Store owner hopes to carry on tradition at old Thayer’s

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Duck Pond Variety owner Josh Gelston is getting ready to open a second location at the former Thayer's Store on River Road in Windham. 

WINDHAM — Drivers on River Road in Windham may have noticed a new – but familiar – sign at the former Thayer’s Store.

Josh Gelston, owner of Duck Pond Variety on Route 302 in Westbrook, is leasing the old Thayer’s building to start a second store.

“I think we can offer a lot to this area,” said Gelston, who lives in Windham and grew up in Raymond. “The store on 302 does so well, that I don’t see any reason why this won’t do as well.”

Gelston estimated in an interview Tuesday that the new location could be open “hopefully in the next two weeks.”

He is leasing the building from Judy and John Quimby, whose family had owned and operated Thayer’s for 100 years. Judy Quimby, whose grandparents opened the store in 1917, said before the store closed in September that it was “time to move on” after she and her husband had run it for more than 30 years.

“The Quimby’s wanted to make it 100 years here. And they did, which is amazing,” Gelston said.

“They’ve been great, they’re awesome people,” he said about his predecessors and new landlords. “But just like anybody, you get to be 70 years old, the last thing you want to be doing is the grind of this.”

Gelston said his landlords were comfortable turning the store over to him in part because of his track record with the existing Duck Pond store, which he said he bought about three years ago after working there for a decade. He also owns Starlite Catering.

“They’ve been by to check it out,” Gelston said about the Quimbys. “They’re very anxious to see it open. They’re really happy that it’s going to continue. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why we got the deal done, is that I was able to turn around the other store, and I have the energy and resources to do it again.”

As part of the transition, Gelston has made some changes in the interior of the store, including knocking down the walls that partitioned the kitchen from the rest of the store, rewiring the building, adding barn board on the walls, painting, putting in a new kitchen floor, and adding LED lights. He said the gas pumps and signs would be changed out for new ones this week as well.

His hope is to provide some updates while preserving the character of the century-old business, including its old wood stove.

“The floors are 100 years old – so it’s pretty cool to repurpose something instead of just covering it over,” Gelston said. “It’s a really good challenge. I’ve had a lot of fun with it so far. Can’t wait to get it open.”

Thayer’s had been known as a local community hub of sorts, and Gelston hopes to continue with a “family feel” that he says is already present at the existing Duck Pond Variety.

“I know just about everybody that walks into that store,” he said about Westbrook location. “I look forward to getting to know everybody in this area as well.”

Gelston said he’s made a “substantial” investment in the former Thayer’s building but declined to say exactly how much. He also sees an advantage to opening during the winter.

“I actually kind of like opening them this time of the year when it’s slower,” he said. “You get all the quirks out of it going into the busier season.”

Gelston said his lease includes the option to buy the property later,  and he wouldn’t rule out looking to add an additional store if his second location is successful.

“There’s been a store here for 100 years, so it’s worked before very well, and it should work again,” Gelston said. “It’s all what you put into something.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Duck Pond Variety owner Josh Gelston is getting ready to open a second location at the former Thayer’s Store on River Road in Windham.

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