Memorial Day weekend saw some changes at Southport General Store – new signs outside, new furnishings inside. Owners Todd and Barbara Leland of Southport hope the changes will be seen as a nod to the past, a salute to the present, and a signal to the future: The store is here to stay, no matter what the world may throw at it.
Two years away from the store’s 140th anniversary, the Lelands are keenly aware of their responsibility to the store’s heritage. “Owning the store is like stewardship,” Barbara said. “We’re the owners, but we own it for just this period of time: To keep it alive, keep it busy, keep it vital just long enough to pass it on to the next person. Stores like this are vital to their communities. If it didn’t exist it would be a huge loss.”
She said the refurbishments have given the store a facelift. “We wanted to freshen things up. We’ve changed very little inside but we’ve replaced the flooring, the shelving, introduced some new lines. In time we’ll tackle some other things, but our goal is simply to take care of it for the next 10 years or so and then, hopefully, pass it along to the next person.”
While planning the updates, the Lelands have striven to respect and preserve what the store means to its customers. “We’re clearly from away, but it’s important to us that we protect the history, the ambience, the sense of the store. The store serves several communities here on Southport: The year-round full-time residents, the seasonal residents, the contractors, and the vacationers staying at Newagen or Ocean Gate or elsewhere in the Boothbay region. We need the store to be a place for everyone, where both the contractors and the yacht club kids want to come to and be comfortable in.”
Barbara said it can be a tricky balance, one she hopes they are achieving. She said prices have stayed the same, the menu favorites are still there, and Thursdays are still Burger Thursdays.
Behind the scenes, but just as important to the Lelands, is the introduction of community outreach. “We’ve established a fund called SGS Gives,” Barbara said. “A percentage of the store’s sales will be donated to local Southport organizations: the school, the fire station, the Island Association, the yacht club, the library, Hendricks Hill Museum. We’re truly excited to be able to do that.”
The store has a new website with the daily menu, the store’s history, and information about SGS Gives.
“Clearly the current situation with COVID-19 has presented new challenges. But thanks to our great team, we’re able to offer curbside pick-up and even delivery to people on Southport and Capitol Islands. It means that people in self-quarantine or abiding by the governor’s 14-day quarantine requirement can still get what they need. They can still be supported within and by the community we love.”
The store is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to noon. Gloves and masks must be worn in the store at all times. For more information, visit southportgeneralstore.com or call 633-6666.