center of this emporium and, like the housewives who shopped there at the close of the Civil War, buy a yard of
cloth or a pound of cheese, a cotton house dress or a dozen eggs.
For here in Worcester County is one of the country's most interesting surviving examples of that historic American
institution - the country store. It's no museum piece either, but a lusty enterprise that serves, in fair weather or foul,
the inhabitants of half a dozen Worcester County towns.
The cracker barrel, to be sure, is missing because today's crackers come in packages, but otherwise the
Twentieth Century has done little to change this extraordinary store which does nearly half a million dollars' worth
of business yearly!
As might be expected, there are a number of modern touches: Along with the yard goods and cheese, you can
buy frosted vegetables or avocado pears. In place of oatmeal and corn meal, once sold from the bin, you'll find the
present-day assortment of packaged cereals. You can buy varieties of produce and fruit that Mr. Patrick's old-time
customers never saw, trucked in from faraway points.
You can get all these and many items, besides - like seed for your garden, grain for your horse, new-fangled
"didies" for the baby and cough syrup for your medicine closet. For Patrick's was and still is a "general" store.
Today, as 75 years ago, it offers to people living far from the grocery stores, department stores and drug stores of
a metropolis, something like the combined services of all three.
Retaining the vigor and much of the color of its heyday - when the American country store was a clearing house
for goods, services, sociability and political opinions - the Hopedale store continues to prosper because it is still
dispensing so many of the oldtime things people still want today: neighborliness, reputable merchandise and
those minor services that add up to so much good will for the business.
It is a matter of pride, for example, to Frank Hersey, store treasurer, that delivery was made of every order taken
during the record blizzard of last February.
"We like to have people believe that we will do our best for them," Mr. Hersey emphasized. "That's why we try to
get through a storm even if we have to shovel."
It was back in the 1870s that Henry L. Patrick, who founded the store and was its presiding genius for nearly 60
years, put into practice those personal services that made his country store a popular institution. [Patrick's was
established in 1869.]
When a Hopedale farmer or woodsman wanted a pair of boots "from the city" - or a housewife, a stove - or a
village belle, a ribbon for her hair - it was Mr. Patrick who obtained these items for them during his frequent trips
by horse and wagon to Boston.
Henry Patrick would make his trips to Boston at night, usually, in order to lose no time from his business. While
his knowing team of horses kept to the familiar road, Henry dozed or slept outright after his long day's work. It was
more than 30 miles to Boston and the journey took all night.
Market day for him began early. He was out on the road by dawn, delivering goods to his customers and, in
summer, refilling his wagon with eggs, blueberries, and garden truck. By nightfall, with fresh horses, he was
ready to set out for Boston where he would dispose of his produce and buy "staples" for his store - tea, coffee,
sugar, spices and similar items. Grain, flour and the heavier commodities were shipped to Hopedale by freight.
Paper bags were unheard of, and if you bought five pounds of sugar, a wedge of cheese or a pound of tea, you
carried home your purchase wrapped in a piece of paper twisted into the shape of a cornucopia.
"Spill it? Certainly not," Mr. Hersey asserted. "You'd be surprised how easily you can carry something in paper if
it's twisted right! You can manage five pounds of sugar easily that way! Of course the top of the cornucopia would
be open; you'd have to be careful not to stub your toe!" Those earlier customers brought their own jugs to the
store for molasses, which came in a hogshead. Spices were sold in bulk - weighed first, then wrapped in small
twists of paper. Henry Patrick used to buy his spices in Boston where the clipper ships brought them from the Far
East, around the Horn. His spice containers were small, round, wooden boxes, which held cinnamon, cloves,
ginger, mace and kindred items.
When he "peddled" from farm to farm, as he did at the start of his retailing career, he weighed out his spices from
these small wooden tubs, shielding his scales all the while from the wind so the precious ounces would not blow
The country storekeeper was "fussy" about his molasses, and about his teas, too, recalls Mr. Hersey, who in his
young manhood, was a clerk for the late proprietor.
"He'd have classes on Saturday nights for all the help," Mr. Hersey said. "He might make tea, for example, and
we'd sample four or five different kinds, to find the best brand
."He'd show us how to judge molasses, too. He'd pour out a small quantity on a piece of white paper, then hold
the paper up so the molasses could drip down. If there were little particles in it, he'd say, 'There! See that? That's
not the best molasses!'"
