Newsday's Elisa DiStefano visits Eastport General Store, which opened in 2020, and then shops for retro candy and toys at Bobb Howard's General Store in New Hyde Park. Credit: Randee Daddona

For some children in New Hyde Park, it’s a rite of passage to become old enough to visit Bobb Howard’s General Store & Auto Repair by themselves. They can get free popcorn from an original 1947 machine; they’ll always find lots of nostalgic candies and toys to buy; and those fascinated with cars can see the friendly mechanics at work.

“People still love general stores — especially today when they can bring them back to a better time in their lives and to nostalgic memories,” says Eileen Caplin Wysel, who owns the business with her husband, Ronnie. It was started by Caplin Wysel’s parents in 1946 and is named after one of her brothers.

Bobb Howard’s is among many general stores on Long Island and elsewhere throughout the country finding there’s still an appetite for what these establishments offered back in the day — the experience of shopping in a variety shop with a small-town, friendly atmosphere that evokes a sense of community.

Others include St. James General Store, Montauk General Store, Eastport General Store and Sayville General Store. They range from what is believed to be the oldest continuously functioning general store in the United States to new businesses.

“We just love Eileen and Ronnie — sometimes we’ll go by and just wave hello,” says Wanda Piazza, 70. She and her husband James, 68, have been regulars since moving into a home three doors down more than 20 years ago. The couple shops in the store and has Bobb Howard’s mechanics do repairs and maintenance on the family cars. “It’s a real mom-and-pop store and I like doing business locally,” Wanda adds.

Speonk resident, Jessica Lillie, 34, lives a three-minute drive from Eastport General Store; visiting there has become her favorite part of her weekday morning routine.

“I drop my kiddos at school and pop over for a matcha latte at least four times a week,” says Lillie. “I fell in love with this store for so many reasons. You can literally shop there for anything.” She adds, “I have gone in there on my worst days and leave every time feeling better than when I arrived. It’s also become such a community hub and has allowed me to connect with such wonderful people from our area.” Among Lillie’s favorite finds have been jewelry, cheeses, a bandanna and Cloud Slides.

General stores flourished in America throughout the 19th century until the 1920s when specialized and larger stores began taking over the retail landscape. As the successor to the early trading post frequented by pioneers and early settlers, general stores served as meeting places where community members and storekeepers could exchange news and gossip.

And local general store owners say these stores remain a perfect fit for Long Island in particular. One of them, Amber Otto, is 36. She opened the Eastport General Store two years ago after falling in love with the Orient Country Store and Springs General Store that the Montauk native went to as a child.

The nearly 200-year-old Springs General Store was sold in September and plans for the future of the store were not immediately available, but it has quite a history as a community hub. Civil War death notices were once posted there, and in much later years, ads for rooms for rent, tennis lessons and yoga classes. Marilyn Monroe, her playwright husband, Arthur Miller and their Basset Hound, “Hugo,” used to pull up in their convertible during the summers they rented a cottage on the Stony Hill Farm.

“I think people are nostalgic for simpler times — especially in recent years — and there’s something about being in a general store that reminds you of being a kid,” Otto says. “We also have a long history here on Long Island of agriculture, and that goes hand in hand with ‘farm stores,’ ‘country stores’ and ‘general stores.’ "

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find at some of Long Island’s general stores:

Founded in 1857 and owned and operated by Suffolk County since 1990, this is reputed to be the oldest continuously functioning general store in the country, and antique artifacts scattered about as decoration help maintain its authentic 19th-century feel. Primarily a gift shop where things from tea towels to old favorite toys like marbles, pickup sticks, Raggedy Ann dolls and spinning tops can be purchased, throwback candies are also a big draw for locals and tourists. The sweet offerings include bestselling molasses pops as well as candy buttons, root beer barrels and rock candy.

INFO 516 Moriches Rd., St. James, 631-854-3740

Standards like milk, cigarettes and newspapers traditionally found in some general stores were sold here when it opened in 1946, but they were phased out in 1982 for the store to become a shop that offers things such as old-fashioned toys, candies, tin signs and soda in glass bottles in terms of goods. Also part of this business is an auto repair shop — in the early days, gasoline was sold.

