A new generation takes the reins at a historic summertime businessBy Riley Stefano
Photography by Rosemary Tufankjian
The name “G. Bramhall” is painted in bold antique-style lettering on a sign that hangs above the door of a little red building in the heart of Chiltonville. Situated on the corner of Sandwich Street and River Street, Bramhall’s Country Store has been supplying tourists and locals with all manner of homemade goodies and summertime sundries for decades.
Growing up in Plymouth, I remember piling into the car with my younger sister to go for ice cream cones at Bramhall’s. In those days, you had to walk inside the store for your Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream (there’s now a separate ice cream window on the side of the building) and the air would be filled with the sweet scent of waffle batter being cooked and shaped into homemade ice cream cones.
Built in 1750, the building has seen many uses over the last 200 years, including serving as one of the nation’s first post offices, a leather-working shop, a carpentry business, and lastly the country store that locals still know and love. George Bramhall bought the building from Nathaniel Carver in 1828 for just $25. Today, the store is operated by the great-great-great-great grandchildren of George Bramhall.
Ben Bramhall, age 27, and his sister Sally, age 21, took over the management of Bramhall’s Country Store after their father, Wedge Bramhall, passed away. The beloved store owner had operated Bramhall’s for 30 years and built up the family-run business into a local landmark. These days, Wedge’s wife, Jami Bramhall, and four children (Ben, Sam, Sally and Liz) all help out at the store, whether manning the take-out window, fixing electrical issues, or growing the vegetables and flowers they sell.
Sweet corn on the cob and fresh lobster rolls are two of the products that Bramhall’s is known for. Outside the shop’s entrance there is a lobster tank where customers can choose their own lobster to either take home live or have cooked at the store. The lobsters come straight from local waters (Wedge had his own commercial lobster license), sourced from Plymouth lobstermen Matt Nickerson and Tom O’Reilly.
“I have been going to Bramhall’s every year for the past 20 years, and at the end of each summer, when Wedge was ready to empty his lobster tanks he would call me up just so I could grab one before they were gone,” remembers Dwayne Stefano, a regular customer.
Various improvements were made to the store over years. Wedge transformed a space that was previously a carpentry workshop into a commercial-grade kitchen and started serving up his famous lobster rolls, lobster grilled cheese, sweet corn, and even tacos made with grass-fed local beef from Whip’s Farm in Plymouth. He also installed a wooden fruit and vegetable stand that operated on an honor system. Wedge would put out a wooden box beside the fruit and veggies for people to contribute what they felt the produce was worth.
Bramhall’s Country Store continues to support local food purveyors, selling produce from farms in Plymouth, Middleboro and Taunton as well as locally produced products like jams and honey. Customers can pick up a bottle of Simpson Spring soda, made at one of the oldest bottling companies in America in the town of Easton, or sip on locally roasted Speedwell Coffee. The store’s dark wood walls have also been used as a gallery space, displaying historic photos of Plymouth as well as rotating art exhibits.
“If you could put our mission statement into one word it would be ‘community,’ ” says Ben Bramhall. “Wedge used this space as a communal meeting place,” he explains. “It was a place for the neighbors to come to and meet up.”
Ben and Sally hope to expand the store’s offerings. Some of their ideas involve bringing in comfortable couches and chairs and serving fresh breakfast items like fresh yogurt parfaits. He wants to give the space a café-like feel, where guests can sit surrounded by the antique artifacts on display. Ben also hopes to install solar panels on the building that would help power a heat pump and allow the store to stay open past Labor Day weekend—a time of year when the local harvest in Plymouth County is particularly strong—making it possible for pumpkins, apple cider, cranberries and other fall favorites to become new seasonal staples.
In the heat of summer, families can be found relaxing at picnic tables under the shade of giant American Linden trees, enjoying lunch and free Wi-Fi. Across from the parking lot is a grassy knoll with a beautiful white-flowered Catalpa tree (one of Wedge’s favorites) where the family hopes to one day hold community events and fundraisers. People can now also sample one of Bramhall’s famous jumbo-sized lobster rolls at the farmers’ markets held down the street at Plimoth Plantation.
While much has changed at Bramhall’s over the years, the store has continued to provide high-quality products and customer service, the family legacy for years to come.