Time for a break after 31 years: Danny’s owners selling, retiring, sort of

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LEWISTON — Danny Fortin jokes that he’s tired, and it makes sense.

He and his wife, Martha, have owned and run Danny’s, a gas station and convenience store on the Lewiston/Sabattus town line, for 31 years and worked it side by side. She had to cajole him for years into letting them take one day off a year, Christmas.

“It’s an old station, like just the old man working it,” Fortin, 64, said, laughing. “Without her, I could have never made it, obviously.”

They’ve decided by the end of 2017, to hang it up, together.

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Last week, the couple changed the sign outside Danny’s that’s always filled with the names of lucky lottery winners to a simple note that it’s time to retire and Danny’s is up for sale.

Martha’s prodding might not have convinced him that they need to start taking it easy, but two granddaughters, 4 and 7, have. 

“They’re the light of our lives,” he said. “Now, the girls come first.”

They bought the old service station in 1986, a year after getting married. He’d worked on cars his whole life. The first year, he fixed and towed cars. The next year, they added pumps for gas, pumps that are now antiquated compared to stores like Cumberland Farms up the road.

“The big stores, the fancy gas stations, everyone’s got gas pumps with card readers,” he said. “We’ve got the old-fashioned ones and the young people don’t even know how to run them, anyhow. They look for someplace to put their card in.”

He’s at Danny’s at 5 a.m. and his buddies roll in soon after for coffee. That part he’ll miss.

“They all come in and have coffee and we rib each other pretty hard,” Fortin said. “I got one guy, he won’t spend the money for the paper, so I’ve got to tell him what’s in it, for years. It’s quite the circus.”

Martha joins him at 7 a.m., both staying until 7 most nights. They could have had staff cover some shifts, said Martha, 58, but that never made sense.

“Every time you turn around, there’s something wrong, so it’s easier just to be here to deal with it,” she said.

The store’s had a long reputation as a lottery lucky spot, fueled by the rotating sign of winners outside and once being among the top five lottery ticket sellers in the state.

It’s currently ranked No. 170 out of 1,228 stores, according to the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations, with $399,819 in ticket sales last year.

Their customers have won snowmobiles, vehicles, and one person, $100,000.

One of the key draws, Danny said, has been always offering every single game the lottery has, since the beginning.

“We’ve had a lot, a lot of winners, but we’ve sold a lot of tickets,” he said.

They’d like to retire come September or so and rent the store if it doesn’t sell.

The only time the couple has taken two days off in a row in three decades was to watch their son, Ryan, graduate from boot camp with the U.S. Marines.

“He took a couple vacations (as a kid) without us because we couldn’t leave the store,” Martha said.

Now, she’s looking forward to their first family trip with Ryan, his wife and their two granddaughters.

Martha plans to do some kind of work after leaving Danny’s, but it won’t be every day. Retiring for him means continuing to go out to tow calls through Danny’s Towing.

“I’m going to be a fair-weather tower: When it’s fair weather, I’ll be towing cars,” said Danny, who is paring down to just one tow truck. “She says, ‘You buy another one, you’re going to sleep in it.'”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

Danny and Martha Fortin have owned Danny’s gas station on outer Sabattus Street in Lewiston for more than 30 years. They are finally taking their first vacation this fall — a permanent one.

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