"Then he'd pour out a better grade and show us how the best molasses was golden brown and free from all
sediments. He really wanted to sell good grades of merchandise and went to great pains to get for his customers
the best he could find.
"He put into his business an enormous enthusiasm. Buying and selling goods was a wonderful game to him.
He was shrewd, yet friendly. His employees liked him.
"He frequently consulted them concerning store policies and distributed many substantial bonuses. I know he
dispensed more than $100,000. I have heard him sharply reprimand a store manager for speaking harshly to an
This extraordinary country store which has survived the motor age, depressions, chain stores and the
revolutionary developments of modern retailing, began its existence, according to Mr. Hersey, as a "horse and
wagon proposition." The founder of the business, back in the 1860s, set out with horse and wagon to peddle
goods from farm to farm.
Patrick had got his ideas of retailing from peddling notions and jewelry in the farming country of the Middle West.
From isolated families, he had discerned the business possibilities for a friendly, itinerant peddler who could
bring news, scraps of gossip and agreeable conversation to farm women cut off, in large measure, from contact
with the outside world. Born in Westboro, he had gone out west to seek his fortune. Returning to New England, he
was to find it in Hopedale.
If "Patrick's - the Family Store," prospered from the first, one reason was the unflagging energy of its proprietor.
When he was not keeping store or marketing in Boston, he was scouring the countryside for produce or goods
salable in the store or in the Boston market. Soon he had several clerks and a number of delivery wagons. Motor
trucks, in 1920, supplanted the wagons
If you approach one of the older make clerks in the store and ask him for the manager, he'll laugh and say, "We
all are!" Mr. Hersey, however, a veteran of more than 30 years service, is responsible for much of the store's
policy. But all the older employees own stock in it; the late proprietor believed in employee-participation in
ownership and years ago invited them to purchase company stock.
Since Henry Patrick's death in 1929, the business has been run by a board of directors. John Lahive, a member
of the personnel for 39 years, is now president of the corporation.
In peacetime, the Patrick employees number around 44, but war has reduced this total to 41. Delivery men no
longer take orders, but if you climb to the second story of the antiquated building which the store owns and
occupies, you'll find an office in which five telephone operators are kept busy taking down orders from residents of
Hopedale and nearby towns.
Five minutes in that telephone office might nearly convince you that you were in the personal service department
of a metropolitan department store - except that in the ordinary department store, a customer would not be able to
In common with other retail grocery stores, Patrick's is experiencing wartime difficulties in keeping its meat
"We keep a man in the markets all week long buying meats - or trying to!" Mr. Hersey declared. "He goes every
day to Boston, Worcester or Framingham."
On the top shelf of the store's office - a typical country store office, by the way, without any concessions, in the way
of appointments, to present-day "atmosphere" - are more than three score thick ledgers. Most of them contain the
hand-written entries of the late proprietor, covering charge transactions over a period of nearly 60 years.
In the earliest ledgers are entries like: "5 lbs. Cheese, 3 lbs. corn meal, 1 gal. Kerosene, 5 lbs. baking soda." On
the other side of the ledger appear those items the farmer had brought in for exchange - "3 bushels potatoes, 3
"That farmer pretty well paid for his order with his potatoes and eggs," Mr. Hersey observed.
"There are two things that will never lose their appeal in America," he added, looking up from that bookkeeping of
the '60s. "Those are credit and service.
"People who have good credit and are able to charge things find it gives them a feeling of responsibility. Too, it
enables them to buy goods without carrying money on their person.
"As for service, Americans, particularly, appreciate it. Service from your dealer means that you get quality goods
and things like telephone service and delivery. The woman who lightens her housework with a vacuum cleaner, a
washing machine and an electric mixer, does so because it saves her precious time. For the same reason she
orders merchandise over the telephone. It saves her time.
"There will always be people who find it expedient to buy time. And there will always be those people who are
willing to pay just a little bit more to get quality. That's one reason why we can do business so successfully."
How long a period of credit does Patrick's allow its customers?
