LEEDS — Twice a week, Rose Ames embarks on an almost 100-mile road trip that she credits for keeping her as sharp as a tack and relatively nimble at the age of 99. She ventures to her former general store in Otisfield.

It was just before noon on Monday, Sept. 26. At one of the white-and-gray tables, Rose, who lives in Leeds with her son and unofficial chauffeur Brian Bagley, sat finishing her breakfast: an egg-and-cheese omelet at Day’s Country Store.

The business was purchased by Meredith and Sewell Day in April 2013, and Meredith is busily manning the grill and cash register and tending to a revolving door of customers.

When Rose owned the small store at Bolster Mills and Big Hill roads, it was known as Ames General Store. They didn’t serve hot food, which is one of the changes she enjoys the most at her former business.

“It is 50 miles to drive for a omelet,” Rose said, putting emphasis on the “a.” “The food is so good — it is such a variety. I don’t know how (Meredith) does it. . . . I can’t get it anywhere else.”

Rose said she can’t do a lot outside the house — even if she is still mobile with her walker — and appreciates Brian driving her to Otisfield every week.

“I’m lucky he takes me out,” she said. “I get a chance to get out and go. It helps (keep me young).”

She’s definitely doing something right. Rose has outlived three husbands and four siblings. Her last classmate from the Class of 1937 at Edward Little High School in Auburn died recently. She counts her blessings that she still has her wits about her and can still move around.

“I have to use that,” Rose said, motioning to the walker beside the table, “but I don’t need a wheelchair. . . . That’s one thing I’m thankful for. I’m not an old person or elderly who can’t remember anything.”

When she was younger, a fortuneteller told her she would live a long life and never go hungry. If she had known she was going to live so long, Rose said she would have kept a journal. But even now, she knows she’s got the food covered.

“When I get hungry, I come to Meri’s,” Rose said, using her nickname for Meredith.

And Rose’s bright personality and hearty sense of humor help brighten the store. Meredith has enjoyed getting to know the former owner and her son, watching their visits increase steadily since she and Sewell took over.

“I think it’s great,” Meredith said about Rose and Brian’s frequent trips to Otisfield. “I don’t think they’ve been here as much as they have since we bought it. When they first started coming it was . . . maybe once a week, maybe every other week. Now they’re here faithfully two or maybe three times a week.”

The mother and son duo bring gifts for Meredith and Sewell’s four children. Meredith said she does little things for Rose and Brian, including baking Rose a cake for her birthday.

“She thought that was great,” Meredith said.

And there was one time when Meredith jokingly tried to get the former store owner to man the counter.

“Meri offered me a job. . . . I told her I needed 12 hours a day , but she wouldn’t go for that,” Rose said, laughing.

Ames General Store

Before purchasing what would become Ames General Store, Rose ran her brother’s store in Auburn. But with the new decade upon her — the ’70s — it was time for a change.

“I wanted my own,” Rose said, adding that it happened when she and her late husband, Ray Ames, opened their doors before Thanksgiving 1970. “(Brian) worked in the store with me. That’s all I’ve ever done.”

Ames General Store sold groceries — most of which they had to ship in from Lewiston and Auburn — including fresh meat and beer.

“If we could buy from the farmers, we did,” Rose said. “It was a very friendly town.”

In addition to now offering hot food, there are aesthetic differences between the two stores. Rose noted there were displays in both of the front windows facing the road.

“It wasn’t something you’d see on Court Street (in Auburn),” she said. “It had different things.”

The general store only had a five-gallon water tank when Rose owned it — situated behind the meat counter.

“They wouldn’t get by with that,” she says about Meredith and Sewell.

“We had a big freezer there,” Rose said, pointing to the extended front counter where the hot food is kept warm and ready for customers to grab on the go.

But what Rose enjoyed the most about her store were the people.

“Everyone was so nice. . . . We liked the people (and) they seemed to like us,” she said. “We didn’t have room for a lot, but everybody seemed happy.”

Changing times

Rose said she’s witnessed a lot of changes in her nearly 100 years. The first one she lists effortlessly — moving from a scrub or washboard for laundry to an automatic washing machine.

People aren’t as hungry these days as they were during the height of the Great Depression from 1929 to 1930, when Rose was 13 years old, and refrigeration systems weren’t available to the masses yet.

“The hungry people in Lewiston-Auburn — it was awful. . . . I will never forget,” she said. “It was a lot of hungry people . . . but everybody helped everybody. There wasn’t as much greed as there is now.”

The school systems were different back when Rose was in high school. She talks about getting to school without using the old adage of walking to school both ways, uphill, in the snow. But really, this is how she got there, she said.

“Back then, we walked to school; they didn’t plow the roads,” she said. “We didn’t have buses. It took an hour or so.”

The future

Things are looking bright for Day’s Country Store.

“This is our best year since we’ve opened,” Meredith said. “It’s great. It’s been busy.”

And some of that boon in business can be attributed to Rose and Brian and their weekly visits.

As for Rose — she has a couple of goals in mind.

“I’d like to see my 100(th birthday), but time goes by before you realize it,” she said. Her century mark is in July 2017.

“My next 10 years will be better,” she promised. “I’ve had a good life.”

Brian’s future is even more simple than his mother’s.

“We’ll see you Thursday,” he called to Meredith as he and Rose walked out the door.

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.