FARMINGTON – Thursday was a sad day for many Farmington shoppers as the curtain closed, at least for now, on a longtime downtown grocery store.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, when Kathy and Gary Weed locked the door at Don’s AG, it marked the first time since the mid-1950s that there has not been some form of grocery store at that Main Street location. For months, shoppers have noticed the dwindling store stock and have been anxiously awaiting word from the Weed family on the future of their beloved market, which has been for sale since last year. In April, the store was closed for a period of time and when it reopened, it was announced that everything must go.

All this week, merchandise was on sale, starting at 25 percent off on Monday and Tuesday, and lowering to half off for the final two days.

By Thursday afternoon, all that remained on the barren shelves were a few bags of frozen vegetables, some bottles of soda and some boxes of dry muffin mix.

“Everyone is pretty upset about it,” said Amy Hoisington, a University of Maine at Farmington sophomore from Norway who has worked at the store since September.

“It will definitely leave a big hole in the downtown. A lot of people are really going to miss it. I liked working here because it was small, and you really got to know the customers.”

Hoisington said the appeal of Don’s AG from the customer’s end was the store’s size, the personable interactions between workers and shoppers, and the ease of stopping in to get one of two things.

That seems to be the general sentiment among customers.

“Oh, it’s very sad,” said Betty Knox who has been shopping at the location since the 1960s when it used to be an A & P, managed by Kathy’s father, Don, who later bought the store and for whom the store is named. “I am going to miss it,” she added, lifting her bagged purchases off the counter for the last time and smiling at Kathy. “It’s very convenient and they have the best frozen strawberries I’ve ever found in any store.”

Gretchen Legler, a UMF professor, has only been shopping at Don’s for three years, but has quickly grown fond of the intimate market where Gary and Kathy bag groceries and chat alongside their employees and their customers.

“It’s convenient, it’s friendly and it doesn’t overwhelm me. It wasn’t big enough to do all my shopping here, but I am sad to see the shelves so empty. I’ve always liked it.”

Thursday was the end of an era, and the turning of a page for more than Gary and Kathy but also for their many devoted customers.

While customers made off with everything on the shelves, Madeline Haines actually made off with the shelves. The Phillips woman is planning on opening her own restaurant and bakery, named 93 Main Street Café in downtown Phillips, and when she heard Don’s was closing, she decided to seize on the situation. “I hate to see any small business close,” she said, loading up stacks of metal shelving into the back of her pickup.

Although the buyer of the building that up until Thursday housed Don’s has not been announced yet, the Weed family has assured people that they will be back in the building with a smaller, more specialized gourmet food and beverage store.

“It’s going to be smaller, but better; that’s the secret to being competitive today,” said Gary. He said the end of small business was the lifting of the blue-light laws, which meant that stores with more than 5,000 square feet could be open for business on Sundays.

He expects the new store to feature a selection of high quality meats, cheeses, baked goods, snacks and hopefully, wine. “I think downtown Farmington really needs something like that.”

Paul Mills is a Farmington lawyer who for the last 10 years could be found at lunchtime leaning against the brick wall at Don’s eating his deli sandwich and waving to passersby. He said he has confidence that whatever Kathy and Gary embark on next will be worthwhile for themselves and the people of Farmington.

“I feel very wistful and nostalgic,” he said of the closing, “but nevertheless, cautiously optimistic there will be some sort of renascence of the business in the next few months. I think it has the resilience to rebound in a very meaningful context.”

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