A gallon of milk. The morning paper. A lag bolt. Country stores have long been the lifeline to those in need. A quick stop, a quick hello, a quick exchange of cash and out the door. In Central Mass., where the landscape has its fill of chain stores, the independent shopkeeper remains in good standing. We roamed the region and stopped in at a half-dozen locally owned country stores. We’ll share their stories each Friday through the summer.

HARDWICK - What was once the Hardwick General Store, where children clamored for penny candy while their parents picked up staples, will again be a gathering place, this time as Mimi's Coffeehouse of Hardwick, where local folks can swap stories and catch up.

Michele Balcerzak lives in Denver, but her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren are renovating a home in Hardwick, and on a visit Mrs. Balcerzak fell in love with the building at 14 Barre Road.

Now, from 3,000 miles away and during her monthly visits, she’s overseeing renovations that she’s hoping will allow for a soft opening in a couple of weeks. An official grand opening perhaps could come during the Hardwick Community Fair, Aug. 18 and 19.

Stephanie Korzec, a Hardwick native, will be the coffeehouse general manager, and about five more baristas will be hired, Ms. Balcerzak said.

Ms. Balcerzak hopes to offer a few things the small village in the town of the same name doesn’t already have: excellent wireless internet, an alternative to socializing on the sidewalk outside the post office (located inside the former general store), and a variety of good coffee. The future might bring a pouring license, a home base for play dates with a large yard in the back of the building, and perhaps some collaboration with schools.

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