The Brewster Store building was built as a two story church by the Universalist Society in 1852 at a cost of $5000 to hold services for its parishioners. This was the society’s second building, the first having been across from the old town hall. However, a steady decline in the congregation during the ensuing decade which included the Civil War, led to the decision to sell the church building and its property located at Carlton E. Sears Square in the heart of Brewster.
In 1866, the same year as the Old Colony Railroad first came to Brewster, the church building and the property were purchased for “one dollar” by William W. Knowles, who ran the Crocker and Kimball Store down the road. Knowles removed the church steeple and extended the front porch, adding wide store front windows. In addition, the ceiling of the first floor was raised to right below the three large church windows on both the east and west walls, thereby creating a more spacious first floor. When Knowles opened his new general store in 1866, it was one of six in Brewster. He reserved the large second floor for plays, dances, and social events, and during his tenure it was known as “THE HALL”. Originally there were no trees to block the view and Cape Cod Bay was visible from the store’s third floor attic window. In order to serve the Brewster residents, Knowles delivered his goods to customers in a covered horse drawn wagon.
Knowles was the town Postmaster on and off starting in 1883, about the same time his son Willy joined the business. The Post Office was an integral part of the Brewster Store, providing a popular meeting place for residents and insuring a steady flow of customers into the store. If you examine this circa 1900 photograph from the Brewster Historical Society archives, you will notice the old lamp post in front of the store. This lamp post signified that the store housed the post office. In fact, the area in front of the store was by then called Post Office Square. In addition, note that the second and third floor front windows are rounded at the top. Sometime between 1910 and 1920 these windows were replaced with the rectangular ones we see in more modern photos and which are still in place today. On the west side of the store was a sign advertising Black Stone Cigars, which helps date this picture at 1902 or later. Some of the old window shutters visible in this photo are currently on display on the wall in “THE HALL” on the Stores’ Second Floor.
William W. Knowles passed away in 1902 and his son continued the business. The family’s fifty-nine-year ownership of the store ended in 1926 when a local boy and the store’s grocery manager, Henry Crocker, bought the store from Knowles and also became the Postmaster. In addition to the provisions and services already offered, the Crocker Store also provided daily delivery service of all its goods. Crocker sold and installed linoleum, and sold insurance. The latter eventually became so successful that in 1946 Crocker bought an insurance agency in Orleans and sold the store to his long time employee, Donald Doane.
The Donald Doane store sign, which hung originally from the porch roof of the building, today hangs over the registers on the first floor. By some accounts, Doane had little interest in the store itself and devoted most of his time to collecting and documenting an amazing array of antiques. Doane briefly closed the store in 1962, reopening it as a museum, which as a business venture was unsuccessful. He then restored the general store and occasionally allowed some patrons the privilege of a guided tour of the museum upstairs. Some of our current customers still remember stories of Donald Doane and his infamous collection housed on both the first floor and in “THE HALL” on the Second Floor.
Doane died suddenly in 1970, without a will. The contents of the store were sold at auction, and Doane’s mother sold the building itself to Bob and Faith Dibble, lifelong summer residents of Brewster who already owned a general store–Cedar’s Country Store–in Cedar, Pennsylvania. The Dibbles changed the name of the store to The Brewster Store and their son Tim managed the enterprise for eight years until his parents moved permanently to Brewster. With their nurturing love and respect for things too often gone from modern daily life, the Dibbles acquired a marvelous collection of antique tools, containers and display pieces which found new life in their store. The Dibbles committed themselves to finding and selling household items no longer available from most modern retailers, such as lamp parts, enamel ware, cast-iron cookware and old-time kitchen gadgets. An old coal stove was returned to the middle of the first floor, a peanut roaster and peanut warmer were added, as well as 1910 Nickelodeon.
When the Dibbles decided to retire at the end of 1986, they sold the store to Missy and George Boyd, owners of The Strawberry Patch Gift Shop which they had opened in 1971. The Strawberry Patch featuring HAND-TIQUES® is located one mile east on Route 6A. The Boyds have committed themselves to carrying on the traditions of The Brewster Store and to preserving this historic building, considered by many to be the center of town. The Boyds purchased old benches from a church in Chatham and placed them in front of the Store to form a protected area where people could gather and enjoy each other’s company during the warm weather.
In March of 1989, the entire store was emptied and the structure was re-enforced from the basement to the second floor. This was the first major refurbishment since 1866. The Boyd’s also hired a local craftsman, who spent three months painstakingly restoring the six remaining second floor church windows. The Second Floor or “THE HALL” was reopened in June of 1989. It now contains The Strawberry Patch as well as the old Brewster Post Office, a miniature reproduction of The Brewster Store, more advertising antiques, a collection of World War II posters, an antique wooden cranberry separator, and a waterline metal ship diorama of Kiel Harbor in 1938.
In June of 1993, the shed at the back of the Brewster Store was renovated and opened as The Brewster Scoop, the Brewster Store’s own ice cream parlor and the second one in the store’s history. Serving delicious old-fashioned ice cream, The Brewster Scoop is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In 2009 to more easily accommodate the summer crowds the Brewster Scoop moved into the more spacious old post office building next to the Store.