Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Farewell to Buddy’s Store? - Dispatches from Maine

In Happier Days
A couple summers ago I posted a paean of sorts to Buddy’s, our local country store here in New Gloucester [“Eat Here & Get Gas” - Looking Toward Portugal   (September 1, 2012) -].  Since then I have continued to watch this familiar landmark gradually wither away, a mere shadow of its former self.  And now it is closed and up for sale and I fear it may be gone for good.

Back in the early days, when we were coming up here for two or three weeks every year during the month of August, I would arise early in the morning and head up to Buddy’s on the main highway a couple miles from the lake cottage.  I would have a quiet early morning breakfast while folks stopped by for coffee on their way to work.  Delivery men restocked the shelves and coolers for a new day, and a few regulars would gather at the same table to enumerate and then solve the problems of the world . . . all in that unique Maine vernacular.  Armed with my notebook I would scribble notes and ideas and snippets of conversation and then I would head back to the cottage and bring SallyAnn, who had stayed in bed for a couple more hours of sleep, up-to-date on all that I had heard and learned.

Unfortunately, a few years ago the State of Maine realigned Maine Route 26 in order to bypass a series of dangerous curves on this heavily traveled road between Portland and western Maine, northern New Hampshire, and Montréal and the Eastern Townships of Québec.  With this rerouting Buddy’s was no longer the place to stop and the regular commerce and customers gradually vanished.  It was not uncommon to drive by and see not a single car parked outside.  It began to open late and close early.  There was very little there to buy except for whatever was in the coolers.  Breakfast and other fast food were replaced by slices of heated-up pizza.  One could still purchase no-name gas, but at prices twenty to thirty cents higher than any other filling station in the area.  Without breakfast and coffee the local morning council moved on and the problems of the world went unsolved.   More recently it seemed to be closed more often than open, and a couple days ago I drove by and discovered that the property is up for sale.

Several years ago Buddy (turns out that was not his real name) told me at the end of one summer that he was going to convert the place into a brew pub over the winter and for the next several months back home in Maryland I dreamed of visiting Buddy’s (or whatever its new name might be) for happy hour rather than breakfast.  That next summer, as we arrived back at the lake, we turned the last corner and Buddy’s came into view.  No brew pub, but still the place we had come to know and love.  No happy hours, but I did return most mornings for breakfast and life went on.  The problems of the world continued to be resolved.  Perhaps I can still dream that a rural brew pub might arise in the future, but to be honest, I fear this time Buddy’s might be gone for good. 

Now the locals and passers through will be obliged to seek out the small stores in the Upper Village for quick stops for gas, milk, beer, and the like.  Cloutier’s Mini-Market offers good coffee throughout the day and there are fresh pastries available if you get there early enough.  And nearby Link’s serves food to a few scattered tables in back yet it just does not have the that early morning ambiance that Buddy’s once did. I make breakfast at the cottage now which is fine with me and I eat out on the deck while enjoying yet another nice day on the lake. 

I drive by and see the sign announcing “Eat Here & Get Gas.”   Perhaps I have really done that for the last time.  It was an icon whose time has come and gone.  .  I will miss Buddy’s. I

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