The Wiscasset General Store isn't exactly in downtown Wiscasset. It's what some might call out in the boonies, but in reality it's less than a five-minute drive from Route One.
And once you make that short drive, chances are you’ll find a way to make the convenience store/restaurant/bottle redemption center a new destination in your daily or weekly chores around Wiscasset.
That’s if you aren’t already a regular customer who stops in daily for coffee and a breakfast sandwich, always made fresh while you wait, or one of the top notch lunches: a 1 1/2 lb. “Baby Monster Burger,” a chicken cordon bleu or hot pastrami sandwich, or one of the store's famous Maurice and Dottie sandwiches.
Owner Carla Chapman is known around the area as a great cook. Originally from Bath, she moved back here in 2008 after selling a horse farm, with 55 horses, on Cape Cod. The store began four years ago as a redemption center, and sold beer and wine. The restaurant part of the store has been running for three years.
The first thing you notice when you enter the store is the mouth-watering aromas wafting around.
Next you might take in the cleanliness and orderliness. The place is neat. Start looking around and you’ll see that for a relatively small space there’s a lot of stuff you might want, or need. There are bottles of wine and beer you might expect to find in a more specialized market. There are some high-end women’s lotions and creams you’d be more apt to see in a boutique. And there’s the ‘Men’s Department,’ — suffice it to say big guys in need of automotive and hunting supplies may find everything they need right there, in a three-by-three-foot space.
Chapman and her friend and co-worker Lettie Mott can be found in the store from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, except Sundays. Mott’s daughter, Sam Titus, manages the redemption center next door. Chapman said the redemption center is the busiest one in the Wiscasset area. It’s not always easy to keep an exact count of bottles, but if you drop off 157 bottles, you’ll be compensated for each and every one.
Chapman said her biggest seller is the special dinners she whips up daily and packs in microwaveable containers for ready-made dinners. At $7.99, they are a bargain — a delicious one. “They’re meant for one person, but they’ll really feed two,” she said. “They’re huge.”
Specials include mac & cheese, American chop suey, tenderloin beef tips with gravy with mashed potatoes, lasagna, teriyaki chicken stir fry and shrimp scampi, to name a few.
Chapman, who doesn’t usually follow a recipe, uses only top-quality ingredients. The ground beef is from a butcher shop in West Gardiner. And the potato salad, made daily, is usually sold out before lunch. The lasagna contains five cheeses. The chicken salad sandwich is another big seller. She adds honey, walnuts and cranberries. “There’s no way you could eat the whole sandwich in one sitting,” she said.
Pizza has become a popular item on Friday nights. It isn't your typical convenience store pizza. The components come from a Boston company called Original Pizza. “Their cheese is called the Mercedes of cheeses,” Chapman said. “It’s a mixture of mozzarella and provolone, and more expensive than a lot of pizza cheeses.” And consistency is of utmost importance to Chapman. “I’m a control freak,” she said. “When you order a pizza it’s going to be the same exact pizza every time.
“We pretty much know who will come for pizza on Friday nights, and what kind of pizza they’ll order,” she said. “Though once in a while somebody will live on the edge and surprise us.”
As the weather gets cooler, Chapman will be making pot pies — chicken, hamburger and chili — with her flaky double crust. And you can top it off with one of her homemade tarts — lemon, blueberry and raspberry — made with the same ‘melt in your mouth’ crust as the pies.
The specials usually sell out before closing at 7 p.m. Chapman said they have become popular with people who pick them up for elderly parents and grandparents. “I love that because it helps people.”
“We love seeing the same people coming in all the time,” Chapman said. “When someone doesn’t come for a while we worry, so we ask for people’s numbers, and we do wellness checks. If they’re out of their routine we know something’s wrong.”
Frank Boudin is one of the regulars at the store. He goes every Wednesday or Thursday for his Wiscasset Newspaper. “I actually got them to start getting the paper,” he said. “And her food is great. She makes really good potato salad, and I get the specials for dinner. One of them will last three meals.”
Boudin’s nephew Ken Boudin said the store is an asset to the area. “We have employees who come and go, and they always go there for lunch. That’s where we’ll be in about two hours. The sandwich wraps and pizzas are great. So is her macaroni and cheese. To have a store out in the middle of nowhere that stays as busy as it does tells you a lot.”
“I’m out here in the middle of nowhere,” Chapman said. “I knew when I did this that the only way I was going to make it was if I had food that people couldn’t get anywhere else, and it’s so good, it will take them off the main route. And it worked.”
Chapman said her store is nostalgic for her. “It’s like the little neighborhood store, where you knew everyone’s names, and all the local gossip.”
The store, located at 213 West Alna Road, is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and will begin closing at 6 p.m. as fall sets in. The redemption center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visit their Facebook page, and call 207-687-2079.