News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 8, 2019 and Island Ad-Vantages, August 8, 2019 and The Weekly Packet, August 8, 2019
New store’s ‘biggest success’ is community
Grand opening Saturday, August 10, 11 a.m.

by Anne Berleant

Sparkling under the summer sunshine, the freshly unwrapped Blue Hill Co-op on South Street opened to a waiting crowd on Saturday, July 27. With some finishing touches still left, and kinks to work out of its point-of-sale software, the store will hold to its “soft opening” hours of 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. through its grand opening this Saturday.

No one appears to mind: the parking lot is near to full by 11:30 a.m., as the new store becomes a destination for locals and visitors alike.

“It was a beehive back there,” said beer and wine buyer John Brooksmit, of the Co-op’s last years in its Greene’s Hill location.

It was this need for more—wider aisles, more parking, appropriate office space, greater shelf space for more local products—that had members vote to first buy an option on the South Street property, and then raise the funds to purchase it and build the new store, a large share of which came from member investments.

Making the Co-op a “destination was part of the idea, and [drawing] a wider demographic, from far and wide,” said Kevin Gadsby, who came on board as general manager in 2016 with the task of bringing the new store from an architect’s drawing to reality.

However, when Gadsby came on board in October 2016, the design by Bruce Stahnke of Brooksville firm Stahnke + Kitagawa Architects was yet to be done, and only $165,000 had been raised in the first of three fundraising phases. By March of 2017, the Co-op had relaunched the capital campaign.

“From that moment, the community just came behind the project full force,” Gadsby said. “It’s amazing. We’re still receiving donations.”

Some donations are marked for specific projects, such as installing solar power into the building, funded by a $280,000 grant from a private philanthropic foundation with connections to Blue Hill. Other donations are earmarked to plant 473 trees on the 5.5 acre property, Gadsby said.

“But our biggest success continues to be the support from the community, [and] not just financially,” he said. “It’s been overwhelmingly positive.”