Chuckatuck store relives heyday

Published 8:29 pm Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Carolyn and Kent Gwaltney stand inside the old Chuckatuck store, which they have spent their own money restoring. The historic building on the corner of Goodwin Boulevard and Kings Highway was up for demolition before they decided it had to be saved.

The family responsible for restoring the Gwaltney store in Chuckatuck hopes to reopen the historic building for business in coming weeks.

Standing on solid floorboards inside the store Saturday, when visitors were temporarily allowed inside for Founder’s Day, Kent Gwaltney, whose grandfather George Lafayette Gwaltney took over the business in the 1920s, said the plan is to officially reopen between the middle and end of November.

There with wife Carolyn Gwaltney, daughter Leslie Gwaltney Hamrick and granddaughters Emma, 4, and Hannah, 3, Hamrick, Kent Gwaltney described the process of restoring 5996 Godwin Blvd, which started this summer.

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“We were going through the political process and the paperwork,” he said. “It was a lot of dealing with the city before we actually got going into construction.”

After a couple of months securing the necessary permits, “We were (then) waiting to make sure that the structural engineers said the foundations were sound,” he said.

One of several items of memorabilia on display inside the old store is a “hornet’s nest” of paid bills found while cleaning.

The next step, he said, was awaiting the outcome of a grant application, which ended well after the city of Suffolk’s Economic Development Authority made $10,000 available from its façade grant program.

The Greater Chuckatuck Historical Foundation provided the Gwaltney family with a loan, “and the rest is out of my pocket,” Gwaltney said.

Asked for the total cost, he replied, “I couldn’t tell you right now, because all the bills are coming in.”

Leslie Gwaltney Hamrick said being inside the nearly fully restored building “brings a lot of memories back.”

“I remember him very clearly,” she said of her great-grandfather, who could be seen in a 1970s photo stoking up the store’s potbellied wood heater during the cooler months.

“I’m very proud of my dad for doing this for the family.”

A section of the store is now an office for the historical foundation.

“We just helped, that’s all,” said historical foundation board member Drexel Bradshaw said of the foundation’s involvement in the restoration.

It was a close call for the building, which sits at the corner of Godwin Boulevard and Kings Highway.

During an Economic Development Authority meeting earlier this year, Kent Gwaltney said he had been “probably one day away” from turning the then-deteriorated building over to a demolition crew when he finally agreed to the foundation’s request to help restore the building.