NORTHFIELD — The first State Grange in Connecticut was organized at a meeting held at the Old Taylor Opera House in Danbury in 1875. On the state website, it is noted there are over 40 community grange chapters but many are struggling and some have been forced to close. When the Beacon Grange #118 at 670 Northfield Road in Northfield closed in July this year, after 56 years of hosting meetings, wedding receptions and community events, it was listed for sale by Weichert Realtors.
That’s when Dave Carroll, born and raised in Northfield, and his wife Marie, born and raised in New Preston, decided to buy the building and recreate the popular Northfield General Store on Main Street that closed 12 years ago. They both agreed this could be a crazy idea, but they wanted to take on the venture.
Dave Carroll’s parents bought a home on Marsh Road in Northfield on the day he was born. He joined the Junior Firefighters Company at the age of 14 and then moved to Boston to attend college. He ran into Ben Paletsky of Morris, who was at a different Boston college. Although Carroll is now a Technology Executive in IT Security, he said he and Paletsky had business expertise in common, and he is cautiously confident that he can manage the general store. He plans to move his home office to the Grange so he will be on site while the staffers are working.
Ben Paletsky, owner of South Farms, commented about his friend: “I applaud Dave for returning to his hometown to raise his family and getting actively involved in the community. Dave is now giving back and he has a great vision for that building that we should all embrace.”
After a career that took him around the globe, five years ago Carroll decided to return to Northfield. “I have two sons, Conor, age four, and Declan, age one, and my wife and I both have family here. We want to give our children the same experience we had, to grow up in a small town.” Soon after he returned, he was invited to re-join the Northfield Volunteer Fire Company, where he is now First Captain.
He said, “The original Northfield General Store was an iconic memory where you always ran into someone you knew, and everyone remembers the creaky front door and the delicious grinders. We want to replicate that warmth and welcoming vibe as a place to hang out, read the newspaper with coffee, or sit down to eat a meal. We plan to buy local from nearby farms, and offer catering for events, renting the bottom level.”
The building doesn’t require much renovation; this is a great example of adapted re-use of an historic building that might otherwise be demolished. The lower level would remain for use by community groups and events and the upper level would be the deli and ice cream shop, among other items for sale, with plenty of room for seating. The upper level currently has a dance floor and stage. Carroll said tentative plans are to be open from 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday and weekend hours remain to be decided.
The project will require approval from Litchfield Planning and Zoning, first in an initial submission, followed by a public hearing on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m., via ZOOM. Carroll said Land Use Administrator Dennis Tobin has been very helpful navigating the process. He reached out to all the neighbors to discuss any concerns they might have about the re-use of the site and posted his intentions on the Northfield Facebook page.
“I was blown away by all the support and enthusiasm from abutting neighbors and all those with fond memories of the original Northfield General Store. We’ve already heard from several people looking for a job with us. I told them ‘Yes, we will need helpers and we will have grinders!’”