Fred Rainbow, right, hands an order of pickup sticks to Bill Oliver on Tuesday at Duffy’s Island Hardware. The Rainbows are closing the store, the only hardware store on Peaks Island, after more than eight years. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Fred and Betty Ann Rainbow have the dubious distinction of having been driven out of business by Amazon – twice.

First, it was bookstores they owned in Gainesville, Florida. Today, it’s Duffy’s Island Hardware, the only hardware store on Peaks Island.

The couple are treating their fate with good humor. “Amazon got us twice,” Ben Rainbow said Tuesday.

“I’m never going to forgive that fella,” he said, referring to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. “We keep waiting for him to go out of business.”

The closing Wednesday of Duffy’s – named after one of the couple’s dogs – will leave a hole in the tight-knit year-round community.

To island resident Bill Oliver, it was the store he could count on for a box of nails, some nuts and bolts, or a roll of duct tape to finish a home repair project. Often, the store meant the difference between a quick errand and a shopping trek to and from stores in mainland Portland, via ferry, an excursion that could take hours.


“An initial motto of ours was that we’re saving you a trip to shore,” Betty Ann Rainbow said.

As Oliver stopped in Tuesday to pick up some reacher-grabber tools for his wife – she uses them to clean up litter on the island – he said the store’s closing left him with an “empty feeling.”

The Rainbows said they share that feeling, but in the end, their tiny store couldn’t compete with big retailers that can mail products directly to a customer’s home within a day or two.

Duffy’s Island Hardware takes up the southern half of the ground floor in a building just a short walk from the Peaks Island ferry landing. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Duffy’s Island Hardware opened in early 2014 – four years after the Rainbows closed the Florida bookstores – and quickly established itself as a trusted resource for the island’s roughly 1,000 residents, who triple in number during the summer.

Islanders have especially valued the year-round presence. Fred Rainbow, however, said business wasn’t exactly brisk once the weather turned cold and the summer people went home.

He boasts that he used to read the New York Times and the Portland Press Herald front-to-back every day, along with some novels. Most days, some friends would drop by to discuss politics.


“All he needed was a potbelly stove,” Betty Ann Rainbow said.

But Fred Rainbow said the goal was never to make a lot of money; the aim was to provide a service to Peaks, where he spent every summer until moving to the island full-time in 2013.

“It was a lot of work, but it was rewarding work,” he said of the store. “And it was modestly profitable.”

“Very modestly,” Betty Ann Rainbow interjected.

Fred and Betty Ann Rainbow are closing their store on Peaks Island, Duffy’s Island Hardware. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The Rainbows plan to donate any leftover tools and hardware and they hope at least some will go to Somali immigrants in the state. Fred Rainbow said it takes a few tools and supplies to truly make a house a home in a new land.

The Rainbows said they knew this week would be filled with a lot of sad goodbyes, probably outnumbering the sales.


“I’ve made a lot of acquaintances and some really good friends,” he said.

Fred Rainbow said he and his wife considered trying to sell the business, but their landlord had already promised the store’s space to another tenant. The couple always considered the location – a short walk from the ferry terminal – as a key part of the store’s identity, since almost everyone on the island visits the ferry terminal regularly.

The couple also realized a new owner would likely face the same competition as they did, but without the same convenient spot.

For the immediate future, the Rainbows said they hope to travel around Maine to visit a laundry list of places they haven’t been to, from Rangeley to Acadia.

The Rainbows also said they will spend time visiting their grandchildren in New York, many of whom helped out in the store when they visited. The couple’s 5-year-old granddaughter was particularly helpful last year, greeting customers and letting them know right away if the store had what they were shopping for.

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