By Brian Kevin
August 22, 2014
Classic New England General Stores in Maine
Credit: David Litschel / Alamy

Functional, picturesque, and quintessentially New England, there’s something about a general store that evokes a sense of Norman Rockwell romance. Still a hub of many small Maine towns, the general store is one part convenience store, one part coffee shop, and one part community gathering space. Where else can you get a cup of joe, a good woodworker’s chisel, a nice flannel shirt, a dozen farm fresh eggs, and a bottle of red for tonight’s dinner—all while catching up on the local scandals? As a new generation of proprietors takes over, many of Maine’s general stores are branching out, incorporating performance spaces, community education, artisanal bakeries, and more. Weekend breakfast offerings at a few of these country stores give some of Portland’s sexiest brunch spots a run for their money. These five rural trading posts are among Maine’s best, putting their own fresh, welcoming spins on small-town tradition.

New Gloucester Village Store

Eight creative breakfast sandwiches anchor a knockout breakfast menu with a strong local/organic emphasis—the pastrami, egg, and swiss comes highly recommended. A community market since the 1890s, today’s New Gloucester Village Store is also worth a stop for its brick-oven pizzas, locally raises and butchered meats, and impressive wine selection.

Sheepscot General Store

I caught an indie folk concert and a yoga class here before ever purchasing a single item, which gives some idea of this store’s versatile role in the tiny community of Whitefield. In addition to organic produce, knockout pastries, and dry goods, the mildly crunchy Sheepscot General offers open mic nights, drum circles, and CSA shares.

Stutzman's Farm Stand & Bakery

Third-generation farmers run this tiny northwoods outpost, which brings in local musicians for an always-packed Sunday brunch that takes advantage of produce grown on site. Wood-fired pizzas, house-baked breads, and an outdoor kids’ play area all help to earn Stutzman’s its devoted following.

Pioneer Place

This narrow-aisled store way up north in Smyrna is the heart of the region’s Amish community, a gathering place for families and a one-stop shop for everything from handmade candles and horse tackle to hand tools and an impressive collection of religious children’s books. The handcrafted furniture outside is a big draw.

Hope General Store

Great deli sandwiches and a smartly curated beer fridge (around 140 bottles in stock) are what keep me stopping by this former grange hall at the main intersection in bucolic Hope. The blacksmith across the street and carpenter next door add to the old-timey, artisan feel of the crossroads.