BAR HARBOR — For decades, when lobster fishermen here called the small auto supply store tucked away on Greeley Avenue to order parts and filters for their boats, they often said, “I don’t know the part number. But Stephen knows.”
Green Mountain Auto Parts, the CarQuest and marine parts and supplies store, is set to close in a few weeks. Advance Auto Parts (which bought CarQuest) recently announced they would no longer supply the store or support its computer ordering system.
Stephen Brown and his wife, Linda Rodgers, opened the store in 1993. Prior to that, Brown had worked at Darling’s On the Green, the former auto shop where Reel Pizza Cinerama now sits.
“We got grief for being tucked away back here; it was a little hard to find,” Rodgers said. “But rents were lower that way. And we live across the street. I used to sit here at the counter with a baby monitor when our kids were napping.”
Now those two kids have grown up and moved away. Brown and Rodgers have close relationships with their customers, many of whom have written letters or asked if they can call Advance to challenge the decision.
“We’re dinosaurs,” Rodgers said. “Our suppliers are getting bigger and bigger, and the quality is getting cheaper and cheaper. I get embarrassed by some of the things that come in. It’s very much an industrywide thing. There’s a Walmart kind of mentality.
“So what we have wanted to supply is getting less and less available,” she continued. “For us to survive, we need quality parts, we need to be able to do everything from A to Z for the fishermen and our other customers. If we could find a supplier that could supply us for the way we needed, we might continue. But it’s not looking good.”
The store has long had a barbershop feel, with bright vinyl-covered stools across from the counter for customers as they discuss what they need, consult parts catalogues, seek mechanical advice or just catch up on gossip.
“Our customers are more than customers at this point,” Rodgers said. “I come from New York. It’s different to be able to come to a small town and have a business like this. It’s been very special because we don’t have this kind of thing where I grew up.”
She said a few customers even gathered last week, not to buy anything, but just to reminisce with her and Brown.
“It was almost like a wake,” she smiled. “We’re just a little hole-in-the-wall store, but it was a good hole in the wall. It’s been a good run.”
The couple has not decided what’s next for the building, which Brown owns with his siblings, or for them, they said.