LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — In recent years, Lincolnville Center has been struggling. Once a vibrant, thriving community, the general store has been shuttered for two years, one abandoned home was just razed by the town, and “for sale” signs dot the streets.
But locals are both excited and hopeful this week. A couple that runs a microdairy in town has just purchased the store and plans to have it open within a year. And a community-building workshop held Tuesday attracted more than 50 people.
“I think Lincolnville Center is on the verge of a rebirth,” said Briar Fishman, one of the new owners of the Center General Store. “It’s special. It’s historical. For our family, this feels like home.”
Town Administrator David Kinney said that 2,164 people live in Lincolnville, spread out between the center, the beach and what he affectionately called “the hinterlands.” There has been a lot of concern about the empty store, which had been open and functioning for many years, he said.
“It will be nice to have some energy back there and an open store,” he said. “People were sorry to see it close, and are rejoicing that it will be open again and hopefully a vibrant part of the community.”
In addition to purchasing the store, Jon and Briar Fishman also bought the empty house across the street with the intention of tearing it down and making more green space for the town.
Briar Fishman said she and her husband came from Vermont six years ago and run Elderflower Farm, which produces blueberries, milk, yogurt, mozzarella and other cheeses. Starting later this month, they will be holding a Saturday farmers market outside the store. When the store opens next year they’ll be selling local produce, bulk goods and dry goods. They’re also planning a coffee bar, a juice and smoothie bar and a brick oven for flatbread pizzas.
Before some of these plans can come to fruition, the Fishmans will have to make sure that problems with the old gas tanks are resolved, she said.
Briar Fishman said she sits on the school board and her children attend the Lincolnville Central School, adding that her family is committed to the community. For that reason, the store will be open year-round and not just seasonally.
“The goal is to support the local economy,” she said.
The Fishmans were among the estimated 50 people who attended the daylong community-building workshop on Tuesday that was organized by Friends of Midcoast Maine, the Orton Family Foundation and the Project for Public Spaces.
Over the day, attendees — many of whom came from communities as far away as Brunswick — engaged in activities including “heart and soul community planning” and learning how to look at their towns in a new way by considering a sense of place.
Organizer Andrea Norfleet of Lincolnville said that among the ideas generated was a consideration of how to make the town more “walkable,” how to connect the green spaces and how to best use the empty former Lincolnville Center firehouse and the old schoolhouse next door.
“That’s the whole idea of place making,” Norfleet said.
Diane O’Brien of Lincolnville said she thinks one of the community’s challenges is that it’s actually located too close to Belfast and Camden. A supermarket, for example, isn’t necessary, she said. But other businesses could be.
“I think we’re getting some knowledge about how to look at our town, see its assets and deficiencies,” she said.