Winter Harbor Landmark, J.M. Gerrish Store, Sold

 By Katherine Cassidy

WINTER HARBOR—On paper, it’s a simple transaction: The only ice cream store in town will change hands at the end of the summer.


The J.M. Gerrish store, a favorite for locals and summer visitors for breakfast, lunch and ice cream, will add upscale groceries to its offerings when it change hands on Sept. 15.

STAFF PHOTO BY KATHERINE CASSIDY

On the street, it’s a much bigger deal.

Residents are buzzing about the pending sale of the J.M. Gerrish store by F. Eugene “Fitz” Dixon, a lifelong summer resident, to Roxanne Quimby, a relative newcomer.

Dixon, 79, and Quimby, 53, are part-time residents and major property owners in town. Each already owns one of the town’s biggest businesses—Dixon the IGA grocery store and Quimby the Mama’s Boy Bistro restaurant.

The grocery store and the restaurant share a common waterfront view from their Main Street locations on the bay.

Their owners share a common dream for Winter Harbor.

Dixon said his sole interest in selling to Quimby is to preserve having “a place in town where you can buy an ice cream,” he said.

That’s the kind of place that Quimby, her son and his girlfriend have in mind for Winter Harbor, too.

Quimby, who made her fortune in the Burt’s Bees line of 150 natural personal-care products, will take ownership of the J.M. Gerrish store on Sept. 15. A Winter Harbor resident for about five years, she is known for her extensive landholdings in Aroostook County, where she wants to establish the Maine North Woods as a national park.

Quimby divides her time between Winter Harbor and Durham, N.C., where Burt’s Bees has its headquarters. She will leave the store’s management to Lucas St. Clair, her son, and Jennifer Amara, who are her business partners in Quimby’s Winter Harbor ventures.

The J.M. Gerrish store has been a seasonal ice cream parlor and eatery through the decades. Dixon has owned Gerrish’s store for about 12 years.

“As an investment, the store was a flop,” Dixon said on Monday during an interview at the groundbreaking ceremonies in Ellsworth for the Maine Coast Memorial Hospital expansion, for which he is a $2 million contributor.

“But as a place where you can buy ice cream, it still exists, and will continue to exist.

“The name won’t change.”

But the feel of stepping into J.M. Gerrish’s will, if only slightly.

Think of Sawyer’s Market in Southwest Harbor, or Bar Harbor Provisions in Bar Harbor: That’s what St. Clair and Amara have in mind.

Together they manage Mama’s Boy, which reopened last month with an expanded building, a payroll of 36 employees and seating for 98 for dinner nightly.

With the assistance of managers, they will handle the day-to-day business of Gerrish’s when it reopens next May.

Dixon approached Quimby late last month about buying Gerrish’s store. On June 29, after Quimby tentatively agreed to the sale, Dixon met with St. Clair and Amara.

The visions clicked.

“Mr. Dixon believes in Lucas and I, and was impressed with what we have done with Mama’s Boy,” Amara said.

Dixon “has been here since he was very young, and he’s very particular about the town. He wants it to remain true to how it was when he was younger.

“He feels that we have rebuilt the restaurant in good taste, he believes we run a business well, and he’d like Gerrish’s to be in our hands.”

The deal was sealed with a downpayment.

Current managers are Glenn and Megan Moshier, who are in their third season of operating the business.

They live above the store with their young son. With the sale on Sept. 15, they will be looking for new living space in addition to new jobs.

The couple have had the option to buy the building and business from Dixon all along, but declined again this latest time, before Dixon turned to Quimby.

St. Clair, who likes to have lunch at Gerrish’s, and Amara may use the upstairs apartment for themselves. Other options are using it for restaurant staff housing, or else as a weekly rental.

 They will add the word ‘Provisions’ to the J.M. Gerrish name. They will keep ice cream, and will add upscale grocery items such as cheese, wine, pastries and cappuccino.

Toward that end, Dixon’s wife Edith on Monday wrote a letter to the town’s residents, explaining the sale. She wrote, in part: “The Dixons purchased Gerrish’s to maintain its tradition in Winter Harbor. They wanted to ensure that residents and visitors to town would be able to enjoy an ice cream just as they had for years before. … the Dixons are pleased to find that Roxanne, Lucas and Jen are sensitive to the needs of Winter Harbor and will work to preserve its’ traditions. It will be wonderful to have JM Gerrish continue as it has been.”

Noted St. Clair: “We think the store will be a great asset for the town, and we will continue to maintain its original character. People have fond memories of the way it was, and we want to keep that feel.

“We’d like to thank Mr. Dixon for thinking that we can continue in the tradition and for letting us have this opportunity.”

   

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