch it unfold in comforting repetition.
Today, Williams & Sons continues the tradition of selling homemade goods — many of which are handmade by people working in the store. Still charming in its historic authenticity, our walls have seen it all with over 200 years of continuous business. We are determined to preserve our legacy. Those of us who have spent a large part of our lives stocking the shelves, sweeping the wooden floors each evening at closing time, and turning the key in the heavy door each morning to open up to the town are often in awe of the many historic events the shoppers must have had in the hearts and minds to as they stepped through the threshold to do their daily tasks.It’s truly a labor of love for all and customers enjoy meeting the makers who are local and able to tell their stories at the checkout.
Ann Evans, now retired, worked at Williams & Sons for over 30 years. She sells her framed needlepoint works that she designs and stitches all summer long — while listening to Tanglewood concerts broadcast on the radio.
Other country store staff selling homemade items are seamstress Sandy Haywood. Her pine-scented sachets and lavender eye pillows are just a few of the many other small sewn items we carry.
Annette McLeod makes the goat milk soap, bath bombs, and bath salts you will find when you explore our shop.
Suzanne Zeestraten-Blackwell, a self-taught watercolor artist enjoys sharing her beautiful watercolor designs which can be found in our shop and sold as framed prints, coasters, and greeting cards.
Nancy-Fay Hecker, whose Apple Hill Designs photography is found on postcards, magnets, buttons, as well as note cards, souvenirs, and more across Berkshire County.
Together, these folks help contribute to the authenticity and homey comfort of a shopping tradition that dates back 200 years.
Next time you are in town, we invite you to push open our heavy antique door, come in, and experience not only a delight for the senses and your pocketbook.
At Williams & Sons Stockbridge Country Store you'll experience shopping the way it used to be when a “big box” was something you were delighted to find under your Christmas tree, not something that described where to shop. We are determined to keep these experiences not just a memory, but a reality for the future.
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