STOCKHOLM, Maine — When neighbors realized that Stockholm’s only grocery store might not survive past Christmas, they decided it wouldn’t.
Anderson’s Store, at 327 Main St., has been a landmark for the city since brothers John and Lewis Anderson established the business in 1904. The Anderson family expanded the grocery store over the years to include a bakery and a Butcher shop.
Anderson’s is still a go-to destination for residents of and around Stockholm and summer and winter tourists looking for fresh food and drinks on the go. But in recent months, owners Deb Paiement and Phil Andrews have struggled to get by.
Losing the store would mean residents would have to travel nearly 20 miles to Caribou to buy groceries. Erica Anderson Gray and Brenda Jepson, who live in neighboring towns, are doing everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen, including hosting Anderson Appreciation Day to attract customers to the store.
“We had a great response to [the Appreciation Day], but we need people to frequent that store to keep it going,” Jepson said. “It’s easy to shop in Caribou when we’re there, but we have to remember how convenient it is to have a store here in town.”
Paiement and Andrews purchased the store from the Anderson family in 2018 after moving back to Aroostook County from the Sebago Lake area. Originally from Houlton and Caribou, respectively, the couple went into the grocery business after failing to find a barn to convert into a restaurant and entertainment venue.
They had high hopes of continuing the local staple, until the pandemic limited the number of customers coming through the doors. Then supply chain shortages and inflation pushed prices for food, fuel, and electricity beyond what they could imagine.
“Everything is harder to find and more expensive,” Andrews said. “We try to keep everything that we know people need or want, but it’s a challenge.”
With a gas station outside and goods like coffee, soft drinks, chips, cigarettes, and alcohol sold inside, Anderson’s Store could easily be mistaken for another roadside convenience store.
But Stockholm residents, especially senior citizens, frequent the store for common grocery items like milk, eggs, cheese, pasta, spices, packaged and frozen dinners, and fresh vegetables.
The staff of eight, including Andrews and Paiement, keep the place stocked with freshly slaughtered meats, homemade pizzas and pies, the latter coming from former co-owner Suzy Anderson’s recipes.
To cut costs, the couple cut back on non-essential food and Paiement, who typically handles finances and clerical duties, works five hours a week to reduce payroll expenses without laying off employees.
Several times this fall, the couple has warned customers via their Facebook page that they are out of gas or close to running out of gas in their tanks.
“We have decreased our expenses by 35 percent since September,” Paiement said.
However, in late November, Paiement posted a post on Facebook saying that she and Andrews weren’t sure how long the store could continue to operate.
That’s when Gray and Brenda stepped up.
Gray lives in Woodland, a small town more than 12 miles south of Stockholm, but he has fond memories of visiting Anderson’s Store as a child. Jepson lives in the vicinity of Lake Madawaska, a popular summer tourist destination, but is a regular customer of Anderson’s.
Gray and Jepson organized Anderson Appreciation Day in conjunction with the Stockholm holiday kickoff events on the first Saturday in December.
People who visited the store that day entered contests to win gift baskets, and staff made additional cakes in anticipation of a larger crowd. Sales doubled that day, Paiement said.
“We did what we thought we could do to help people realize what a great variety store we have,” Gray said.
But the real goal is for customers to help the store get through the winter, Gray and Jepson said.
The summer and tourist seasons typically bring 800 to 1,000 people to Anderson’s in search of food and gasoline. With Anderson’s located across the street from the local snowmobile trails, the winter months bring a regular stream of cyclists.
So far, though, December temperatures have remained unusually high in Aroostook and rain has melted snow that arrived before Thanksgiving.
“We’re really operating month-to-month now,” Paiement said. “If we have to keep downsizing, we might consider removing the bakery or grocery stores for a while.”
If that happened, many grocery customers would be forced to travel nearly 20 miles south to Caribou, one of Aroostook’s two towns, Jepson said.
Plus, a Stockholm without Anderson would mean the loss of another one-stop shop near Route 161, which runs from Caribou to Fort Kent.