WESTBROOK — Art’s Variety, a Spring Street neighborhood landmark, has closed after more than 40 years in business, and so far there are no plans to sell or reopen the store.
The convenience store, located at 158 Spring Street, closed Dec. 31 so owner Arthur Agazarian could retire. Now in his 80s, Agazarian opened the store in 1972.
The decision to retire was a spontaneous one, according to store manager Nick Peterson and Agazarian’s sister, Marian Agazarian.
“Even Art didn’t know,” Marian Agazarian said. “It was a sudden decision. He just sort of came to it.”
According to his sister, Art Agazarian didn’t want to speak to the press about his store closing. He announced its closure on Facebook, and in an open letter to “the Westbrook community.”
“I am fortunate to have such dedicated support from you, the community,” he said. “It has been an honor and a privilege to have served the Westbrook community in a business that grew and prospered because of the support you provided.”
Peterson, who’s managed the store for 12 years, said Agazarian wanted to close the store while it was doing well.
“He wanted to end on a high note,” Peterson said. “Business had been good, but he wanted to do something different.”
Marian Agazarian said her brother was simply ready to move on.
“He’d been in business for 40-some-odd years,” she said. “It was time.”
The future of the store is still unclear, but Marian Agazarian said they “hope someone will step forward to continue it” as a convenience store. Art’s prepared and sold pizza and sandwiches and stocked grocery items.
“The little mom and pop stores are disappearing and they’re important to communities,” she said.
Art Agazarian noted this in his letter.
“I hope my store helped glue my neighborhood into a community,” he said. “My hope is that I made a positive difference in the lives of those who patronized my store.”
Agazarian wrote that in recent years he had been seeing in his store the children of customers who themselves shopped at the store as children. He also reminisced about when he would stay open late to serve the paper mill workers who worked until 11 p.m.
“I provided personal service when it was needed,” Agazarian said. “I knew my customers by name. I knew entire families, their joy and their pain.”
Peterson said it was important to him, Agazarian, and the other employees that they knew their customers well.
“Because we really enjoyed the customers that came in, we developed relationships with them in the sense that we met people’s needs,” Peterson said.
Peterson said the people are what he’ll miss most about managing Art’s Variety.
“I’ll miss the community and the people that came in,” he said. “And I’ll miss Art. He was a great owner and a great boss.”
Over 100 people commented on the Facebook post announcing the closing of the store, with many people sharing fond memories and wishing Agazarian a happy retirement. Many also expressed sadness, as did Peterson and Marian Agazarian.
“We’re sad it came to this, but it’s one of those things,” Marian Agazarian said. “The store has become a landmark in Westbrook and we’re sad to see it go.”
Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.
Art’s Variety on Spring street in Westbrook has closed after serving neighborhood customers for more than 40 years.