Hidden in the middle of San Carlos is a business that has possibly outlived any other business in San Mateo – a store that has existed for 88 years, and come to think of it, almost as old as San Carlos itself! Originally started by Scottish Immigrants during the Great Depression, the business has exchanged hands only about five times. The last owner has held it for 30 years.
The Legacy of the Devonshire Little Store
Come 2023, the baton has passed on from Mr. Sun to Mr. Abdul, a young entrepreneur from a family of gas station and convenience store owners, who has transformed the Devonshire Little Store into something brand new and amazing, all the while preserving the cultural heritage of the store. And by the way, Devonshire Store is the only store in San Carlos that sells the popular Mitchell’s Ice Cream, the ice cream everyone lines up for in San Francisco even on a cold day!
It was a pleasure to speak with Abdul on the phone and in email! For those who haven’t met him yet, we’re mighty proud to introduce this awesome guy to you in San Carlos. If you haven’t been to the Devonshire Little Store for a while, come and visit! The “little store”, with the new renovations, seems not so little anymore. With more improvements on the way, it’s ready to go BIG for the next 100 years.
Please read the interview below:
Interview with Abdul Ajarmeh
We’re delighted about the new improvements with the Devonshire Store. It seems there’s not much information about it yet online, so we’d be so happy to make the first feature! But first, can you tell us more about yourself and what you love best about San Carlos? How long have you been here?
To let you know a little bit about myself first, I am originally from Jordan but I moved to the United States for school in 2010. I attended college at the University of Minnesota and I graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
I then joined some of my relatives who operated gas station and convenience shops and I worked in that line of business for nine years. This is how I picked up the skills I that needed to operate my own business.
I moved to the beach area in 2019 because my wife is originally from here; she was born and raised in the Bay Area, specifically Millbrae.
How did you meet Mr. Sun, the retired owner of the Devonshire? What made you want to continue the store after he moved to Sacramento?
Right after the pandemic I saw an opportunity purchase my own business because a lot of the businesses were struggling, and there was an opportunity to purchase one of these businesses improve it and make something out of it.
So I have a family member who is friends with my in-laws who works as a Business Broker, and he was listening the business on behalf of Mr. Sun.
So I paid the store a visit. My initial reaction was that “I don’t want anything to do with it!”. It was very old and deteriorated. But when I went home and did my research I realized that this is a hidden gem!!
The history behind it drew me in! This has to be one of the oldest still-in-operation businesses in San Mateo County, if not the oldest! Hence, it must have a very loyal customer base, especially from the neighbors!
So I decided to purchase the business; and with the help of the landlord, Mr. Wang, we were able to renovate it into a modern state without compromising the old charm of the building!
After the renovations had been done, I moved from Millbrae and I now live on top of the store in a very nice and spacious house.
There is a lot of history behind the store, and in almost 100 years of operation, it all only exchanged hands about five times. It was first built and owned by a Scottish family, who, with the help of a few Scottish immigrants, transformed the bottom level of that house into a retail store during the Great Depression.
Since the opening of the store last year, what renovations have occurred in the space? Changes in the menu, items for sale?
The renovations that we did substantially improved the business, especially the addition of the ice cream shop and the sandwich deli. There is always construction and landscaping work going on in the hills of San Carlos and many of the workers come here during lunchtime for refreshments and sandwiches.
We expanded the menu and improved the ingredients significantly. We exclusively use fresh baked bread made by a very professional bakery and all of our sandwiches are made to order with love!
We also increased our beer and wine selection to include many of the brands that the neighborhood people love.
The Devonshire Little Store holds a lot of memories for the neighborhood in San Carlos. Have you met the previous customers of the store, and just for fun, who do you like the best? Who is your best customer? 😊
Since we opened the store, we have met many of the customers that have been supporting in this business for generations, and when I say generations, I mean it. I have met families of four generations that have been coming to this business since the 50’s.
I love all of my customers and I serve them all with love and care, especially the ones that are loyal customers who come here multiple times a week; but if I have to pick who is my favorite crowd, it has to be the kids that come here after school, and they know exactly who they are!
These kids were the very first customers to walk into my business at 8 AM sharp on October 1st 2023, the very first day we opened. And for that, they will always have a special place in my heart!
Mitchell’s Ice Cream – it’s a very popular thing in SF! Please tell us more about it and if you have special recommended flavors, items you’d like to recommend, or any upcoming promos you have for the community?
Regarding Mitchell’s ice cream, I am a big ice cream fan and when I first moved to the Bay Area, my wife took me to Mitchell‘s ice cream in San Francisco. It was very cold outside, but there was a line all the way to the corner of the block, so I said to myself, this has to be the best ice cream in town!!
When I took over the Devonshire Little Store, I told myself I have to carry Mitchell’s ice cream, so I got in touch with them, and we communicated to discuss the idea and eventually after I told him a little bit about the history of the little store they were ecstatic to supply me! It is really good quality ice cream and some of the favorite flavors that has been repeatedly requested are the Grasshopper Pie, the Oreo Cookie, and the Mango Ice Cream!
We always carry the Seasonal Specialties as well – currently, we are carrying Peppermint Candy Ice Cream as well as Spumoni Ice Cream! If you are an Italian American, do you know exactly what Spumoni is!
What are your plans for the future of Devonshire Little Store?
Our future plan for the little store is the expand our inventory, offer smoked tri-tip sandwiches during the summertime, and enhance our ice cream profile!
Any message you have for the community, our readers?
We love the community of San Carlos, we invite them all to come here and try out our ice cream, we also have a special for the kids will go to sports practice, if you come here in your uniform after practice, we will give you a double scoop for the price of one!
I would like to take this venue to thank each and every customer that ever came to the store, please continue the tradition. I would like to thank you for your continued support, we very much appreciate you!
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