By Joel Crabtree
Photographed by Brandon Pullen
From our August 2022 issue
Maine’s slice of the White Mountain National Forest is big on things to do, a bit short on things to eat. At the northern end, there’s nothing until Bethel. To the south, not until Fryeburg — except, thankfully, for the Stow Corner Store and Cafe, which makes up for the area’s general deficit in a big way, with freshly brewed coffee, freshly baked cinnamon rolls and donuts and Danishes, beer and wine, and a lunch-and-dinner menu that ranges from half-pound burgers made with local beef to pulled pork slow-cooked for 15 hours to rice bowls with chicken and Thai-style peanut sauce. “All of our food’s rather large,” says Jim Harris, who runs the kitchen. “Nobody leaves here hungry.”
The store sits by the southern boundary of the national forest, the only shop in the rural town of Stow, population 400. Maureen Eastman, the owner, knew Harris in high school, and the couple reconnected later in life. She came across the vacant property while vacationing from Massachusetts in 2008 — as the name suggests, the Stowe Corner Store is at a sharp bend in the road, where Route 113B intersects from New Hampshire. Eastman had been thinking about building a house in the general vicinity when a friend suggested she take a look at the store. Two years later, she and Harris, a retired commercial fisherman, opened for business, and they now live year-round in an apartment on-site.
Over time, they spruced up the building — fresh paint job, updated kitchen, new deck — and they gradually spruced up their food offerings too. After starting out with grocery staples and a fairly simple menu — deli sandwiches and basic pizzas — they kept adding: seven-cheese mac and cheese; seafood chowder brimming with lobster, clams, haddock, and shrimp; pizzas that can be made either on beer crust or gluten-free cauliflower crust (they make a point of having options for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free eaters).
There’s never much of a slow season, they note. Hikers, rock climbers, and anglers give way to snowmobilers, ice climbers, and cross-country and backcountry skiers, and vice versa. “A lot of people are really taken aback when they come in.” Harris says, “They go ‘Wow!’ They don’t expect this out here.”