Lincoln’s Country Store is a perfect example of Maine’s small-town general stores. In the wintertime, locals zoom over on snowmobiles to fuel up at one of its four pumps, then run into the store to grab a cup of coffee, breakfast sandwich or a pack of beer. In the springtime, foragers bring in fiddlehead ferns to sell—a local leafy delicacy that grows alongside riverbanks.
“It’s quite a task to get them because you have to pretty much traipse through the woods up to where the water is, and people ... keep their spots just kind of secret,” says John Guerra, owner of Lincoln’s Country Store. “They won’t tell you where they get their fiddleheads.”
Guerra may sound like a longtime resident of Warren, a small town of 5,000 nestled in the midcoast region of Maine. But although he grew up in the state, Guerra is new to Warren and new to Lincoln’s, which he bought in January 2019 from a couple who ran it for more than two decades.
For the past 30 years, he had worked in store development, acquisitions, category management and retail operations for the Hannaford supermarket chain, which is owned by Ahold Delhaize. Despite his experience with corporate retail, Guerra has kept changes to Lincoln’s “incremental,” with a small expansion of local craft beer, but otherwise hewing close to local tastes.
Warren is “a meat-and-potatoes community,” he says, “so we’ve got a phenomenal meat department.” Other strengths include produce and deli, and prepared foods such as pizza and mac and cheese. In the bakery, whoopie pies—a New England original—are a local favorite.
“I kept the heart and soul of what [customers have] always wanted here.”
This commitment has helped the transition in ownership.
“People come and they see their neighbors and they see their friends,” Guerra says. “They’ve always been shopping here, and they feel comfortable now with me that they can continue to shop here. I didn’t come in and change it to just a convenience store or ... make it a corporate store or whatever. I kept the heart and soul of what they’ve always wanted here.”