Down East 2013 ©
The Heart of Renys
When my husband and I were in Renys in Damariscotta about ten years ago, an older gentleman tapped my husband on the shoulder and said, “May I help you, sonny? I’m R.H. Reny, at your service.” Given my husband’s age, it had been a long time since anyone had called him “sonny.” They went on to have a long conversation as I shopped. We then went to King Eider’s Pub where a waitress overheard us talking about Mr. Reny. She said, “Indeed, he is not only charming but has supported this town in bad times.”
Five years ago we bought a vacation home in Kennebunk and decided to adopt a dog from Maine. We found a wonderful fox red Lab at the Animal Welfare Society and named him Reny. Each and every time we are in Maine, we visit Renys. They always have a dog biscuit for him, too!
As I was checking out at the Damariscotta Renys, I realized that I had purchased more than I could carry to my car, so I asked the cashier if someone could help me. An older gentleman, standing off to the side, replied that he would be happy to help. As we left the store, I told him how much I loved Maine and enjoyed shopping at Renys. He then told me that he was R.H. Reny; no wonder his stores have had happy customers for decades.
Ballston Spa, New York
I knew Bob Reny for many years, having summered in Jefferson for more than fifty years. I saw him at church every week, where I was an usher. I would say to him, “It is nice to see you Bob.” And he would say, “It is better to be seen than viewed.” When he was in the Damariscotta store, his name tag just said: “My Name is Bob.” Many folks never knew he was the founder and owner of Renys. He was that kind of person; a normal guy with a very big heart!
Jefferson, Maine, and Warren, New Jersey
Where In Maine?
I know where that is! It is in front of the best restaurant on the East Coast — Fox’s Lobster House in York Beach, by the Nubble Light. Love its shore dinner . . . mmm. What I’d give for a steamed clam or lobster tail dipped in melted butter — or the blueberry pie.
Wynantskill, New York
My sister and I immediately recognized the lobster trap Christmas tree in December’s “Where in Maine?” It is, of course, in front of Fox’s Lobster House in our parents’ hometown of York, where we spent numerous summers working. Starting off as ice-cream scoopers on the picnic patio in our teens and working our way up to servers in the beautiful dining room. Fox’s is still a place we like to frequent every summer, whether for an ice cream with a view or to sit at the newly renovated bar for a local brew. Many tourists find Fox’s when they come to Sohier Park to take photos of the famous Cape Neddick Lighthouse, affectionately known as the Nubble, and come back year after year for clam chowder, lobster dinner, and homemade blueberry pie. A seasonal restaurant (open roughly from May through October), Fox’s is a summer staple to visitors of southern Maine.
A Christmas Memory
It’s funny how one word (mémère) can provoke a cascade of remembrances [December’s “Editor’s Note”]. It seems like only yesterday that I was standing on the corner of River and Cottage streets waiting for my Dad to come home from the Goodall-Sanford mill. Like you, many of us left Sanford and never looked back except to carry with us a sackful of nostalgia.
—Dr. Donald Thibeault
My own mémère and her husband came to Maine from New Brunswick, Canada, more than a century ago with their toddler — my mother. My pépère (grandfather) got a job as foreman of a logging crew, and they rode the narrow-gauge railroad from Farmington to the Rangeley region, to a lumber camp located near Smalls Falls in Madrid. While pépère supervised his logging crew (made up heavily of relatives — brothers, cousins), mémère became the camp chef, assisted by several other ladies.
Mémère retained her culinary skills throughout her life and they became legendary. As a child I remember routinely stopping at her house on Main Street after school and being stuffed with cookies, donuts, pie — whatever she had been baking that day. Family gatherings, like Christmas and New Year’s, were especially memorable. Mémère and her six daughters (each of whom had inherited her cooking skills) would be busy in the kitchen with its wood stove, making traditional Acadian-French holiday specialties like tourtière (meat pies) and putins (potato balls stuffed with meat), plus tables mounded with luscious baked goods.
Mémère’s recipes ran heavy with what modern times frown upon: lots of butter and heavy cream. Too bad it may have shortened her life. She only lived into her mid-nineties. And never a sick day in her life.
—Paul J. Fournier
Palm Bay, Florida, and Starks, Maine
As a UMaine graduate in 1970 and a graduate degree in 1971, I cherish my days at UMO and am fortunate to maintain continued relationships with many fraternity brothers in Maine. The personal touch of your editorial comments, regarding your “mémère,” remind me of the down-to-earth sincere people of Maine that I was so fortunate to associate with during my years at UMO.
A Hurting Northeast Harbor
The rather saddening piece about Northeast Harbor from the Bangor Daily News [December’s “Poor Little Rich Town”] glaringly forgot to mention one very positive, bright spot in the town. That would be the wonderful Romantic Room and its sister store at the far end of Main Street. The very photo in the article prominently features the store, right next to Shaw Jewelry, but without acknowledging it. The Romantic Room’s owner, Jennifer Richardson, is and has been a major champion in bringing Northeast Harbor back to its “glory” days with her tenacity, great sense of humor, and overall love for and dedication to the town. Northeast Harbor, like many small towns that have been hard hit by the economy, would do well to have a few more like Jennifer in their midst; they might just see the light at the end of this economic tunnel sooner rather than later.
The house on the cover of the December issue was designed by Eric Allyn.