eye-catching building, which has brought beauty to Tolland Green since 1810, has always been a landmark in Tolland, serving as a general store, a cobbler shop and a hoop skirt factory in its 200-year history.
But The Homestead owner Judy Shaffer has hit her own milestone in that historic building; Shaffer is celebrating her 30th year of business as the place to go in town for quick gifts, local crafts and great antiques.
"It's a feeling of accomplishment," Shaffer said. She knows how dear many residents hold The Homestead, since she's been told in no uncertain terms that The Homestead is not allowed to close its doors.
"People say to me, 'We know where you live,'" Shaffer joked.
Shaffer took over the store in 1981. While she was working as a nurse, she developed a crafting hobby that inspired her to contemplate opening a craft store.
"I always crafted in my house," Shaffer said.
Therefore, when the building's owner called her and offered to sell it, Shaffer said that she'd take the old-fashioned building and protect it from being developed.
"I feel like I'm the keeper," Shaffer said of the preserved store. The slanted cashier's desk and candy counter are those of the original 1810 general store, according to Shaffer. She explained that the register slants in towards the bottom to allow women with hoop skirts to easily shop.
While Shaffer started out 30 years ago with some consigned crafts, The Homestead has blossomed into a top-notch antiques and craft store with antiques available on the second story of the home and local crafts filling the first floor.
Shaffer said that she selects her crafts from fairs in Philadelphia and Portland, ME, as well as from local crafters.
Many may think of Shaffer, however, as the candy lady, due to the popular candy counter at the front of the store.
Shaffer said that she always knows when young Tolland residents recognize her out and about town.
"They'll be looking at me like, what are you doing here," Shaffer said, amused that she's so strongly associated with her candy counter fare, complete with a stepping stool for her shorter customers. "I get the biggest kick out of that."
The small details show what how much The Homestead has become an integral part of Tolland. Shaffer said that some of her first candy customers come back for the holidays and bring their own kids to stand by the candy counter and take a picture.
The shop is also a popular stop during the summer, when kids swarm the counter for some sweet treats.
"In the summer, they come in van loads," she said.
And with many residents looking for special local gifts, antiques and crafts, The Homestead isn't slowing down anytime soon. In fact, Shaffer said that the store has not suffered too much, despite the difficult economy.
"I pride myself at keeping my prices at a decent level," she said. "I think that really helped me."
And she has no plans to close up shop soon, although Shaffer said she's amazed that 30 years have already flown by.
"I started when my children were young, and now I have grandchildren in college," she said. "It's pretty astounding."
The Homestead will be open on Saturday and Sunday, as the , and celebrate a of seasonal events and church fairs.