Elizabeth Yuill, right, owner and shopkeeper of the historic Brown & Hopkins Country Store in Chepachet, shows off a quilt to a customer. (submitted photo)
GLOCESTER â€” Elizabeth Yuill, owner and shopkeeper of the historic Brown & Hopkins Country Store in Chepachet, has been named by the U.S. Small Business Administration as one of its 2013 Rhode Island small-business award winners.
Yuill and other recipients of the SBA awards will be honored during the annual Rhode Island Salute to Small Business luncheon on June 12 at the Alpine Country Club in Cranston.
The SBA awards will be presented in nine categories. Yuill won in the Rhode Island Women-owned Small Business of the Year category.
She has owned the Rhode Island landmark country store, located in the historic village of Chepachet, since 2004.
Brown & Hopkins, known to be one of Americaâ€™s oldest, continuously operating country stores (since 1809) and, in fact, the oldest in Rhode Island, still sells some candy for just a penny. Shoppers can browse the 3,000-square-foot clapboard building and choose among a myriad of items such as gourmet specialties, candles, quilts, curtains, New Hampshire-made farm tables, ladiesâ€™ clothing, seasonal dĂ©cor, and antiques.
The building that houses Brown & Hopkins Country Store was erected in 1799 by Timothy Wilmarth. In 1809 the building was purchased by Ira Evans, who started the business as a general store. After several changes in ownership it was then purchased in 1921 by James L. Brown and William W. Hopkins. Brown and Hopkins operated the store until 1964, when it was purchased by Roscoe and Lillian Steere. In the late 1900's Brown & Hopkins experienced a few more changes in ownership.
In July 2004, Yuill of Foster purchased Brown & Hopkins Country Store, which now specializes in primitive and country home accessories, reproduction furniture, and period lighting.
â€śLiz is truly an SBA success story,â€ť says Alicia Ambrose, vice president of Freedom National Bank, which, along with the SBA, extended a mortgage and a line of credit in 2004 that allowed Yuill to acquire the real estate, purchase inventory and support working capital in the initial years.
Born in 1962, the daughter of a teacher and homemaker, Yuill began her career in retail at the early age of 7 when she began peddling her handmade jewelry, painted rocks and seashell mirrors to her neighbors in her childhood hometown of Lincoln.
In 2008, Brown & Hopkins Country Store was featured in â€śCountry Business,â€ť a trade magazine for independent gift retailers. The article focused on the storeâ€™s innovative marketing and merchandising techniques that have been the cornerstone for the businessâ€™s continued success.
In 2011, the store was voted â€śBest Gift Shop in Blackstone Valleyâ€ť by the readers of Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.
Brown & Hopkins is open seven days a week.