Fossa’s General Store targets mid-June for grand opening

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    DEXTER — The long-anticipated grand opening of Fossa’s General Store is tentatively scheduled for mid-June as work continues on the landmark building in downtown Dexter.

NE-Fossa-dc3-PO-23Observer photo/Mike Lange

    JUDY WILBUR CRAIG, Fossa’s store manager, is shown with an antique slate double sink, donated to the store by the Plymouth Lodge of Odd Fellows.

    “We’ve had our share of setbacks, but right now everything looks good for a mid-June opening,” said Judy Craig, executive director of the Dexter Community Farm Project. “What’s really exciting is the number of people in their 20s and 30s who have volunteered on this project. They’re interested in a healthy lifestyle and supporting the local economy.”
    Fossa’s General Store, a non-profit start-up project of the Dexter Regional Development Corporation, will open as a retail outlet for locally-grown, locally-produced products. Thanks to some key donations, Fossa’s will also have a commercial kitchen for take-out food.
    “We’re not in competition with convenience stores,” Craig said. “Our products will be quite different. But we need to generate enough income to make payroll and keep the doors open.”
    Mark and Tina Belair, owners of Darby Creek Soups, donated several items from the old Annie’s Restaurant. The Plymouth Lodge of Odd Fellows, which gave up their charter in 2007, donated a commercial gas stove and antique slate double sink that will be used to display items in the front of the store.

NE-Fossa-dc1-PO-23Observer photo/Mike Lange

    FOSSA’S assistant manager Deb Learned of Exeter works on some shelving for the store.

    “The Charleston Correctional Center inmates moved the stove and sink down from the third floor of the town office, and did a lot of interior work for us. I can’t thank them enough,” Craig noted. Reny’s Department Store also gave Fossa’s a set of display shelves.
    In turn, Fossa’s has used primarily local businesses for construction and other materials. J. Wilbur Construction of Dexter has been the major contractor, the ash and cedar for the floor and walls came from Yoder Sawmill of Corinna and many supplies have been purchased from Tillson’s True Value and Dexter Lumber, Craig noted.
     The store will also host classes for all ages on a subjects ranging from agricultural tips and cooking to QuickBooks™. “These will be consumer-driven. If someone makes a suggestion for a subject, we’ll find someone to conduct the classes,” Craig said.
    In the meantime, Fossa’s needs farmers to sell their wares in the store and vendors can call 924-DEXT (3398) or visit the Fossa’s General Store Facebook page for information.
    Much of the funding came through two Community Development Block Grants of $230,000 and $140,000, a USDA grant of $40,000 for the kitchen and two grants requiring a local match: $50,000 and $20,000 from the Dexter Regional Development Corporation.
    Craig noted that as the store’s opening drew closer, it was time to find a lending institution to extend a line of credit. ‘Three hurdles came up immediately. We were a start-up business, non-profit and agricultural,” Craig said. “Fortunately, Carla Booth from Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI) really came through for us.”

Observer photo/Mike Lange

    WAYNE SCHAEFER of Milo touches up the burners for Fossa’s kitchen stove. Schaefer will be the cook when the store opens in mid-June.

    Booth is a loan and investment officer for CEI and said that Fossa’s is the type of enterprise the corporation traditionally supports. “Our mission is to create new jobs and solidify new businesses,” Booth said. “We worked in conjunction with Machias Savings Bank to provide working capital for Fossa’s, and we funded some leftover renovations that hadn’t been completed. I think they have a great staff and dedicated volunteers who have really committed themselves.”
    Fossa’s General Store was bought by Mario Fossa in 1951, and then owned and managed by his son, James, and grandson Jimmy until the 1970s. The corner building was unoccupied for many years except for brief periods of time as a print shop and discount store. Craig said that the new Fossa’s will be an anchor for downtown Dexter, which has had its share of empty storefronts in recent years.
    “People stop by almost every day and reminisce about the old Fossa’s, and how glad they are to see the building preserved,” Craig said.
 Like all the full-time and part-time employees, assistant store manager Deb Learned of Exeter started as a volunteer.
    “This is a huge asset for the community,” Learned said. “The other volunteers have been tremendous to work with. We’re all looking forward to the grand opening.”

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