By Barbara Anne Kirshner
In this strange new world of plexiglass partitions, floor stamps marking 6 foot separations and arrows directing us down aisles, it is comforting to climb those creaky wooden steps, open that squeaky green door, enter the circa 1857 house that is the St James General Store and travel back to colonial times.
I was first introduced to this singular establishment as a little girl by my Aunt Nancy who lived in Smithtown. Upon entering the store, I was met with a delectable, sweet scent that wafted through the air. Rows of glass canisters housing assorted old-fashioned candies from licorice to malted milk balls to nonpareils to ribbon candy to fudge was enough to make any child’s eyes sparkle, especially a child with a sweet tooth as big as mine.
We walked down the long aisle opposite the candy counter where bric-a-brac reminiscent of the Victorian era was displayed. Toward the back of that counter was a glass case containing one of a kind pieces of jewelry.
The back room of the store was a treat for any child and child at heart with displays of old fashioned toys including Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, wooden yoyos, assorted crafts and stuffed animals.
Opposite the toy counter was a rack of beautiful hats hinting of Victorian charm in an array of colors and decorated with ribbons, flowers or feathers. Shelves of unique scarves and gloves were arranged next to the hat rack.
We rounded the corner and headed up the rickety wooden staircase to a large room that contained a library divided into sections with books related to Long Island, children’s literature, travel and Victorian genre.
Beyond the book section, we stepped into the Christmas room where we were met with an enchanting kingdom of Christmas trees decorated with unique ornaments, stars and angels.
After my Aunt Nancy and I completed our tour, we returned to the candy counter where she invited me to choose some confection as a souvenir of our visit. I went for my favorites, the malted milk balls. As she drove us back to her house, I popped one of these delectable treats in my mouth letting it luxuriously melt away. To my delight, this tasty morsel seemed triple wrapped in rich milk chocolate; easily the best version of itself I have ever tasted and I pride myself on being a malted milk ball connoisseur.
I have returned to the St. James General Store at different stages in my life and to my delight everything has always remained the same. I have brought friends and family there, eager to see their eyes light up at every twist and turn.
I recently returned to the store for the first time since this COVID pandemic assaulted all our lives. Though the woman behind the candy counter is now separated from the public by plexiglass, I emitted a great big sigh of relief taking comfort in the familiarity from within. Everything is the same as I remember dating back to my first visit with my beloved Aunt Nancy.
If you would like a trip back to a happier, simpler time, stop into the St. James General Store where a sense of comfort will swaddle you the moment you step beyond that green door.
Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.”
All photos by Barbara Anne Kirshner