INFO 581 Lakeville Rd., New Hyde Park, 516-488-7996, bobbhowardsgeneralstore.com

You’ll find a wide selection of home goods and pantry essentials at this shop that opened in 1996. Just a few of the things sold here are fruit preserves, mustards and savory jams, cookbooks, handmade pewter, handblown glass, artwork, pillows, pottery, bath and body products, hand-poured candles, women’s bags and jewelry. There’s even a baby and toddler department featuring clothing, books, toys, dolls and accessories.

INFO 44 Main St., Sayville, 631-563-7104, sayvillegeneralstore.com

This store, opened in 2018, is a go-to stop in fall and colder weather for comfort foods and drinks such as homemade pies for Thanksgiving and pumpkin coffee with pumpkin sea salt cream. Then, come summer, you’ll want to try two of its most popular refreshers — General Iced Coffee made with brown sugar, and Lavender Honey Lemonade flavored with fresh lavender from the garden of owner, Kim Gatti. Other customer favorites are artisan cheeses, charcuterie, homemade bath and body products made by Gatti, old-style toys and games, T-shirts and hats. Gift baskets are available too.

INFO 669 Montauk Hwy., Montauk, 631-668-0900

Opened by millennial and Eastport resident Amber Otto in October 2020, this store doubled in size last year to 1,600 square feet when the space next door became available. It has a very modern look and somewhat of a fashion boutique in the section where vintage dresses are sold, but other things like made-from-scratch potpies, dish towels, hand-cranked mixers and wooden meat tenderizers create a good ol’ days feeling. A refill bar allows customers to bring in containers from home to try a little of something like a natural cleaning, bath and body or skin care product to decide if they like it before buying. The store hosts local small business pop-ups outside the shop on weekends, and workshops are held once or twice a month with instruction in ceramics, flower arranging, painting and more.

INFO 510 B Montauk Hwy., 631-320-2081, eastportgeneralstore.com

For some children in New Hyde Park, it’s a rite of passage to become old enough to visit Bobb Howard’s General Store & Auto Repair by themselves. They can get free popcorn from an original 1947 machine; they’ll always find lots of nostalgic candies and toys to buy; and those fascinated with cars can see the friendly mechanics at work.

“People still love general stores — especially today when they can bring them back to a better time in their lives and to nostalgic memories,” says Eileen Caplin Wysel, who owns the business with her husband, Ronnie. It was started by Caplin Wysel’s parents in 1946 and is named after one of her brothers.

Bobb Howard’s is among many general stores on Long Island and elsewhere throughout the country finding there’s still an appetite for what these establishments offered back in the day — the experience of shopping in a variety shop with a small-town, friendly atmosphere that evokes a sense of community.

Others include St. James General Store, Montauk General Store, Eastport General Store and Sayville General Store. They range from what is believed to be the oldest continuously functioning general store in the United States to new businesses.

“We just love Eileen and Ronnie — sometimes we’ll go by and just wave hello,” says Wanda Piazza, 70. She and her husband James, 68, have been regulars since moving into a home three doors down more than 20 years ago. The couple shops in the store and has Bobb Howard’s mechanics do repairs and maintenance on the family cars. “It’s a real mom-and-pop store and I like doing business locally,” Wanda adds.

Speonk resident, Jessica Lillie, 34, lives a three-minute drive from Eastport General Store; visiting there has become her favorite part of her weekday morning routine.

“I drop my kiddos at school and pop over for a matcha latte at least four times a week,” says Lillie. “I fell in love with this store for so many reasons. You can literally shop there for anything.” She adds, “I have gone in there on my worst days and leave every time feeling better than when I arrived. It’s also become such a community hub and has allowed me to connect with such wonderful people from our area.” Among Lillie’s favorite finds have been jewelry, cheeses, a bandanna and Cloud Slides.

General stores flourished in America throughout the 19th century until the 1920s when specialized and larger stores began taking over the retail landscape. As the successor to the early trading post frequented by pioneers and early settlers, general stores served as meeting places where community members and storekeepers could exchange news and gossip.

And local general store owners say these stores remain a perfect fit for Long Island in particular. One of them, Amber Otto, is 36. She opened the Eastport General Store two years ago after falling in love with the Orient Country Store and Springs General Store that the Montauk native went to as a child.

The nearly 200-year-old Springs General Store was sold in September and plans for the future of the store were not immediately available, but it has quite a history as a community hub. Civil War death notices were once posted there, and in much later years, ads for rooms for rent, tennis lessons and yoga classes. Marilyn Monroe, her playwright husband, Arthur Miller and their Basset Hound, “Hugo,” used to pull up in their convertible during the summers they rented a cottage on the Stony Hill Farm.

