Bob Coolidge sits on the counter at his store in the early 1980s. Photo courtesy of Amy Chapman

GREENWOOD — It’s been nearly 20 years since Bob’s Corner Store closed, but owner Bob Coolidge still finds time to reflect on his days of owning the place, which people now know as the Local Hub.

Bob Coolidge, left, talks to Peter Haines outside his store in the early 1980s. 

He started working at the store when it was Lee’s Variety, run by Lee Mills. He worked for Mills for 17 years.

Just before he bought the store in the early 1970s, it was damaged by fire. Coolidge recalled the day it went up in flames.

The fire started when he was home eating lunch and by the time he returned, the garage was a “burning inferno.” The Fire Department also only had one truck at the time.

Despite the drums of gas and many tires in the garage, the fire was contained.

To this day Coolidge still can’t believe the building was not a total loss.

“The good Lord is what stopped it, that’s all I can say,” he said.

With many repairs needed and a lot of inventory lost, Coolidge knew he had his work cut out for him. Then came carpenter Hank Rolfe and his crew to the rescue.

Rolfe was good friends with Mills, and brought his crew to help clean the store out and do repairs.

It did not take long for the store to get going again.

When Coolidge officially took over, he decided “more or less” to keep it as a general store.

“It was pretty much a general store, it had a little bit of everything: groceries, hardware, fish and tackle, hunting items, and so on,” he said.

Coolidge also rented canoes and boats to people who wanted to explore the many ponds in the area.

“The story around town was if Bob don’t have it you don’t need it,” he said.

Coolidge also had gas pumps out front and a big inventory in his garage that included tires, fan belts, brake pads, brake shoes and universal joints.

He said getting parts was more of a challenge back then because of the limited supply in Bethel.

“You had to run to Norway or Rumford if you needed a part,” he said. “You might have had one salesman come once a week and deliver once a week, too.”

For him it was about getting the parts quickly so he could finish work and get to the next car.

“You had to get the part, get it fixed and then get it out and get the other one in,” he said.

Coolidge did all of the auto repairs himself for years until hiring Butch Corkum for an extra set of hands. Owen Brown also worked for Coolidge for a while.

Coolidge met many people while owning the store and spoke of one of his fondest memories, an interaction he had with a little boy.

The boy lived on Main Street and decided to go to Bob’s before school one day. He walked in and immediately went to the penny candy. Coolidge was getting ready to vacuum the floor when he saw the boy get down on his knees and start to take candy from the counter. He’d put some in his pocket and some in his hand. He laid it out on the countertop. Coolidge asked him about the other candy he had in his pocket.

He started pulling it out and putting it on the counter and he pulled a raw potato out when doing so. This all happened when Coolidge was talking about possibly having to phone the sheriff. The boy then looked at Coolidge and said, “But I did not steal the potato.”

“I’ll never forget that as long as I live,” Coolidge said with a laugh. “From then on he was one of the best customers I ever had.”

“I will say I met a lot of wonderful people and I miss being there,” Coolidge said. “It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of hours, but it was rewarding.”

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