MACHIAS — For two area couples, a historic building in Machias came with a bonus.
“We bought the building and the store just kind of came with it,” said Isaiah Roberts, one of four people to purchase the iconic white building at 25 Main Street, from which former owner Michael Hoyt’s family had operated Machias Hardware since the 1970s.
Roberts and Harry Finn, who co-own the building and the store with their wives, Caissie Roberts and Gina Finn, are members of the U.S. Merchant Marines and spend six months of the year away from home.
“We had no interest in running the store,” Isaiah Roberts said.
Hoyt had other ideas.
“He said, ‘If you would like, I’ll just give you the store,” Isaiah Roberts said.
After some consideration, the new owners decided to continue to run the retail establishment which has been a fixture in town for generations. The business reopened Monday as the Machias River General Store. They hired Janet St. Pierre to run it full time.
“We’re going to keep it the way [Hoyt] had it, more or less,” Isaiah Roberts said. “We’re just reorganizing, painting and pretty much giving it a fresh look.”
The two couples moved the check-out counter so the front door is visible from the cash register. The shelves of merchandise, which had been arranged parallel to the front windows, are all being turned so they are perpendicular. The idea is to make it easier to have conversations with customers.
The new owners plan to carry the same basic items that customers found inside Machias Hardware, such as bulk spices, housewares, locally roasted coffee and “everything local we can get our hands on,” said Isaiah Roberts.
The new local items include Monica’s Chocolates, which are homemade in Lubec. An old-style wall of candy, which will be sold both in bulk and by the piece, is also coming.
They won’t be selling hardware, however. Despite its former name, Machias Hardware stopped selling hardware a few years ago.
“It’s too hard to compete,” said Isaiah Roberts, noting hardware items are readily available elsewhere in the area and online. “There just wasn’t much sense.”
The Robertses and Finns praised Hoyt, who has been available to answer their many questions. Hoyt even stopped in a couple times and helped unload new stock from the delivery truck, they said.
“I think it’s pretty special because [Hoyt] grew up with the store with his family,” said Gina Finn, adding she hopes her own son, Thomas, 15 months, and Roberts’ son, Nicholas, 3, will grow up in a similar fashion, close to their families.
“The whole family will be in the building all the time,” Gina Finn said.
Hoyt said his grandfather, Curtis Hoyt, and Don Crane bought the store in 1951. The original part of the building, which now houses the Points East Real Estate offices, was constructed as a hardware store in the late 1800s. In the 1940s, it was Hill’s Hardware and then it became C.I. Pittman until it was sold to Hoyt and Crane.
For many years, what is now the Department of Health and Human Services rented all of the offices on the second floor, he said.
Gina Finn said the community has been supportive of the new owners and that many people driving by will beep and wave. A teacher at Washington Academy, she plans to help out at the store during the summer. Caissie Roberts will open her Sew Fetch dog collars business in another first-floor space inside the building.
The real estate offices will remain as will a number of individual mental health and medical practitioners who rent offices on the second floor. The new owners are still looking for a tenant for another space on the first floor.
Over the winter, the new owners plan to redo the siding on the outside of the building and will consider their options for what they can do with the basement. At this time, they have no specific plans for it but want to utilize it in some way.
“This building is full of opportunity,” Isaiah Roberts said.