Coffin’s under new ownership

10 years ago

Coffin’s under new ownership

By Susan Feeney-Hopkins
Special to The Star-Herald

    PORTAGE LAKE — Generations of local families have grown up with Coffin’s General Store being the center of the Portage Lake community. The historic building has known several proprietors during its history, and is said to be the state of Maine’s oldest continually operating general store dating back to 1902. Its newest caretakers are owners Matt and Missy Boutot, residents of Portage Lake, who officially took ownership of the store in July.

Photo courtesy of Susan Feeney-Hopkins

    MATT AND MISSY BOUTOT, residents of Portage Lake, are the new owners of Coffin’s General Store. They officially took ownership in July and have been busy reorganizing the store, its contents and the business structure. In addition, the Boutots have expanded business hours to accommodate the needs of customers, and Coffin’s General Store will once again be an official State of Maine game checking station, beginning with this black bear season.  BU-COFFINs-GENERAL-STORE-CLR-DCX-SH-35

    The Boutots both grew up in the area; Missy in Ashland, Matt in Portage Lake, and together they have lived in Portage Lake since 1996. They have been married for 17 years and have an 11-year-old son, Blayne, who is a sixth-grade student at Ashland District School.
    Both of their families have owned local businesses and together they share a strong background in business and management. Missy has worked full-time for the last 14 years as an accounting supervisor/business office manager with Northern Maine General in Eagle Lake and will remain in that position. Matt was employed with J. Paul Levesque and Sons for 23 years before resigning to take ownership of the store. He held many positions over the years, serving as part of the management staff for 12 years, eventually working his way to quality control manager during the last three years.
    Making this major life-changing decision came easy for the couple.
    “We had the opportunity to purchase the business 15 years ago and had regretted not doing so. When the opportunity arose again, we didn’t want to miss our chance. It was now or never,” said Missy. With that enthusiasm, the couple has embarked on this new adventure wholeheartedly, with the support of their family, friends and the community.
    The couple has reorganized the store, its contents and its business structure. They have expanded their business hours to accommodate the needs of their customer base, and will once again be an official State of Maine game checking station, beginning with this black bear season. Eventually they plan to sell hunting and fishing licenses to the local and visiting sportsmen, but because the paperwork takes a bit of time, they are not an official license agent yet. The Boutots have kept all the employees on staff, who they credit for helping them settle in. They have also hired several new workers to cover the extended operating hours.
    The Boutots are proud to bring the store back into local hands. By being residents of the town, they have a personal interest in their patrons along with some family ties.
    “My grandmother (the late Rena Boutot) worked at Coffin’s for 28 years,” said Matt proudly. Their plan for the store is a “back to basics” approach.
    “Be friendly, have competitive prices, keep inventory levels consistent so community members can depend on us having what they need,” Matt said. “We are local people understanding local needs; and if we don’t have what you need, we will find a way to order it!”
    The changes and additions made so far have been well received by community members. Gasoline prices have been lowered to be in line with local competitors, the coolers and shelves have been fully stocked with many new and practical items, and the line of adult beverages has expanded to accommodate everyone’s taste. The kitchen will remain open serving up hot and cold subs, pizza and fast food items.
    The store has seen a steady flow of customers and is quickly becoming a gathering place to catch up with neighbors while picking up a morning cup of coffee or the newspaper.
    These types of country stores are becoming extinct, but not here. Walking into the store you are welcomed by friends, whether you know them or not.
    Coffin’s General Store is open seven days a week until 9 p.m.; opening at 4 a.m. Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday. (Hours will be subject to the change of seasons).
    For more information, contact Coffin’s General Store at 435-2811.