“I think people are nostalgic for simpler times — especially in recent years — and there’s something about being in a general store that reminds you of being a kid,” Otto says. “We also have a long history here on Long Island of agriculture, and that goes hand in hand with ‘farm stores,’ ‘country stores’ and ‘general stores.’ "

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find at some of Long Island’s general stores:

ST. JAMES GENERAL STORE

An original potbelly stove from 1857 inside the St. James...

An original potbelly stove from 1857 inside the St. James General Store. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin/Debbie Egan-Chin

Founded in 1857 and owned and operated by Suffolk County since 1990, this is reputed to be the oldest continuously functioning general store in the country, and antique artifacts scattered about as decoration help maintain its authentic 19th-century feel. Primarily a gift shop where things from tea towels to old favorite toys like marbles, pickup sticks, Raggedy Ann dolls and spinning tops can be purchased, throwback candies are also a big draw for locals and tourists. The sweet offerings include bestselling molasses pops as well as candy buttons, root beer barrels and rock candy.

INFO 516 Moriches Rd., St. James, 631-854-3740

BOBB HOWARD’S GENERAL STORE & AUTO REPAIR

Vintage toys at Bobb Howard's General Store in New Hyde...

Vintage toys at Bobb Howard's General Store in New Hyde Park. Credit: LInda Rosier

Standards like milk, cigarettes and newspapers traditionally found in some general stores were sold here when it opened in 1946, but they were phased out in 1982 for the store to become a shop that offers things such as old-fashioned toys, candies, tin signs and soda in glass bottles in terms of goods. Also part of this business is an auto repair shop — in the early days, gasoline was sold.

INFO 581 Lakeville Rd., New Hyde Park, 516-488-7996, bobbhowardsgeneralstore.com

SAYVILLE GENERAL STORE

Sayville General Store sells artisan-made products, baby and toddler clothing,...

Sayville General Store sells artisan-made products, baby and toddler clothing, books, gourmet foods, jewelry and much more. Credit: Randee Daddona

You’ll find a wide selection of home goods and pantry essentials at this shop that opened in 1996. Just a few of the things sold here are fruit preserves, mustards and savory jams, cookbooks, handmade pewter, handblown glass, artwork, pillows, pottery, bath and body products, hand-poured candles, women’s bags and jewelry. There’s even a baby and toddler department featuring clothing, books, toys, dolls and accessories.

INFO 44 Main St., Sayville, 631-563-7104, sayvillegeneralstore.com

MONTAUK GENERAL STORE

Montauk General Store sells artisan cheeses, charcuterie, homemade bath products...

Montauk General Store sells artisan cheeses, charcuterie, homemade bath products and more.  Credit: Montauk General Store

This store, opened in 2018, is a go-to stop in fall and colder weather for comfort foods and drinks such as homemade pies for Thanksgiving and pumpkin coffee with pumpkin sea salt cream. Then, come summer, you’ll want to try two of its most popular refreshers — General Iced Coffee made with brown sugar, and Lavender Honey Lemonade flavored with fresh lavender from the garden of owner, Kim Gatti. Other customer favorites are artisan cheeses, charcuterie, homemade bath and body products made by Gatti, old-style toys and games, T-shirts and hats. Gift baskets are available too.

INFO 669 Montauk Hwy., Montauk, 631-668-0900

EASTPORT GENERAL STORE

Carey and Eric Bell, of Pittstown, browse for items at the Eastport...

Carey and Eric Bell, of Pittstown, browse for items at the Eastport General Store on Sept. 23. Credit: /Johnny Milano

Opened by millennial and Eastport resident Amber Otto in October 2020, this store doubled in size last year to 1,600 square feet when the space next door became available. It has a very modern look and somewhat of a fashion boutique in the section where vintage dresses are sold, but other things like made-from-scratch potpies, dish towels, hand-cranked mixers and wooden meat tenderizers create a good ol’ days feeling. A refill bar allows customers to bring in containers from home to try a little of something like a natural cleaning, bath and body or skin care product to decide if they like it before buying. The store hosts local small business pop-ups outside the shop on weekends, and workshops are held once or twice a month with instruction in ceramics, flower arranging, painting and more.

INFO 510 B Montauk Hwy., 631-320-2081, eastportgeneralstore.com