Background photo by Don Sylor

Joanne Uchman & Janet Davis

Sisters & Shopkeepers

Dan Cutrona

Joanne Uchman: Before we moved to Centerville, our family all vacationed here. Our parents, Richard and Lorraine O’Connor, were from Holyoke, Massachusetts, and they got interested in the Cape during the Kennedy era. One day, my mom came across a full-page ad for the 1856 Centerville Country Store in a magazine—it was for sale and she came down to see what it was all about. She fell in love with the area that surrounded it, but for some reason the deal fell through. But by then, in 1970, she had quit her job and moved us down here. She found a rental on Lake Elizabeth Drive in Craigville.

Janet Davis: When we moved into that house, it was amazing knowing we were going to be here for longer than two weeks. To be near that lake was just so much fun—it was basically like being in a Cape Cod cottage for the whole summer.
Joanne: We fished every day, biked to the store, to the beach, to Four Seas Ice Cream—all those things that people do in the summer time.

Joanne: My mother looked at a few places to buy, one of which was the Old Hundred House on Craigville Beach Road. She called my father, who was working for the New England Telephone Company in Boston and was coming down to the Cape for the weekends, and he told her to buy it, sight unseen. My mother became a real estate agent herself in the next few years. One day she was filing listings, and she came across the country store—once again, it was up for sale. This time, everything went through and they took over the store in 1977.

Joanne: The front section of the store was built around 1840 and was used to store cranberries. The Hallett family turned it into a shoe store in the mid-1840s. The store had changed hands many times over the years before our parents bought it. It became a general store in 1856, hence the name.

Janet: That first summer here, all of the kids in our family had two jobs: one previous to our parents getting the store, and then they ended up needing us here. And none of us really knew what we were doing. It was just kind of, “You do this, you do that,” and we’d figure it out.

Joanne: We were filling the candy room, pricing merchandise, filling the soda coolers, sweeping, painting—whatever needed to be done. And it’s still a lot on a daily basis.

Joanne: The Kennedys’ connection to the Cape was a big reason my parents decided to come here. We’re an Irish-Catholic family, and he was like an idol to us. Our dad was approached by the Secret Service while Kennedy was president, and he actually set up the teletype system at the compound in Hyannisport. He was in and out of there fixing the phones, and he had the highest levels of security clearance.

Janet: Our mother always talked about how beautiful and refined Jacqueline Kennedy was when she came into the store. Just a very sweet and gentle person, but very private, too.

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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Main Street Hyannis, looking east, toward the depot