What People are Reading
- What a very sad and shocking
2 years 29 weeks ago
- Smart Meters
2 years 32 weeks ago
- 100 year old house burns
2 years 32 weeks ago
- Column 2-10 re Treason
2 years 41 weeks ago
- Radical Difference
2 years 42 weeks ago
- This activity is such a
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Okay Great we got a sign!
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Hate Crime a Sad Moment Indeed
2 years 52 weeks ago
More in Featured
Buckfield losing iconic grocery/After 74 years, Tilton's Market is closing its doors
BUCKFIELD — In less than a month, Tilton's Market, an anchor of Buckfield's downtown since 1939, will close its doors for good.
Two weeks ago, customers at the store's check out and meat counter were greeted with a single printed page bearing the devastating news – “We will be closed as of April 1, 2013. Thank you for your patronage and sorry for any inconvenience.”
For this small community, the loss of the grocery and deli, currently in its third generation of Tilton ownership, cuts deeper than the butcher's cleaver behind the store's famous meat counter.
“I really feel sad,” said Darlene Kendall, who was stopping by Tilton's shortly after the store opened up on a recent Monday morning.
Kendall, a Sumner native, said she's been coming to the store for 20 years.
“I'm here every morning and afternoon," she said. "You can't beat these two guys – I love 'em.”
Inside the store, owner Steven Tilton and his brother Everett were getting ready for another day – Everett behind the check-out and Steven working on accounts in the same microscopic office his grandfather, Gilbert Tilton, worked in when he owned the store.
Steven took over the store from his father Virgil in 2009.
Although business struggled as the economic downturn took its toll, Tilton's managed to keep afloat, Steven said.
Then, in 2011, Associated Grocers of Maine, the supplier cooperative that supplied Tilton's and other independent grocers went under, leaving the store treading water.
Steven said they were able to find new suppliers in New Hampshire, but the extra shipping fees were too much to bear. Eventually, the writing was on the wall.
“It just kept steamrolling – just stuff we couldn't keep up with,” Steven said.
Although the store has been in their family for more than 70 years, both Everett and Steven said they never had firm plans to run the business.
When he was in high school, Everett says he answered his year book question 'what are your plans for the future?' with “Not run Tilton's.”
Although he worked behind the meat counter during high school, Steven said he didn't intend to take over the business. When he took over four years ago, it was “basically to keep it in the family,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Steven said he's proud with how the business has faced the situation that confronted it. His meat prices, which attract regular customers from as far away as Brunswick and Rumford, are still lower than any other store around.
Steven is still searching for a buyer willing to take on the store, but if no offers come through, the doors will close for good April 1.
The Tilton brothers are just as torn about shuttering a Buckfield icon as their customers are – growing up in and around the store makes the decision to close that much more difficult.
“It's no less hard on us than it is for them to say goodbye,” Everett said.
It's also going to be hard to replace the store's meat prices, for owner and customers alike.
"When I'm behind the meat counter people are asking, 'Where are we going to get our meat from now on?'" Steven said.
“Well, I don't know where I'm going to buy my meat now.”
Since word about the closing got out last month, Tilton's Facebook page has been overwhelmed with messages from patrons, expressing dismay and sadness at the news.
More than anything else, people mention how much they'll miss Tilton's, not only for its meat and groceries, but for what it represented to Buckfield – many say the town won't be the same place without it.
Stepping into the store last Monday morning, Kendall agreed the closing would be a blow.
“There's no stores around here; this is it,” she said.
“This was the meeting place.”
Tilton's, located at 11 Turner Street in downtown Buckfield, will keep normal hours until April 1. According to its Facebook page, it will offer a full-service meat department until March 31.
FOUNDER — Gilbert Tilton works at his desk in the rebuilt Tilton's Market. Today, his grandson, Steven Tilton, runs the store from the same work cubby.
GOOD FUN — Rossie Tilton poses in front of the current Tilton's Market location. Gilbert Tilton, who opened the grocery in 1939, rebuilt his store on Turner Street after his original location was destroyed in a fire in 1968.
GUTTED — The old Tilton's Market location was gutted in a January, 1968 fire. Within a year, owner Gilbert Tilton had rebuilt at the market's current location.
LEARNING THE BUSINESS — Steven and Ange Tilton, children of Virgil Tilton, pose in butchers aprons in front of the market. Steven is the current owner of the Buckfield mainstay, which has been in his family for 74 years.
FAMILY BUSINESS — Virgil Tilton, future owner of Tilton's Market and his mother Helen posing with the Buckfield grocer's delivery truck.
BUSTLING — The old location of Tilton's Market, in downtown Buckfield. The store, opened by Gilbert Tilton in 1939, burned down in 1968.
THIRD GENERATION — Steven Tilton, third-generation owner of Tilton's Market in Buckfield, stands beneath a photo of his grandfather, Gilbert Tilton, in the family-owned grocery store.
LAST DAYS — Everett Tilton, younger brother of owner Steven Tilton, mans the front counter at Tilton's Market in Buckfield. Tilton's, opened in 1939 by the brother's grandfather Gilbert, will close its doors for good April 1.