GUILFORD — With its antique Coca-Cola lamp and glass collection, pot-belly stove, and wide-plank oak floors, The Little Store on Route 77, just north of Route 80, exudes a hometown, welcoming air.
It’s a neighborhood gathering spot for residents of North Guilford, a breakfast stop for commuters and contractors, pizza slices for swimmers at Lake Quonnipaug, and when winter blasts in, a warm place with hot coffee and homemade soup for the snowplow drivers.
The only restaurant between Route 80 and up near Durham, the menu is surprisingly big at The Little Store: special breakfast sandwiches, hot and cold deli sandwiches, 10 different salads, pizza, homemade soups, and a catering menu of cold trays and salads, subs by the foot, and pasta, eggplant, or meat entrees to serve dozens of party-goers. Customers can also eat-in at the tall tables, or take-out. The Little Store is open seven days a week and has a beer permit. The “North Guilford Farmers Pie” with pepperoni, sausage and meatball with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese is a local favorite.
“We offer an Italian flair,” says Melissa Munson, of Italian heritage and co-owner with her husband, Dan. But “Dan’s Five-Alarm Chili” in a full pot for 20 people is a highlight of the catering menu.
They took over The Little Store in 2000 after the original building on the spot since 1928 burned down and was re-built by long-time property owner, Joseph Depoto.
She holds up a 1954 framed photo of what the store was then called “Four Maples.” A round gas station sign, Tydol, and gas pumps appear outside a simpler building.
A voice from the next table piped up. “Tydol became Flying A, then Getty,” announced Buster Scranton, a local farmer chowing down on one of The Little Store’s deli sandwiches. The store sells the honey he cultivates from hives on his farm about a mile north of the restaurant. The Scranton family farm was established in the 1800s, he related between munches. He’s distantly related to William Scranton, governor of Pennsylvania in the 1960s, who was born in Madison, Conn., as his parents summered at a cottage there.
Melissa smiles at Buster’s enthusiasm for the sandwich. “We get our bread from the famous A & M Bronx Baking on Arthur Avenue. One of our specialties is the bacon-egg-cheese sandwich.”
She earned a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of New Haven and worked for big corporations until she and Dan started their family of three children.
“I wanted an easier schedule — no nights and weekends. I was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with our son when we found this place. It was so charming, a real mom-and-pop place for us,” Melissa Munsson said. She grew up in Guilford and Dan is from North Branford. He takes the early shift, working six days a week. During the summer, they hire college students part-time to take care of the crowds of beach-goers nearby at the lake.
Melissa related that The Little Store has had several other names over the decades: Hill’s Country Store, Cama Food and Variety Store, Krista’s Variety Store, Sullivan’s Market.
“At one time there was a window out that side where you could come and get an ice cream cone,” Buster said. “We brought in bottles to get the deposit, too.” A graduate of Guilford High School, he added that his 50th class reunion is upcoming.
Hours at The Little Store are:
Monday-Wednesday 6 a.m. — 6 p.m.
Thursday and Friday 6 a.m. — 8 p.m.
Saturday 7 a.m. — 8 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. — 3 p.m.
Address: 2802 Durham Road, Guilford.