Elwin Hussey '44

 

Minding the Store

%530%right%The sign out front says it all: "Guns, Wedding Gowns, Cold Beer." Clearly the folks at Hussey's General Store have defined the term "general" for posterity.

Elwin Hussey '44 and the store that bears his family's name have both evolved into institutions in Windsor, Maine,and beyond. The sign is one reason. Another is what the store carries: everything.

At Hussey's you can get a bowl of chili, a gun, a fishing pole, a bumper sticker ("Save a cow, eat a vegetarian"), work clothes, a nice dress, hardware and plumbing supplies, a dryer, a recliner, and a woodstove. While these items pay the bills, it's the soda, chips, newspapers, hardware widgets, and lottery tickets that keep the registers ringing.
The store always has been eclectic. But when Elwin's father, Harland Hussey, decided in 1954 to build a bigger space across Route 32 from the market's original location, people questioned his wisdom. "People would say to my dad, 'I wouldn't think you'd want to invest so much in this when supermarkets are starting,'" Elwin Hussey remembers. "My dad would say, 'I would think there would always be someone who wants to buy a pound of hamburg and a pound of nails at the same time.'"

His father was right.

Chances were,and are,if you can't find it at Hussey's, you don't really need it. But it wasn't until Elwin's son, Jay Hussey, put the slogan on pens that it became the store's official motto. "I was never quite that bold to make that statement," Elwin Hussey said in his cheerful, diffident manner during a winter visit home between trips to Hawaii. Now semi-retired, Hussey spends only May to October and the holidays in Maine.

Almost from the beginning,1923,people have traveled for miles for something at Hussey's. From the 1950s through the 1970s it was electronics and appliances, which Elwin Hussey oversaw. Nowadays, it might be the baked beans. Hussey's daughter Roxanne Hussey said the recipe isn't secret, but it has a devoted following all the same. "There's one lady from Belgrade who drives all the way here each week," she said.

Elwin Hussey raced through Colby taking eight classes one semester so he could finish his degree in chemistry before he got drafted. He graduated at 19,one of the youngest Colby grads ever, he believes,with the Class of '43 (though he was a member of the Class of '44). He then enlisted in the Navy, served three years, and returned to Windsor.

He didn't intend to stay in his hometown, but his military electronics training led to an interest in newfangled televisions and appliances. So he brought them to Hussey's. "We sold appliances to folks from here to the coast," Hussey said. "We sold seven hundred pieces in one year."

Today, Hussey says the emphasis is more on sporting goods, although the wedding dresses always get a lot of attention. First stocked by Elwin Hussey's mother, Mildred, to give rural women access to nice gowns, the store now sells wedding dresses "in the hundreds" each year, Roxanne Hussey says.

%529%right%These days Elwin Hussey spends his time volunteering for the Windsor historical society and antiqueing, ferreting out Big Band records and interesting used books. The book department at the store, which includes authors such as Ben Ames Williams (whose papers are housed at Colby), spills from its corner into the ice-skate display.

Does Hussey miss running the store? With a chuckle, he says no. "I used to have nightmares about it," he said. "[In the dream] we got a truckload of such and such. Where are we going to put it?"

,Julia Hanauer-Milne