The Harvard General Store

The Harvard General Store sits on an honest-to-goodness New England common in the center of Harvard, Massachusetts. The store abuts a graveyard for a neighboring UCC church. The store faces the south end of the common. The north end hosts another church (Unitarian), and beyond that, the ancient town hall, covered in scaffolding, undergoing restoration. The town was founded in 1732, a marker proclaims.

Sale items include: candles, teas, wine, beer, shirts that encourage eating local, a Harvard cookbook, and a laminated guide to Favorite Apples of the Northeast (marketed as “waterproof”). On September 9, 2015, the store ran out of drip coffee. Two travelers bought one hot latte and one iced latte, then mounted the stairs to the second floor.

The second floor runs the length of the building. It serves as a performance venue for local artists in the evenings, but waits untouched and unattended that afternoon. A brown grand piano presides over the northeast corner. A collection of reclaimed wooden doors provide a backdrop. Clumps of tables and chairs dot the space. A mural fills the southern wall. It depicts a winemaker pressing grapes by foot. Track lighting overhead and a modest flat screen television are concessions to modernity and the room’s nighttime function.

The visitors chose a pair of leather easy chairs by the northwest window. One switched on a tablet to study. One rose to tour the room.

He scanned the books for sale on the shelves in the southwest corner: The Chronicles of Narnia, Fifty Shades Freed, a pile of Alexander McCall Smith in hardcover, a volume of poetry concerning birds. He peered through the office door that hung open and glimpsed a topographic state map tacked above a dormant computer.

The visitor did not notice the additional flight of stairs in the southeast corner until he heard a man trudge down. The man from the third floor stared, but crossed without comment.

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