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Grocery Stores Downtown

Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!

By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum

Many grocery stores/markets have occupied a space downtown and in neighborhoods scattered around town between 1901 and today. All individually or family owned, there were no national or “chain” grocery stores until about the 1950’s (First National, IGA 1963). Were there any earlier?

Two local stores that were in business on Penobscot Avenue in the 1940’s were the Monhigan Market (some sources list it as Monhigan Co. and some show it as Monehegan Grocery Store) and H. E. Cummings Market. A 1947 feature in The Millinocket Journal tells this story of the stores.

The 1947 article states the Monhigan store had just “installed two new departments. First is the VITAMIN BAR, constructed by local cabinet maker John T. Levasseur. This fresh fruit and vegetable counter offers a great variety to cater to the taste and health needs of your family. Second is the new self-service style frosted food cabinet. This cabinet holds the largest variety of ‘easy-to-prepare’ food available, almost everything in fruits and vegetables, fish and meat, even French-fried potatoes and stuffed chicken lobsters, ready to ‘heat and eat.’”

The news article on the Monhigan’s reopening in 1947 with its new departments mentioned several people. Two flower girls, Betty Bosse and Maridyth Dwyer, as flower girls, presented fresh carnations to each housewife who visited the store. Employees mentioned were O’Neil Shorette (butcher boy) and Elizabeth Brown (cashier in training).

Shorette had been a “meat man” at the store for 12 years, since age 14. Brown had just graduated from Stearns HS. The store owner was Alphe Bosse and was a former GN Hotel clerk. This store was located in the Whalen building (across from the Municipal Building).

Cummings Market, also featured in the 1947 paper, is described as one of the most popular grocery stores in town. It was started in 1930 by Peter A. Cummings, father of Hugh E., the 1947 owner. Peter operated the market until his 1940 death. Hugh took over until 1943 when he left for service in WWII and the market closed until 1946 when Hugh returned from the war.

Hugh E. Cummings Market “featured a bakery with home-cooked foods under the supervision of Hugh’s mother Mrs. Matilda Cummings. A new meat case was installed (one of the latest available), and supplied “strictly fresh western meats, a large variety of cold cuts, chicken, pork etc.” A large selection of popular brands of beer and ale to take out was a recent addition to the market.

If you have photos of these or other town businesses through the years, consider sharing them with the museum. We take scans, originals or you can bring in photos and we will scan. Also wanted is information as to location (where was H.E. Cummings Market – can’t ID it in any museum photos), information on owners, name changes, employees…anything you can share. Perhaps you have old scrapbooks filled with wonderful articles about businesses and other local topics. They contain a wealth of information. The above info came from one such scrapbook!

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