BROWNVILLE, Maine — Brothers John and Don Belvin and their wives had intended to sell the business they created from the ground up when high fuel costs and a tanking economy last year left them with barely enough to meet expenses.
They reluctantly put their Route 11 Junction General Store and Entertainment Park up for sale last fall and packed their bags. Don planned to head south for a carpentry job, and his wife, Coleen, intended to leave her nursing job to join him. John and his wife, Kristin, also a nurse, intended to head to Presque Isle, where a job was waiting for him at a big-box store.
It was a tough decision for the brothers who had followed their dream in 2003 by returning to their hometown, where they pumped their life savings into a vacant building and 70 acres off Route 11. There they converted the property into a general store, restaurant, campground and amphitheater for live concerts.
The brothers tended to the business while their wives worked at nursing jobs in the region. But just as the business started to see a profit last year, gasoline prices rose to an all-time high and the economy began to sour.
“Last year was our best year and we weren’t sure if it wasn’t too little, too late,” Don Belvin said this week. “We went through so many emotions toward the end of last year, and we thought because of the high fuel prices we did not see an end to it, and we just truly thought that there was no way this could go on. Fear got to us more than anything last year and it probably shouldn’t have.”
Belvin said it really hit home when their boxes were packed.
Before they hoisted those boxes into a moving van, however, both men landed jobs in the region.
And then fuel prices declined.
“We were quite tickled,” Belvin said.
Another boost came from their fans, who told them how much they would be missed.
After a Bangor Daily News story last fall reported that the families were leaving, they were flooded with telephone calls and e-mails encouraging them to reopen and to continue to offer quality entertainment, Belvin said. He said their Web site had more than 5,400 hits after the story.
“The response from our fans all over the state has been just overwhelming,” Belvin said. “They knew how hard we had worked and wanted us to stay.”
With that encouragement, the Belvins plan to reopen the store and restaurant Memorial Day weekend and continue to be open weekends throughout the summer and fall. The campground also will be open and a series of live tribute concerts as well as new-release movies are planned for the amphitheater, according to Belvin. Season passes to the concerts will be on sale for $100 on Memorial Day weekend.
Belvin said the tribute concerts planned for the 2009 season include: Night Train, a Guns N’ Roses tribute, July 3; Back in Black, an AC/DC tribute, July 4; Captured, a Journey tribute, July 17; Rick Larimore, a Rod Stewart tribute, July 18; Mamakin Weekend, an Aero-smith tribute, Aug. 7 and 8; and Diver Down, a Van Halen tribute, Sept. 5.
A Christian revival weekend will be held Aug. 1-2 and churches of all denominations are invited. On Friday and Saturday nights in June, karaoke singing will be offered until dark and then new-release DVDs will be shown.
“We are nervous and excited, Belvin said. “We know it’s going to be a great summer again and we know the support will be there. We’re just hoping that, you know, maybe it will be enough this time to get us going again and get us back to where we need to be.
“We really do thank God. He’s giving us the strength,” Belvin said.
For information, call 965-8876 or visit www.thejunctiongeneral.com.