Is The Old Country Store, located in the center of Moultonborough in New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee region, the oldest store in the United States? Unlike many New England establishments, which have no qualms about calling themselves the "oldest," "first" or "birthplace"—even without well-researched documentation to prove it—The Old Country Store's proprietors only go so far as to state that their retail store, established in 1781 by fur trader James George Freese, is "perhaps" the nation's oldest.
There are other contenders for the "oldest store" title. The Fielding Lewis Store in Fredericksburg, Virginia, may be the oldest retail building in America: It was built in 1749. But the historic edifice isn't a store anymore. The Brick Store in Bath, New Hampshire, claims to be "America's oldest continuously operated general store," but it can trace its origins only as far back as the early 1790s.
Regardless of these conflicting claims, it's safe to say that Moultonborough's Old Country Store is one of the oldest surviving and thriving commercial enterprises in the USA, and, as you'll see on this photo tour, it's even safer to say that it's one heck of a fun and nostalgic place to shop.
What's in Store? Nostalgia, For Starters
Moultonborough's Old Country Store, which has served at times in its history as this New Hampshire community's stagecoach stop, town hall, post office, library and Masonic Hall, remains a gathering place, as well as a unique shopping destination where you'll find just about everything under the sun including an antique Cigar Store Indian.
Souvenirs, Specialty Foods and Surprises
Like most old-fashioned general stores, Moultonborough's Old Country Store carries an eclectic, soup-to-nuts mix of merchandise. Because it is a popular tourist stop, you'll find New Hampshire souvenirs (you know you need moose boxer shorts) and gifts made in New Hampshire, of course.
In addition to being a place to shop for kitchen gadgets and household items, John Deere collectibles, travel books and weather vanes, The Old Country Store's narrow aisles are packed with surprises that make for fun browsing. You'll also find a tasty array of New England specialty food products including maple syrup and candy, Vermont cheddar, Indian pudding, local honey, salad dressings, saltwater taffy and... quite literally... soup and nuts!
Blasts from the Past
From the penny candy counter and barrel of pickles to this impressive wood stove, which keeps The Old Country Store toasty during the cold NH winter months, you'll encounter every fixture you'd imagine you might find inside an old-fashioned general store, including a player piano.
But Wait... There's More!
Climb the stairs to the second floor of Moultonborough's Old Country Store, and you'll discover a "museum." This free attraction isn't exactly the Smithsonian, but it's a really cool place to poke around. Among the haphazardly arranged antiques on display, you'll find old tools, art and advertising, curious contraptions, artifacts of local interest and even the former post office, which was housed inside The Old Country Store for more than 100 years.
That Girl's Got Moxie
Maine-born creator Dr. Augustin Thompson first marketed Moxie Nerve Food circa 1876 as a medicinal potion. The addition of carbonated soda water—and an aggressive advertising campaign—soon made Moxie the first widely popular soda in America. Although most of the nation lost its taste for this rather bitter beverage as sweeter sodas hit the market, there are still devout Moxie fans, especially in New England. Moxie is even Maine's official state soft drink. Moxie is currently owned by Bedford, New Hampshire-based Cornucopia Beverages, a division of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England.
If you've never tried Moxie soda, pop into The Old Country Store and treat yourself: You can't miss the distinctive, vibrant orange Moxie can. Moxie is an acquired taste, so don't give up after the first sip. The colder it is, the easier Moxie goes down.
If You're Going to The Old Country Store...
Ready to step back in time and shop the way folks did before mega malls and the Internet? Here's what you need to know to plan a visit to Moultonborough's Old Country Store:
Location: The Old Country Store and Museum is located at 1011 Whittier Highway (Route 25) in Moultonborough, NH.
Hours: As of 2018, the store is open daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. with extended hours until 9 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings in the summer. It's a good idea to call to confirm hours of operation before making a special trip.
Contact: 603-476-5750 or firstname.lastname@example.org