General Store is deeply rooted in Berlin’s history; the new owners are part of its past

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BERLIN – Ed Munter remembers the Berlin general store from a young age.

He would stop there for a soda while delivering The Daily Item to his neighborhood. At the time, Arthur Lange ran the store.

Now Munter and his wife, Melissa, have taken the reins of the store, which dates back generations, with names like Lange, now 99, William, then Bob and Shirley Lowe and Mark, Holly and Melissa Sargent. behind the desk.

The building, dating from 1830, served as a convenience store for the city for generations before that term was even used.

But it also housed the post office (where the deli is now located), perfect for residents to stop by, pick up their mail, pick up the newspaper (The Daily Item, of course), and chat with friends and neighbors from across the city. current events, and maybe some gossip.

“In the old days there was no mall, no other place to buy things. It was the place to go. It had a bit of everything, ”Munter said.

Things have changed, Munter said. There’s no meat cooler, for example, and the store now includes items that never graced the shelves decades ago.

But the main thing remains, and residents can stop for the things they need without going to the supermarket. And there are deli options for a quick bite to eat.

Munter, who was an executive chef, has worked at Marriott hotels around the world, including his recent role as a hotel manager for the Marriott Riyadh Hotel & Executive Apartments Diplomatic Quarter, Saudi Arabia.

But he had wanted to return to his hometown.

When he received a text from a friend that the store was for sale, his idea of ​​returning to Berlin came true.

Reflecting on the missing story, Munter said, “I’ll bring him back.”

Former owners Mark and Holly Sargent chose to sell the business when Mark got a good offer to take over his old job as a subcontractor, Munter said.

It opened up an opportunity.

Munter said the Sargents updated a lot.

“They did a good job of bringing things up to standard. And he said the Sargents went out of their way to help. “They were sorry to abandon him.”

But he wants to take it a step further and modify it to look more like the good old days. Modern where it needs to be, but with a historic flavor.

Some of them will be shown in old photos. He has already collected a lot of them and plans to take advantage of the wall space to exhibit them. Many familiar names will be included, and he said if there are any that are not identified, customers will likely be able to fill in the gaps.

Having retired from Marriott, he is ready for the demands.

“This is the kind of store you have to devote your time to,” Munter said, noting that Lange and his wife, Evelyn, worked regularly from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or later.

After 39 years at Marriott, Munter, at 61, retired and transferred his retirement funds to allow him to buy the store.

His cooking career began in the area when he and his friend Cliff Delorey, now an executive at Marriott, cooked part-time at Clinton Hospital. It grew from there and he ended up cooking at La Casa Mia in Clinton.

In his youth he delivered the newspaper and then wrote for the Daily Item, covering some local sports.

But it was the cooking that appealed to him, even after graduating from Clark University with a bachelor’s degree in English.

From there, his culinary journey took him to many places, from the Marriott in Newton to learning cooking techniques from around the world, studying the cuisine of chefs who had previously excelled at the craft.

“It’s an art,” he said of the kitchen.

“I didn’t come here to make money,” Munter said of his return home.

He said he was at a point where “you have to watch what you want to do. At my age, it’s more about the quality of life, ”although Melissa said she also had a to-do list for him at home.

“The store has always been the center of attention in the city,” said Munter. He wants him to fulfill this role, but also to have a local orientation.

He seeks to reduce the number of drinks available, for example, by pointing the finger at the long row of refrigerated cases containing various Coke and Pepsi products, when most of his customers buy a few standards.

He wants to focus on New England produce, noting that the shelves were missing things like the official Fluff (needed to make a real Fluffernutter) and NECCO wafers, iconic items that define the culinary traditions of the New England.

“If you want to sell the food, you have to sell the story,” he said.

But with “lots of good memories,” Munter said he saw a lot of people he hadn’t seen in years.

“It’s nice for me to be able to come back to the city where I grew up,” he said, “and do some things on my to-do list” while living close enough to go to work. foot.

“I know the people, the city and what the store was like,” including the story of Lange who ran it and Munter experimented with his first banana and root beer float.

He still has the caps of the soda bottles he bought there and they could be a project for the future.

People remember what the store was like. “It can be that again,” he said.

The old signs he bought, the photos he was given and the memories he awakens in the locals will give people young and old alike a glimpse of the past while providing for the needs of the present.

The store offers cold cuts for sandwiches and you can go get lunch, grab a piece of paper and some essentials, just like in the good old days. But they can get a lottery ticket, and once he gets his license, maybe a six pack. They can even sit and chat with the neighbors.

Store hours and menu may change once Munter sets things up, and his experience as an executive chef may show up. For now, he and Mel are keeping things as they were and handling most of the things themselves. Once the kitchen is closed, for example, Munter focuses on cleaning. But customers are always a treat when they step into the store and the history of Berlin.

Contact the store at (978) 838-2459 or stop by 19 Central St.


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