Troy Clarkson

A local firefighter comes in from the firehouse across the street for his morning coffee.

A longtime resident and cherished local volunteer stops in for a newspaper.

A mom and her kids come in for a breakfast sandwich and a hot blueberry muffin right out of the oven.

All of them converse with the storekeeper, share a grin and a hello, and begin their day happily.

A living embodiment of a Norman Rockwell painting? Perhaps. An actual morning at the Wild Harbor General Store? For sure.

The Wild Harbor General Store has been an icon of North Falmouth Village for more than 100 years. Now, new owner Caroline Gabriel has embraced that history and is at the same time breathing new life into what is so much more than a gas station.

“It’s actually a general store with really great gas pumps,” she noted, succinctly capturing both the storied past and her vision for the future of this local locale. Pictures that tell some of the story of the Wild Harbor General Store adorn the walls. Caroline tells the story of others as she begins to write her own tale of community building—one visit, one anecdote at a time. She pointed to a black-and-white picture of the store, clearly from a bygone era, and spoke of the sense of history that comes alive owning and living in such a special place.

“We’re not Anywhere USA,” she proclaimed, explaining that her ownership and stewardship of the general store are a family affair, as she sang a song about “living above our station.” Her two sons, Rowan and Henry Thompson, live with her above the store, and will be a part of her family approach to the tradition of good food, good coffee and good conversation.

Ray and Susan Rowitz carried on that tradition for nearly two decades, greeting customers with their legendary breakfast sandwiches and so much more. Their presence was an important part of making the store both a neighborhood spot and an important link to the community. Caroline is continuing that tradition. As I visited with her at the store this week, employee Will Lee prepared a linguiça, egg and cheese—one of their signature offerings—for me as customers came in and lingered, sharing stories and smiles.

Moments like that are the foundation of what Caroline hopes to accomplish. She is no stranger to food. Good food. A licensed nutritionist who has published a book on healthy eating, she hopes to bring that experience to the offerings at the general store. Her book, “The Fateful Fork,” which adorns a shelf at the store, provides a road map to healthy eating, and explores the link to good food choices and good health. She encourages people to be “qualivores”—that is people who focus on the quality, origins and freshness of the foods they eat. Her plans for the deli and other offerings at the general store stay true to that commitment. She lauded the efforts of Falmouthite Tanya Soares, who is quarterbacking the team at the deli, and noted that her food offerings will soon include “grab-and-go” items that are fresh, healthy, local and, of course, good.

“There’s no need to go to town, we’ll have it all right here,” she explained, as a delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables arrived. New initiatives will include online ordering and staying open year-round, including Sundays. She is on site and on point. The Wild Harbor General Store tradition is in good and capable hands.

Caroline is also no stranger to Falmouth. She and her family moved here more than 50 years ago when Falmouth Hospital was being built. Her dad was one of the original physicians at our community hospital, giving Caroline firm roots in the community. She attended North Falmouth Elementary School—right down the street from the general store—and grew up in West Falmouth. She attended college out of state and began to raise her family, but Falmouth beckoned her back. She was biking to Megansett Beach one day and saw the “for sale’ sign on the market. Fate likely had a hand in her arrival at Wild Harbor, as she experienced “green light after green light” after that first inquiry. Ray and Susan actually wound up buying Caroline’s house, completing a local version of “trading spaces” that completes this chapter of an unfolding story.

Caroline will welcome friends new and old to the Wild Harbor General Store tomorrow at 10 AM at her official grand opening, where she will be joined by Falmouth Chamber of Commerce president Michael Kasparian, himself a North Falmouth resident, among others. The public is invited. She hopes that those who have shared in the history of the store will join those who hope to shape its future and celebrate this exciting new chapter in a 100-year-old Falmouth story.

Mr. Clarkson may be contacted at votetroy99@aol.com and followed on Twitter @TroyClarkson59.

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