Hometown Heartbeat: There’s something special about Dublin General Store

  • The Dublin General Store opened in 1842 in the center of town and has been its current location since the 1980s. Andy and Michelle purchased the business in 2002 and have been hard at work to make it into a place where people come for good sandwiches, tasty cookies and friendly conversation. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Dublin General Store opened in 1842 in the center of town and has been its current location since the 1980s. Andy and Michelle purchased the business in 2002 and have been hard at work to make it into a place where people come for good sandwiches, tasty cookies and friendly conversation. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Dublin General Store opened in 1842 in the center of town and has been its current location since the 1980s. Andy and Michelle purchased the business in 2002 and have been hard at work to make it into a place where people come for good sandwiches, tasty cookies and friendly conversation. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Dublin General Store opened in 1842 in the center of town and has been its current location since the 1980s. Andy and Michelle purchased the business in 2002 and have been hard at work to make it into a place where people come for good sandwiches, tasty cookies and friendly conversation. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Dublin General Store opened in 1842 in the center of town and has been its current location since the 1980s. Andy and Michelle purchased the business in 2002 and have been hard at work to make it into a place where people come for good sandwiches, tasty cookies and friendly conversation. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Dublin General Store opened in 1842 in the center of town and has been its current location since the 1980s. Andy and Michelle purchased the business in 2002 and have been hard at work to make it into a place where people come for good sandwiches, tasty cookies and friendly conversation. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Dublin General Store opened in 1842 in the center of town and has been its current location since the 1980s. Andy and Michelle purchased the business in 2002 and have been hard at work to make it into a place where people come for good sandwiches, tasty cookies and friendly conversation. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The Dublin General Store opened in 1842 in the center of town and has been its current location since the 1980s. Andy and Michelle purchased the business in 2002 and have been hard at work to make it into a place where people come for good sandwiches, tasty cookies and friendly conversation. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/14/2019 2:29:44 PM

When Andy and Michelle Freeman bought the Dublin General Store, they figured if it didn’t work out, they’d have a big house to live in.

But it’s safe to say things have gone well, so much so that since they purchased the store, they haven’t been closed a single day.

Holidays, snow and ice storms, family milestones and the Freemans have always opened their doors. Because like most stores of its nature, Dublin General is still going strong thanks to its loyal customers.

“I love it because I like people,” Michelle said. “This is my family and I feel like this is my living room and everyone just walks right in.”

It’s both those who spend their hard-earned money and the dedicated staff that make this a special place.

The Freemans have made many lifelong friends and they understand it’s not always about people buying something. 

“The success of the store is a super staff and great customer feedback,” Andy said.

Dottie Bunk worked at the store back in the 80s. Then 16 years ago, after retiring, she saw a sign looking for help. It started with a couple days a week and now she’s there Monday through Thursday.

“Andy and Michelle, you couldn’t ask for a better boss,” Bunk said. “They treat you like a member of the family.”

Bunk has made a number of good friends through her work at the front counter and enjoys the daily interactions.

“I think that’s a lot of what keeps me here,” she said.

When considering purchasing the store, Andy quickly realized the food was very good and it “was the carrying factor.” But the Freemans weren’t about to rest on what was already in place. Their goal was to make it even better.

“Over 18 years, we’ve gone from a limited traditional deli that had great sandwiches to a pretty comprehensive full-service deli with fresh meats and fish, breakfast and dinner,” Andy said.

And don’t forget about the cookies. When they took over, it was strictly chocolate chip. Now they have a long list of varieties that are a must grab during any stop.

Taylor Mowatt isn’t a trained baker, but has learned her way around a mixer. She isn’t afraid to try new combinations – and it has worked. Mowatt, who had never been to the store before getting a job there, has worked at the store for six years and has served as the cookie maker for the last two.

When she has the time, Mowatt tries to get creative with the ingredients, inventing the Captain Crunch, which includes chocolate chips and the cereal. By the end of lunch last Thursday, she had already made 150 cookies and was whipping up another batch to put in the oven. While she loves the work, it’s the people that make it even better.

