General Store Shops and Café held their “Re-launch/Re-branding” celebration on Friday, November 17. Dozens of customers, family members and curious onlookers participated in an evening filled with great food, drink, and even a bit of shopping. The store, which was previously called General Store Cooperative, was purchased from Deborah Engel and Amy Howlett in January of 2023 by Like a Fine Wine, LLC. Like a Fine Wine is owned by three local entrepreneurial women, Erin Hargrave-Kerns, Katrina Dell’Aquila and Deanna Taylor.
General Store Shops and Café (“General Store”) has a unique business model. Formed in 2019, it was the first ever community focused business to offer low-cost retail space to local business owners while also offering its own retail items for sale. Since purchasing the store from Engel and Howlett, Like a Fine Wine has continued the model of offering space to local small businesses, they have overhauled the retail business and have created a true café vibe. After making a significant investment in re-designing the interior and exterior, and focusing on their new brand, General Store Shops and Café have become one of the flagship businesses on Springfield Avenue in Maplewood.
The businesses that are currently utilizing the shared retail space include Good Bottle Refill Shop – New Jersey’s first refill shop, Mrs. Meshugga – uniquely designed clothing and gifts, The Maplewood Wheelhouse – offering artisan cheese, charcuterie, provisions, ravioli and ice cream, and Tea & Tunes – bringing together loose tea and music. In addition, locally owned Martin’s Pretzels utilizes the store’s bakery kitchen to bake their famous pretzels, some of which can be purchased at the café.
General Store’s retail offerings include &ETC Gifts, offering unique gift ideas, and Evermore Spirits, Maplewood’s first store offering only all zero alcohol alternatives, including mixers, spirit alternatives, to NA (Non-Alcoholic) wine and beer, RTD (ready to drink) mocktails, and alternative beverage infusions. “We also offer prepared mocktails and zero alcohol drinks at Maplewood’s original Alternative Happy Hour on Thursday evenings from 5:00 to 7:00 pm”, states Hargrave-Kerns.
Dell’Aquila, who curates the selection of gifts that is offered by &ETC Gifts says, “We attempt to find items to sell that you usually can’t find in other local stores. We truly believe our gift items are unique and fit within our sustainable business model. You can even sign up for composting through Java Composting. We only use compostable utensils and have a composting bin on-site. We do offer seasonal items as well. Currently we’re selling Christmas Trees that you can pre-order.”
“We are so excited to offer a unique shopping experience for our community” states Hargrave-Kerns. “Partnering with these truly wonderful locally owned businesses has allowed us to remain community focused, which is the essence of our business model.” Taylor, who is both the owner of Good Bottle Refill Shop and one of Like a Fine Wine’s partners agrees, “Being able to utilize the low-cost space at General Store is essential to our success at Good Bottle.”
The café portion of General Store Shops and Café also has a local focus. They offer a full barista supported coffee service using products from the Maplewood owned Paper Plane Coffee Co. The pastries and cakes are baked in-house by “Bakes by Izzy” and the breads and croissants are from “Le French Dad”. Both bakers live locally. In addition, The Café is the only place in Maplewood to purchase donuts from The Montclair Bread Company, which are available every Saturday morning. The Café is becoming famous for its seasonal items as well and is currently offering Olive Oil Cakes baked by local MapSo mom, Roseanne Tringali.
Friday’s event was a huge success as dozens of customers, friends and family came to celebrate and sample many of the items available at the café as well as enjoying an amazing cheese and fruit platter designed by one of the owners of The Maplewood Wheelhouse, Leigh Friend. “We are so grateful for the support of our community, and would like to thank Township Committee Member, Vic DeLuca, for coming as well.”, says Hargrave-Kerns.
General Store Shops and Café is located at 1875 Springfield Avenue in Maplewood. You can find their hours on their website: https://www.generalstoreshopsandcafe.com/