BUCKSPORT, Maine — After serving generations of shoppers for more than 100 years, an integral anchor of downtown Bucksport is closing its doors for good.
Rosen’s Department Store on Main Street will be shuttered as soon as it sells off its inventory, said the shops owners, Richard and Kimberly Rosen, on Friday. To move things along, everything in the store is on sale at 50 percent off.
With its focus on customer support, fine apparel and footwear for men and women, Rosen’s has woven itself into the fabric of Bucksport like the wool in a Pendleton sweater. Richard Rosen’s grandparents — Robert and Sarah Rosen — immigrated to the United States from Russia in the late 19th century and opened the store in Baileyville in 1910. Nineteen years later, they packed up and moved the shop and their family to Bucksport.
“That was the year construction started on the Waldo-Hancock Bridge, and the construction on what was then called the Seaboard Paper Company,” Rosen said Friday. “The future looked bright in Bucksport.”
Rosen’s father, Larry Rosen, worked on Wall Street for about a decade before moving back to Maine in the ‘40s. After serving in World War II, he took over his parents shop, along with his wife, Lillian. The couple had three sons, including Richard, and raised them in Bucksport — and at the shop. The three brothers all worked in the store as children, but it was Richard and Kimberly who took over in 1985.
The two ran the store in the time they had outside responsibilities in Augusta: Richard Rosen was a state senator from 1998 to 2012, and Kimberly Rosen was a state representative who termed out of office in 2012 after winning four consecutive elections. Sometime in between, they raised a son and a daughter.
Now, with their children grown up with careers of their own and Richard working full time as Gov. Paul LePage’s director of policy and management, the couple decided it’s time to call the store a success and move on.
“The store did just what it was set up to do: It provided the opportunity for three generations of families to make a living, to educate their children, to build a life,” Richard Rosen said. “That was the goal and the purpose of the store, and it delivered.”
Shops like Rosen’s are a dying breed in the retail market. Small, family-owned department stores are becoming a thing of the past with the growth of sprawling megastores such as Walmart. Many of the customers browsing merchandise at Rosen’s on Friday said the void created by the store’s closure won’t easily be filled.
Holly Taylor-Lash, 59, of Orland, went to school with Richard Rosen and said shopping at the department store is a tradition and a statement.
“A lot of the reasons I came here was just to support the family and the business,” she said. “I don’t like places like malls. I’ll miss it here. The people are like family.”
Customers who were interviewed all mentioned the staff, some of whom have worked at the store for decades. Many echoed Taylor-Lash’s sentiment, saying the folks at Rosen’s were more like friends and family than shopkeepers.
Debbie Tymoczko, who has worked at Rosen’s for six years, said that employees know their customers by name and stock the shelves with specific community members in mind. That kind of service kept people coming back, especially older customers, she said.
“A lot of our customers are elderly,” Tymoczko said. “It’s hard for them to go to the mall, walk the whole parking lot, and then find someone who can really help them. We’re unique in that way. We can sit them down, bring them clothes to try on.”
For many who grew up in Bucksport, going on their first shopping trip at Rosen’s was a right of passage.
“This is a landmark from my childhood,” said 36-year-old Steven St. Peter, Jr. He said he could remember the first time he walked through Rosen’s doors.
“I had $30 saved up and I came in to buy a pair of jeans,” he said. “I was just 9 years old, and I wanted a set of Levi’s. I used to come here school shopping. …This is a landmark from my childhood, and now it’s going the way of the dinosaur.”
Kimberly Rosen was in the shop Friday reminiscing with customers and employees. She fought back tears as she talked about all the hours she and her family had spent in the store. It was a hard decision to close the store, she said. Even at the last minute, before the announcement was made, they waffled.
“Richard told me, ‘You know, we still have time to change our minds,’” she said. “It’s like a funeral, it’s really sad.”
The Rosens said they may rent the building, or sell it outright, though Kimberly Rosen said she’d like to see it remain a department store if possible. She even threw out the possibility of reopening Rosen’s someday, after she and her husband have finished their careers in public service.
“It doesn’t mean it’s the end,” she said. “We’ll still be here in town, and who knows what might happen in a few years?”
In a moment of levity Friday, between helping customers, Tymoczko started dancing to the music playing over radio speakers. The song was “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen.
“That’s a fitting song for today,” St. Peter said.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.