“The regulars are all really nice,” Mowatt said. “It makes you feel like family.”

Lunch is crazy and the Freemans know that most people don’t have long for their midday break, so the goal is to get them in and out as fast as possible.

“The way we set up our lunches and execute our lunches, people can walk in the door and hopefully be out the door in seven minutes,” Andy said.

There are the traditional deli sandwiches you think of, but the addition of a smoker changed what Dublin General offers. Ribs, pulled pork, brisket, salmon, turkey, duck are all in the rotation and sold on their own as well as in prepared dishes.

Lucy Daniels stops in for lunch whenever she’s working in town. Her go-to is the chicken salad with cranberry and walnuts.

“Sometimes if I’m really hungry I get a chocolate chip cookie, which are really good,” Daniels said.

The items in the display case are always rotating with things like fried chicken, meatballs, American Chop Suey and dirty rice. They offer a small selection of meats and fish in the case and always have more on hand to give people exactly what they need.

No one is likely to get a week’s worth of groceries from the store, but they appeal to the daily shopper and make sure to have a little bit of everything on hand. There are the pantry staples, a good beer selection, fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms and products like maple syrup, barbecue sauce, eggs and specialty breads are all sourced from area businesses.

Dave Austermann owns a summer property on Silver Lake in Harrisville and stops by one his way in and out of town.

“It’s just a friendly place with good conversation,” Austermann said.

The business began in 1842, starting where the Dublin Community Center is located, making the Dublin General Store 177 years old. It began and remained in the town center till the early 1980s when it moved to its current location. Like many small-town stores, the post office once lived within its walls, and while they no longer share the same location, they do share a parking lot.

Tom Martin has been going to the store for close to 20 years and goes in at least once a day.

“The chowder on Tuesdays is always wonderful,” Martin said. “On Sunday morning, I get breakfast on the way to church.”

And having frequented the store for so many years, Martin understands its importance.

“We’ve been to other country stores, some in Vermont, some in New Hampshire, and none of them have the good food and friendliness that this one has,” he said.

When the Freemans purchased the business, the building needed some updating. Every year they’ve reinvested into the infrastructure, replacing the boilers, the roof, windows and the well and septic. They paint one side of it every year and a number of years ago added on to the front of the building to create a place where people gather and eat.

It was an idea Andy got from his days living around Boston and going to Faneuil Hall. He wanted to create an environment where people who didn’t know each other could sit together and share a meal. He built a big table that invites more than one party to sit at, allowing for strangers to strike up a conversation.

“We wanted to create that kind of space,” Andy said.

They had never worked in a general store. Michelle had retail experience, but in a much different capacity. They liked the idea of owning a small-town store. They looked all over New England and New York, and then Andy’s sister told him about Dublin General being up for sale.

In March of 2002, they came up and hung out in the parking lot to see how busy it was. It seemed like the right place for them and in a matter of months they were the proud owners of Dublin’s only grocery store. When the store would close at 8 p.m., they stay up till midnight cleaning and rearranging, getting a better feel for the store.

“I didn’t know anything. This was a complete leap of faith,” Andy said.

They still work long days. Michelle is in the kitchen at 4:30 a.m. every morning and Andy joins her at 5:30 a.m., a half-hour before they open. It’s an easy commute, considering they live upstairs. It also means they can never really get away.

The original plan was for the Freemans to own the store for 15 years. That would allow their daughter Lucy to grow up in one place her entire childhood. The reason they moved out of the Boston area and Andy didn’t ultimately buy the machine shop he ran in Mission Hill was because they wanted that small-town life for their only child.

“I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be,” Michelle said.

That 15-year plan came and went a few years ago and the secondary exit strategy is right about now. But the Freemans have no intention of going anywhere. They love what they do – even if it does mean long hours every single day. Plus, they’ve spent almost two decades turning the Dublin General Store into what it is today, and there’s no way they’d let just anybody take it over.

“We’re both still invested in this community and it’s very special to us,” Andy said.


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