Voices of the Bay

The Little Bristol Shop Around the Corner

Denise Nehez's local grocery store, C & R Mercantile, is the fruit of all her labors in the retail business

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Denise Nehez opened her shop, C & R Mercantile, over a year ago, and the vision she set out to implement has become a reality: a local grocery shop where customers stop in for Wright’s Dairy milk, Baffoni’s eggs and Narragansett Creamery’s Pirate Spread – and, just as important, for a chat and brief respite from a busy world. The Connecticut native came to the East Bay in 2002 and spent years in retail, restaurant and finance work, tucking away the information she gathered about customer service and business. Whether it was breaking down cardboard boxes from deliveries and neatly stacking the pile for trash pickup or always greeting and making eye contact with customers, Denise’s work helped her compile a mental list of how she would run her own business. On June 23, 2016, that business opened. C & R Mercantile is located at 219 High Street in Bristol, and is open seven days a week.

When I first came to town, I used to say, “We need a little grocery shop.” I put together a business plan and I had a friend who would invest in it. I have always loved this space: 200 feet of sales space and about 20 feet for back storage. I borrowed the first month to hold the space and then went for it. I’ve done it all on a shoestring. C is for my dog Charlie and R is for my deceased dog River.

My first delivery was Thursday, June 23 [2016], from Farm Fresh Rhode Island. I had half a shelf and one of the fridges, and I said, “I guess I’m open for business.” I started to bring cut flowers in because I love to garden and used to work at a flower shop. Everything comes back into this little spot full circle.

The town has been awesome. I have had nothing but positive support from them. The Health Department has been wonderful. Any question I have, I call them. People from Town Hall have made their way over and checked in on me.

I hate when someone says, “Are you going to work?” It is work and it can be overwhelming at times, but I want to say, “It’s not work. I’m going to my shop.” What’s better than to open the door, sweep the sidewalk, freshen up the shelves and welcome your customers? There is nothing better. You have to like what you’re doing. Wow, I just remembered my parents first met in a grocery store.