Four generations of Avery’s lived at 2 Park Place from 1925 when Bertha Rice Avery bought the house, until it was sold in 2016 for business suites.
George W. Avery came to Granby from Chenango Co. NY in 1883. He was a farmer. He courted a local girl, Bertha Rice, and they were married on New Year’s Eve 1884. They had two sons, William K. in 1890 (always known as W. Kenneth) and Paul L. in 1897. The family lived in North Granby and attended the First Congregational Church. In 1924, George Avery, “a respected citizen and best-liked neighbor” died at age 74.
The following year his widow, Bertha, purchased the large white house on Park Place to share with her son W. Kenneth and his family. At that time, W. Kenneth was working as a clerk and postmaster in the Loomis Bros. Store. In 1929, he decided to open his own store, adjacent to his home – Avery’s General Store.
W. Kenneth Avery was married to former Granby schoolteacher, Hazel Helm. They raised five children in the old Granby Hotel – Janet, W. Kenneth Jr., Preston and the twins, Joanne and John.
Bertha Avery died in 1933, age 75. She was one of twelve Rice children and the first of her siblings to die. The house was inherited by her two sons and then sold by Paul to his brother.
Family papers show that W. Kenneth bought a new furnace for the house in 1934 for $500. It evidently did not perform as advertised, and there are a series of letters from the company requesting payment. After a year, the bill was paid and included W. Kenneth’s comments that he was not satisfied with the furnace and despite his many requests for service, the repair man did not show up until warm weather arrived.
Other family papers offer a glimpse of prices during the depression years of the 1930s. A trip to the dentist for x-rays, cleaning and six fillings cost a total of $26. Unlike today’s soaring medical costs, W. Kenneth paid only $1.50 for 75 digitalis pills. The house was valued at $3600 in 1932 and the town tax was $79.20. The Avery Store was assessed at $120 and taxes were $2.64.
Avery’s General Store at first specialized in farm equipment, as well as stocking dry goods, food, hardware and everything in-between. Shoppers could purchase overalls or axe handles; thread or ladders; canning jars or penny candy. If you needed something, it was probably here. And there was always a 45-pound wheel of aged cheddar cheese from Wisconsin, with samples cheerfully offered to customers. W. Kenneth also continued as postmaster for 13 years from 1922 to 1935. The Post Office was located in the area where J. D. had his barber shop for many years.
The store was expanded in 1941. As local farming declined, so did the demand for tractors and Avery’s then shifted to garden equipment and supplies. They offered paint and wallpaper along with personal service. In winter, Avery’s was the place to buy work clothes, warm wool socks and sturdy work or hunting boots. They managed to survive despite the competition of the new supermarkets and shopping malls.
The W. Kenneth Avery family was very involved in Granby life. They were members of South Congregational Church and the Granby Grange. Hazel was in the Women’s Society of the Church and was a member of the Civic Club. W. Kenneth was a member of St. Mark’s Masonic Lodge of Granby and Hazel was a past Matron of Eastern Star. W. Kenneth also served two terms in the state legislature in the 1940s.
W. Kenneth continued to work in Avery’s Store through 1968, with the help of his youngest son John “Chick” Avery. W. Kenneth died in 1969, age 79. His wife Hazel had died in 1963.
The next occupants of the house were son Preston Avery and his family. Preston was married to Beverly “Heather” Hayes and the laughter of their four children now echoed in the old hotel. They had a son, Will, and three daughters, Allison, Cheryl and Beth. Preston was a mechanical engineer and worked for Hamilton Standard. He followed the family tradition of active membership in South Congregational Church and the community. Preston was a volunteer fireman with Lost Acres Fire Department and on the board of the Salmon Brook Water Company. Heather, a nurse, worked at Avery Heights. She was active in the South Church Sow and Reap Garden Club, a member of the LAFD Women’s Auxiliary and a Granby Library volunteer. Heather died in 1991 and Preston in 2010.
After his father’s death, Chick Avery ran the store alone. He lived in an apartment behind the store. They had added a line of Maytag appliances and Chick became Granby’s iconic “Maytag Repairman.” An 1870 wooden washing machine was on display and much coveted by antique dealers. It was eventually donated to the Salmon Brook Historical Society.
A visit to the Avery Store was like traveling back in time. The store offered an amazing variety of merchandise, all in glorious confusion. The shopper might find a jacket or a baseball. You could enjoy the old photographs on the walls or buy a new stove. Chick would also special order anything you might want. The Avery Store may have seemed to be an anachronism but it was Granby’s favorite anachronism.
Avery’s General Store closed in 2013 and Grass Roots Creamery, a very popular ice cream business, moved in. The people of Granby still gather on the Green with their ice cream cones and some of them might share their memories of shopping in Avery’s.