There’s a specialness about Maine general stores that you can’t overstate. Sure, they’re in almost every Maine town. But can you find two that are identical? No, you can’t. General stores have long been the vital centers of their hometowns. Some are known for their food, others for being virtual mini-malls, while still others are outposts on the edge of the woods. They serve as havens where the locals gather to get their coffee, chat about the weather and maybe even hide from it for a while.
General stores should be prime meridians for your rambles ‘round Maine. Stop when you see one and step inside. Slow down. Grab coffee like the locals (it’s probably roasted in Maine). Check with the folks behind the counter about local beaches, good hikes or spots to drop a line. They’ll know.
When you think ‘general store,’ you probably think ‘old.’ And in a lot of cases, that’s true. Look at the Hope General Store, star of its namesake small town in the MidCoast. The first store in this building opened in 1832. But it’s not without its modern touches. Like those big coolers sporting 140 types of beer. Or go enjoy the Washington General Store, in Washington, another small, MidCoast town. It started life in the 1930s as a lumber barn, switched jobs and became a bargain hub and, only recently, was rebuilt to become the town’s general store. It was restored using old lumber, siding and even doors to burnish its historic vibe. You can enjoy that history as well as the store’s large menu.
Food is something that general stores excel at. Pizza is a standby and is often amazing. But many have branched out into primo sandwiches, gourmet baked goods and more. The bright-red Lincolnville General Store cranks up its wood-fired oven and offers top-notch pies along with tasty things like Apple Rhubarb Crostada and Buckwheat Banana Bread (vegan and gluten-free). Sheepscot General’s in Whitefield has an in-store café that draws produce from its adjacent farm. Alna General Store packs ‘em in with its Mexican food (including their home-made salsa) while the Trevett Country Store wows the crowd with lobster rolls and other fresh seafood (it’s right on the water in Boothbay). At Julian’s Wayne General Store, you can you enjoy goods from the in-store bakery and may also arrive in time for an in-store concert (check the website for details).
Another thing you can count on at general stores is stuff – lots of interesting stuff. Some offer work by local artists, such as the East Boothbay General Store, which serves up some of the town’s best food along with home goods by artist Alison Evans. Others, like Hussey’s in the central Maine farming town of Windsor, feature gigantic collections of materials, The self-proclaimed largest general store in Maine, Hussey’s has long bragged it offers “guns, wedding gowns and beer.” They mean it. And in the western Maine town of Eustis, the sprawling Pines Market sells everything from fresh meat to hardware and hunting clothes.
A few of Maine’s most rural general stores act as outposts for folks heading into the North Woods. They offer gas, oil for your snowmobile or ATV, groceries and a bite to eat – as well as a warm place to get out of the cold. Places like Coffin's General Store in the Aroostook County village of Portage and Kokadjo Trading Post & Convenience Store in the village of Kokadjo near Moosehead Lake are far-rural spots popular with hikers, angler, boaters and snowmobilers on an adventure.