TREMONT — A Bernard landmark, one that for more than century served this village along Bass Harbor in various guises, has been given a new life.
The Old Red Store building on Bernard Road in Tremont is reopening Saturday following an extensive renovation project. Marty Lyons, Mary Swift and Mary Kotler are “the team,” as they describe themselves, behind the venture.
The trio envisions the store as a place for the community to gather, drink coffee, eat pastries and shop for art, antiques and jewelry. On Tuesday, they discussed their plans as a construction crew hastily worked to complete renovations. Clearly, Saturday’s opening is to be a “soft” one, they noted.
“We plan to have a more formal opening later,” Swift said.
The reopening has significance especially for Lyons. His friend, Paul Hinton, who died in 2004, owned the building and operated an antique and resale shop there. In his will, Hinton gave Lyons a life tenancy on the store and three other properties in the town.
“This has been a work in progress for me personally,” Lyons said. The restoration effort, he said, was spurred by photographs of the building taken just after it was constructed, photos he discovered in the basement of Hinton’s home. The decision to restore the building to its previous status of community hub followed.
“This represents what Bernard was like in the early 1900s,” Lyons said. As such, the building and the tradition had to be preserved.
Historical records surrounding the store are mostly anecdotal, Lyons said. His “guess” is it was built in 1901.
“I think it started out as a post office,” he said.
Then it became a butcher shop. An icehouse was added to keep the meat fresh. The ice was cut from a pond a short distance from the store, Lyons said.
At some point, a barber shop operated on the second floor of the store, Lyons said. And there was a transition later from meat market back to post office. The postmaster was Harriet Hinton, Paul Hinton’s mother. The post office closed at that location when she retired in 1974.
Hinton himself then took over the building and opened The Old Red Store, the same name adopted by Lyons, Swift and Kotler. Hinton sold used items, some of which could be considered antiques.
“Paul had pickers,” Lyons recalled. “These two ladies canvassed the island’s yard sales for bargains. They’d show up with a truckload.”
Hinton died in 2004. Michele Marks took over the business, keeping the store open another four years.
Although hours of operation are still being discussed, the store will be open seven days a week through August and September.
“We’re going to take small baby steps,” Lyons said.
The work of 10 artists, including Swift, will be offered for sale. Their work includes paintings, photographs, jewelry, pottery and hand-crafted furniture. During the school year, Lyons and Swift work as special education techs at Mount Desert High School. Plans, they said, call for exhibiting the artwork of students in the life skills program there.
As mentioned, Lyons has a life tenancy on the property. Upon his death, the store and the three other Hinton properties are to go to the town of Tremont.