"Anywhere from 36 hours to from two to three months, depending on the customers," the store treasurer replied.
In lean times, or in cases where a customer has suffered temporary financial difficulties, the store has made a
point of dealing leniently with its clients, he continued.
Despite the strong and persistent appeal of the charge account, an increasing volume of business today is
derived from the cash-and-carry customer, Mr. Hersey pointed out. And to supply this trade, Patrick's operates a
smaller cash-and-carry store two blocks down from its main store. [That would be the corner store, located where
Stone's Furniture is now.] The latter store is believed to be one of the first strictly cash-and-carry experiments in
New England and employees of Patrick's point to it as further evidence of the foresight of their late president.
And Patrick's claims another "first." The store was one of the first retail grocery establishments in New England to
employ women clerks.
Deliveries in wartime are made every other day. Goods are delivered in Hopedale, Mendon, Grafton, Upton,
Milford and as far away as Braggville. And as in the old days, the delivery man frequently relays news of weather
and road conditions, local events and town politics.
Hopedale had not been incorporated a town when in 1869 Henry Patrick opened up his store. His early
customers were those pioneer men and women who had been members of Hopedale's historic Christian
community until its dissolution in 1856.
The community, one of America's better known communal experiments, enjoyed a large measure of success
and was of sufficient importance to have been mentioned in the writings of the Russian novelist and sociologist,
Most of those early patrons of Patrick's store must have been reliable customers for virtually the entire population
belonged to the Christian Associates, whose members were pledged to the most exemplary conduct. And the
history of the town says that "never a pauper, never a criminal, never a thriftless wretch came from the Hopedale
Community to be taken care of by the civil government."
This vivid link between the present and South Worcester County's pioneer past - Patrick's General Store - has by
no means outlived its usefulness. Operating on the same principles as it did 75 years ago, it continues to furnish
rural dwellers with the goods and services they want. And just for good measure, it throws in the personal touch -
which pays off abundantly.
In 1869, you could buy at this rambling country store five pounds of baking soda or a harness for your horse.
Today you can buy frosted vegetables and motor oil for your car.
And after the war, if you-re looking for dehydrated mashed potatoes or a new fan belt for your helicopter - in all
probability you'll be able to buy them at Patrick's.
Neither the date nor the name of the newspaper this article was printed in can be seen on the clipping, but the
context indicates that it was during World War II and articles on the other side of the page suggest that the
paper was probably the Worcester Telegram or Gazette.
While this article mentions Henry Patrick being born in Westboro and going out west to seek his fortune, before
starting his business in Hopedale, he did live at least part of his early life here. His father, Delano Patrick, was a
member of the Hopedale Community and early maps show that he owned quite a bit of land in town. In Hopedale
Reminiscences, Imogene Mascroft recalls, "The store of H.L. Patrick, on the Milford road, was not then built.
Speaking of that store reminds me of the early ambitions of the proprietor. A favorite morning exercise at the
opening of school was to express in a few words our dreams of future greatness and in what large place in life we
hoped to fill. Henry's taste for mercantile pursuits had probably not developed, for he then expected to become a
The picture below shows Patrick's Corner Store on Route 16 at Hopedale Street, where Stone's Furniture is now
Now and Then - Patrick's Now and Then - The Corner Store Leola Stearns' Patrick's Memories
. Ed Malloy's memories include working for Patrick's in 1924 Businesses Menu HOME
[unfortunately, no date on picture] in front of the building on Hopedale Street, which has
been torn down and the site is now a parking lot. The granite horse-watering trough is
now located further down Hopedale Street, alongside the high school parking lot.
From left, Julia Lahive, Marie Dalrymple, Louise King, Herbert Ward, Irene Ferguson,
John Lahive, Jessie Gover, Arthur Fulton, Charles Pederzoli, Martha Conroy, Frank
Tenney, unidentified, Frank Connors, next two unidentified, John Galloway, James
O'Neil, unidentified, Allen Washburn, Horace Norcross and Ernest Nason.
Patrick's Corner Store
Thanks to the Milford Museum for this receipt.
|Hopedale's Old Style Country Store
Does Half Million Dollar Business Annually!
No Cracker Barrel But Patrick's Has About Everything Else, B'Gosh!
By Grace Deschamps