LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — When the Lincolnville Center Store reopens this spring, it will be a traditional, nontraditional convenience store.
Jeremy Howard, who with his wife Marcie is renovating the store, envisions something akin to the old general stores of 75-plus years ago — but with Wi-Fi, art on the walls and quality local wine for sale.
“It’s definitely not going to be the beef jerky and lottery ticket kind of place,” he said Thursday.
Instead of jerky, there will be a kitchen where sandwiches, soups, chowders and pastries will be made and a place in the front of the building where customers can relax and eat at tables.
Locally made food, goods and crafts will be featured. Fresh produce also will be sold, and a hardware section is planned.
Howard and his wife purchased the store, which has been vacant for a few years, and two other buildings from Jon and Briar Fishman. Howard, who also operates a small building firm, Heartwood Carpentry, had done carpentry work for the Fishmans when they moved to the area from Vermont. Jon Fishman plays in the band Phish.
The Fishmans have since moved back to Vermont but still own a farm in Lincolnville.
While living in town, they purchased the store, a building that functions as a community hall and another building across Route 52/173, which operated for years as Grampa Hall’s Antiques. The antique shop was in rough shape so the Fishmans decided to demolish it. The community hall is now hosting the town farmers market in season and the community library.
The store was built in the 1850s as a general store, Howard said, and had operated as such ever since. Much of the post-and-beam construction is original and structurally sound, and some of the doors and windows are original, he said.
Two additions at the back of the building were in bad shape and Howard’s crew tore them down and built a new, larger addition. That’s where most of the store’s merchandise and kitchen will be located.
An apartment on the second and third floors will be improved and rented, and Howard said four small offices are being developed in the building to rent to local residents who may tire of working at home. The construction and remodel budget is $150,000, he said.
The purchase and renovation plans are more than cold, business calculation.
“People have a strong connection to that store,” Howard said. Since remodeling work began, he has been fielding inquiries and hearing personal stories, including one man’s account of being married in the store.
Howard hopes to retain the old-timey feel of the place, which used to be characterized by worn floorboards and, for years, a big yellow Lab lying on the floor near the counter. The store was made to look 1960s vintage for some shots featured in the 1993 Mel Gibson film Man Without A Face.
The couple met in Rockport in 1999 and now live in Hope with their three young sons. Jeremy Howard, 36, was born in Camden and grew up in Farmington; his wife, 39 hails from Windsor, Canada. Both are committed to helping Lincolnville Center return to its more lively and prosperous past.
“It always used to be a big, happening place,” he said. “We’re trying to bring small business back to town.”
There is no shortage of enthusiasm in this small town of 2,100, with another village center on Route 1 at Lincolnville Beach, for reviving the area known locally as “the center.” In the fall, a community effort to move the old schoolhouse to a permanent location in the center succeeded.
And town office staff praise Howard for his plan to reopen the store.
“People need a meeting place,” Howard said, and he hopes the new store will provide it. But other community sentiment must be ascertained.
“The one thing we’re trying to figure out is what does the community need,” Howard said. A meeting will be held later this month at which residents will be encouraged to ask the Howards questions about the project. The date and place will be posted on the BDN Midcoast News Facebook page.