These beloved country stores offer gifts and goodies, and make for friendly gathering spots

Warm memories, quality goods & community spirit, November/December Cape Cod Life | capecodlife.com

During a recent visit to the Brewster General Store, Stella Cutrona, 7, samples some fudge courtesy of Caitlin Potts. Photography by Dan Cutrona unless otherwise noted

Scouting a variety of country and general stores on the Cape and Islands made me happier than a kid in a candy shop. Not only did research entail filling a penny candy basket with childhood favorites, I also met the hardest working business owners I have ever known, all motivated by a deep love of community. Nurturing nostalgia while maintaining a viable business requires a delicate balance achievable only through long-term commitment and a grueling daily schedule. But to a man, woman, and couple, these owners wouldn’t have it any other way.

As Chris Scott, president of Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, which owns Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury, puts it, “We value where we came from, and we don’t necessarily aspire to the sameness that’s taken over so much of America.”

The creativity on display at each of the seven stores profiled on the following pages brims with unusual gifts, specialty foods, and one-of-a-kind items that drove up my “research” costs a bit, but I’m not complaining. I returned home with locally crafted wedding presents, antique prints, new clothes, new friends, and a smile on my face as I savored my red licorice and candy buttons.