BROWNVILLE, Maine — Don Belvin leaned on the counter earlier this week and, like an old friend, chatted with two older women from Nevada who had stopped at the Junction General Store and Entertainment Park for coffee.
When Belvin learned the first-time Maine visitors were trying to find their way to the Jo-Mary forest in the Katahdin Iron Works region to pick up their hiking spouses, the self-proclaimed ambassador of tourism gave them directions, some friendly advice and suggestions of what to see on their trip before they left the state.
Don Belvin, his brother, John Belvin, and their wives Kristin and Coleen, who co-own the Route 11 store, are right where they want to be, living their American dream, but their trip has been a difficult one and they haven’t yet reached their destination.
In 2003, the foursome gave up their out-of-state jobs and moved to Brownville where they invested their life savings in a vacant building and surrounding land. They converted the building into a general store and restaurant, added a campground, invested in a 14-by-20-foot screen to show movies, and added an outdoor amphi-theater where tribute bands perform to sold-out crowds.
A few years after that investment, the economy tanked and fuel costs increased, resulting in less traffic on the once-busy highway by the businesses. Struggling, the foursome placed the store and restaurant up for sale in August 2008. As they prepared to move out-of-state where jobs were more plentiful, the couple found jobs in the region and then fuel prices declined, so they reopened the store in May 2009.
“It was a good decision,” Don Belvin said earlier this week. Some tweaking here and there in the business and the addition of season passes to the entertainment park last year has benefited the business, he said. The brothers also have constructed and sold a couple of homes on the acreage they own to help their cash flow.
“We can make it on our own in 10 years, or it could happen overnight if we could find an investor,” John Belvin said. “We’ve proven ourselves.” Their long-range goal is to eventually add a hotel and cabins and have gasoline services, he said.
“This is entrepreneurship at its finest,” John Belvin said.
The Belvins will feature Hollywood Nights, their last tribute band of the season, which is back by popular demand, at 8 p.m. Saturday in the park.