OTISFIELD — Last year, Tony Bennett and Chris “Codfish” Codwell of History Channel’s “Down East Dickering” wandered into Day’s Country Store in Bolsters Mill looking for a copy of Maine’s venerable Uncle Henry’s Swap or Sell It Guide.
“They said, ‘We love little country stores like this. Can we do a video shoot here?” Meredith Day, owner of the 19th-century general store at 4 Big Hill Road on the Crooked River in Bolsters Mill, said. A year later, the general store was featured on the show. “It was pretty cool.”
Day, a banker and mother of four, along with her husband, Sewell Day, a logging company owner and Otisfield native, bought the fledgling country store two years ago to save it from closing after nearly two centuries of continuous service to the area.
The store, known formerly as Bolsters Mill General Store, is one of at least five general stores that once dotted the villages of Otisfield.
“Like most Maine towns, Otisfield is composed of villages, which were often the same as the school districts. Some of these also had a retail store,” said historical society member Jean Hankins.
At one time, each of the Otisfield villages, Bell Hill, East Otisfield (Pugleyville), Hancockville, Rayville, Bolsters Mills, Spurrs Corner, Chambers Corner and South Otisfield (Dunkertown), each had a general store, she added.
Only the general store at Bolsters Mills, which may be the original building, survives, she said, adding that it is has been on the same site since 1834.
“(It was) not just a place for families to obtain food, animal feed and gasoline. They also served as important social centers. The local telephone switchboard was often located in the stores,” Hankins said.
Day’s Country Store, with its wooden paneled ceiling, laminate tables, rustic wooden counter and a functioning gasoline pump on the porch, remains at the heart of the small village. It provides people from Bolsters Mill and nearby Harrison with merchandise ranging from motor oil and bails of hay to pizza and potato chips. It also serves as a tagging center for bears, deer and turkey.
Baked potato pizza, Shepard’s Pie, eggplant Parmesan subs and other specials are written in chalk on boards above the wooden counter, where slices of pizza and fresh baked muffins are available for sale.
Sometimes trivia questions are posed on the boards such as, “What is the true name of the dog who played Old Yeller?” The winner wins a small pizza with one topping.
The day’s specials, listed on a white sandwich board on the porch the Friday before Easter, were hay bails for $5 each and a tuna melt sandwich with potato salad, not priced.
Mike Neddenriep, a former Otisfield resident and now lives in North Carolina, said he has been a long-time customer.
“It’s got the best pizza around,” he said, as he waited at one of the laminate luncheon tables for his pizza during a recent visit north to Maine. “I’ve been coming in for more than 30 years.”
The hope is, regulars will be coming in for another 30, if not 300, years and keep the history of Bolsters Mill alive.
The Days will thank their loyal customers for their two years as owners with an open house with raffles and doors prizes on Saturday, April 11, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
SIDEBAR (Please Box in)
OTISFIELD — The Otisfield Historical Society’s first program for 2015 will be a round table discussion, with power point, of the town’s general stores — in East Otisfield, Spurrs Corner, Hancockville and Bolsters Mills. The program will be held on Thursday, April 16, at 7 p.m. in the annex of the Otisfield Town Office Building on State Route 121 following a short business meeting and election of officers.
The program’s organizers emphasize that this program will be an information sharing session. They hope that those who remember these stores and their owners will attend the program, bringing with them their recollections and possibly photos.