story & photos
by Maren Schober
Just seven months ago Rob and Julie Wagner of Griswold opened Josie’s General Store located at 189 Butts Bridge Road in Canterbury. This is a dream come true for them, and it is only the start of what they are planning to do.
“Both Rob and myself grew up in towns that had little country family owned stores,” shares Julie with a light in her eyes. “For me, it was the “Little Store” in Uncasville, and for Rob it was “Zuckerbruans” in Griswold. When we married, we both shared the dream of owning our own family general store and making it into something that will benefit our whole community.”
“My dream is to tear down the animal barn which is really too small right now, “ shares Rob, “and build a bigger barn for more animals. I know Julie would love to teach school children about the animals. So many children today have no idea where the food on our tables really comes from. They think the only place you can get eggs and vegetables is at the grocery store.”
“Here we let children see our chickens and find the eggs in the hay,” continues Rob. “They can also feed and touch the animals. We sell the fresh farm eggs in our store. I would also like families to come and use our picnic tables and be able to just wander around visiting our barn animals. We do not charge for this.”
Julie confirms, “One day this week, two families with home-schooled children came for a visit. They had nine girls between them and spent their time getting to know our animals, picking the eggs and doing farm chores and planting pumpkins. It is a learning experience for them.”
“Come on,” says Rob to me, “I’ll show you the animals.” We stroll through the gate behind the General Store, past the ponds and along the dirt path to the barn. Chickens scamper to Rob clucking excitedly as they know he is going to feed them. Rob calls the bull calf Charlie Brown over and introduces me to him. He is gentle, soft and smiling at me.
“We have 64 chickens here and I call them ‘my girls.’ We also have six goats and this one is Josie. She was the first goat we had, and Julie nursed her to health in a pen in our dining room at home. Here is our llama Nina. All the animals have been taken in for different reasons, even the peacock. I gave this peacock to Julie on Valentine’s Day and that is why we call him “Valentino.”
Back inside the General Store, I marvel at all the old fashioned candies, organic farm food and many jars of dressings and sauces of unusual flavor blends. Julie gives me a sample of the marinated mushrooms and garlicky dill pickels. Delicious! Soon their ice cream shed should be up and running. “Eighty percent of what we sell here is from CT,” Julie explains.
There is plenty here for families to enjoy. For store hours and directions call 860.546.6089. You can also visit their website at www.JosiesGeneralStore.com.