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A sampling of the assorted items at Clevelands Country Store in Plymouth. (Yes, that's alligator in a can.)

Nostalgia can be an intoxicating force, powered by a longing for simpler times and the endurance of happy memories. A country store located in an 18th-century barn adjacent to an ice cream and candy shop is the embodiment of nostalgia. Welcome to Clevelands Country Store in Plymouth.

Jerky and jelly, soup mix and syrup, candies and candles, delicious deli sandwiches and intimidating ice cream challenges. To step through the doorway is to take a step back in time to old New England. (There’s a trapdoor in the middle of the floor; underneath are carriage parts.) It was known as Cleaveland’s Country Store for a half-century — the Cleaveland family still owns the property — but the building hadn’t been used since the 1990s.

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Clevelands Country Store in Plymouth also features The Sweet Tooth ice cream shop.

John Casanova has been the very busy owner — “I have seven businesses and six kids” — of The Sweet Tooth ice cream and candy store for over a decade. He cut his teeth at the original Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont many years ago. Anyone who runs that many businesses is always looking for an opportunity. And a big red barn built in 1797 just happened to be sitting there vacant.

“When I opened the ice cream shop, hundreds and hundreds of people were coming in on a weekly basis asking where the Cleaveland’s Country Store was,” Casanova says. “They came from Maine and this place and that place. So I went on a two-year journey with my wife and kids and we went camping in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, all over the New England area. We visited all the local farms and local factories of all the handmade batch stuff that people like. And we tested it all and we put it all together.”

Casanova opened Clevelands — minus the “a” — in 2014. (Where the apostrophe goes, or if there is one, is up for debate.) It has a distinctly Vermont feel, like a general store in a small town. There’s jerky made from every animal and jelly made from every fruit. If a vegetable can fit in a jar, it’s pickled. Have a craving for Louisiana-style Cajun alligator or Rocky Mountain-style smoked rattlesnake? Clevelands has you covered.

While the weird and exotic are readily available, Clevelands also serves up egg sandwiches, pancakes and waffles for breakfast and a good-size menu of paninis, subs, soups and wraps for lunch and dinner.

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Clevelands Country Store in Plymouth offers plenty of goods you never knew you needed.

It makes my brain freeze just to think about it, but the Godfather Challenge on the Sweet Tooth side of the store is an offer I was happy to refuse. Casanova says he loves the iconic mobster movie and, inspired by food challenges he’d seen on TV, decided to put 16 scoops of Buck’s Ice Cream (he had 16 flavors at the time) into an old-school Radio Flyer wagon, and then add one of every topping. Casanova says three out of about 200 have successfully completed the 30-minute challenge. “Everyone in the beginning was making the mistake of getting 16 different flavors instead of 16 of one flavor,” Casanova says. “Then some people started figuring it out to get 16 vanilla.”


Clevelands Country Store

655 Main St., Plymouth

860-283-4566, clevelandscountrystore.com

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Not wheelchair accessible

This article appeared in the August 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.