Cornish Store Set to Reopen

  • Property owner Colleen O’Neill and store owner Mark Abrams stand in front of the Cornish General Store on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Cornish, N.H. The store is set to reopen in late September or early October. Abrams has had nearly 20 years in the wholesale and grocery industry. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — Mac Snyder

  • A cash register rests on a countertop within the Cornish General Store on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Cornish, N.H. The general store is slated to reopen in late September or early October under new manager Mark Abrams and proprietor Colleen O’Neill. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Colleen O’Neill stands and looks around the basement of the Cornish General Store in Cornish, N.H., on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. O’Neill is the property owner. She and business owner Mark Abrams will reopen the store in the coming months. The basement was formerly used as an archery range, among other things, but will be used as a storage space for the general store. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Mac Snyder

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2016 12:13:08 AM
Modified: 8/19/2016 4:21:56 PM

Cornish — Shelves are bare at the Cornish General Store, and the smell of plywood hangs in the air.

In the three years since the old store closed down, its appliances, countertops and handmade signs have sat there, collecting dust.

All that will change in a little over a month, when the new property owner, Colleen O’Neill, and store owner, Mark Abrams, reopen the store that for decades served as a hub in Cornish Flat.

“My interest is to get this store back up and running,” O’Neill said in an interview at the store on Thursday afternoon. “This will be a place for people to run into each other, have a coffee and chat.”

O’Neill will lease the store to Abrams, who is leaving his job as manager of the Concord Food Co-op in New London, and moving to Cornish to run his own business here.

He anticipates the business will open in late September or early October — just in time for leaf peepers.

“Basically the goal is to have an old-fashioned grocery store here,” Abrams said on Thursday.

For Abrams, achieving that goal will mean bringing in local products — maple syrup, honey, eggs and soap from J.R. Liggett’s, which is based in town.

“If it’s made in Cornish, I want to sell it here,” he said.

The former owner, Shirley Bladen, sold the place to a limited liability corporation controlled by O’Neill on Aug. 1, for about $288,000, according to county records.

O’Neill on Thursday said she and Abrams planned to consult Bladen from time to time on the workings of the building — where to find a tricky electrical switch, for example.

Reached by phone later that day, Bladen declined to be interviewed.

For many years, the general store with the long, Old-West-style facade has brought people together in Cornish Flat. It stands on Route 120 between Lebanon and Claremont, and a triangle of land in the center of the village that one might assume is a town common actually belongs to the store.

In the 1970s and ’80s, the place was known as Powers General Store, after its owners, the Powers family, who sold high-end clothing that nearby Meriden resident Steve Taylor remembers as “country chic.”

The Powers later turned it over to Bladen, who eventually closed the business in 2013.

“It was a big blow to the little village there,” said Taylor, who used to visit the store, “but like most convenience stores, it’s a tough go in a rural area there if you don’t have gasoline.”

These days, the storefront and surrounding area have been quiet. In January of this year, the Claremont Savings Bank branch located just across the street announced it was closing as well. O’Neill, a philanthropist and preservationist who is also known as the widow of the writer J.D. Salinger, felt the lack of activity acutely.

“A general store’s just so important for a small town,” she said.

The idea began brewing inside her head to buy the store and reopen it, but it took a long and circuitous route to fruition. 

This winter, as the Powerball jackpot climbed to near $1 billion, O’Neill and friends dreamed about what they would do with the money if they won. Her first thought: “Well, I’ll buy that Cornish General Store and open it up.”

She didn’t win. But soon enough, she found herself calling Bladen and asking, “Is it still on the market?”

After she learned that it was, O’Neill went to SCORE, a nonprofit in Lebanon that assists entrepreneurs and small businesses, and enrolled in a class. At first, she didn’t tell anyone that she was not seeking an education, but rather someone to run the business. A manager at SCORE eventually connected her to Abrams, who agreed to work with her. As they made their plans, they tried to keep them secret — a true challenge in a town the size of Cornish, where the sight of cars parked at the store sent rumors flying.

“This is a small town, so when cars go by, they know whose they are,” O’Neill said.

Now, with the building sale completed and the plans mostly in place, among the steps that remain for O’Neill and Abrams is a cosmetic one that evokes their plan to revivify Cornish: painting the facade bright red.

At roughly 7,000 square feet of sales space, the building is large for a country store, Abrams said, and has even more adjoining space that could be used for other businesses.

“We’re open to basically anything,” Abrams said.

That could include an option for banking, he said, even if it were just a full-service ATM. “The community needs a bank back again.”

The new business owner also mused about bringing in professional offices — an attorney, perhaps, or massage or yoga specialists.

O’Neill said she hoped to revive some of the traditions that had grown around the store — such as a Halloween costume contest once held annually on its porch — all in the name of bringing some energy to town.

“My interest is to bring some commerce back to Cornish, get this place open and revitalize things a little bit,” she said.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at or at 603-727-3242.


Mark Abrams, who is leasing the Cornish General Store property from new owner Colleen O’Neill, is the owner of the business that will open in her property this fall. An earlier version of this story was unclear about their roles. In addition, a photo caption incorrectly rendered Abrams’ first name.


Sign up for our free email updates
Valley News Daily Headlines
Valley News Contests and Promotions
Valley News Extra Time
Valley News Breaking News

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy