Nearly six years after the prior owners locked the doors and walked away, new owners are renovating a Route 1 grocery store in Sullivan and hope to have it open again for business next month.
When it does, the former Dunbar’s Grocery will reopen as “The Dunbar Store.”
Co-owners Scott Holtz and Bobby Cheshire bought the business — which sits just south of a scenic turnout on Route 1 where motorists can park and admire the view over Frenchman Bay to Mount Desert Island — last year from Phil and Becky Dunbar. The Dunbars closed the store, — which, according to new lettering on the front doors, first opened in the late 1800s — in late 2013 and never reopened, according to the Ellsworth American weekly newspaper.
The new owners started renovations in January and are nearing completion on an entirely refurbished interior, including new wiring, lighting and windows — some that have been installed at the rear of the building so customers can see the view of the bay.
They have added a small, enclosed porch at the back, built a central counter with marble tops, and have raised the ceiling in the central portion of the store for a more open feel. A small circular staircase that leads to attic storage space rises up next to a large, amber-colored, acorn-shaped light that hangs over the counter.
On a high shelf above a row of glass reach-in refrigerators sit some antique wooden boxes, a Narragansett Beer sign, and a large analog clock with Roman numerals. An antique phone with what Holtz described as a “piercing” ringer is mounted to a column in the store, and still works.
“We’re modeling it more as a country store,” Holtz said Friday, taking a break from remodeling. The previous version of Dunbar’s more closely resembled a traditional grocer, he said, but he and Chesire plan to sell more prepared food and provisions, complete with deli, meat and seafood counters.
Holtz said he and Chesire have been coming to Maine for vacation from their former home in Vermont for years and last year decided to move to Maine permanently. They have driven many times past Dunbar’s on their way to and from their house in the Gouldsboro village of Corea and, after seeing the store sit idle for several years, decided to inquire about buying it.
He said they plan to sell craft beers and wine, locally raised meats and dairy and seafood along with sandwiches, coffee, baked goods and other types of food. As longtime Vermont residents, they plan to sell Vermont maple syrup, though they might sell some from Maine, too, he joked. They plan to sell a wide variety of Maine-made products, he added.
Holtz said they plan to be open 14 hours a day, from early morning through early evening, though maybe with shorter hours on one or two days. They also want to be open year-round, and are eager to learn what kinds of things their customers will want them to carry.
He said the goal is to open the first week of June, though it might be the second week. They have a lot of trim work they need to finish before they can place orders and stock the shelves and coolers, he said.
“All the ‘wow’ stuff is done,” Holtz said with a laugh, referring to the major interior changes. “And the rest doesn’t seem to be going quickly enough.”
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