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Historic Bath general store gets new lease on life

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Historic Bath general store gets new lease on life

BATH — A community hub for more than a century, the Winnegance General Store makes a triumphant return this month with an open house.

The building at 36 High St. – erected in 1902 near the Phippsburg line and operating as a store and meeting place until 2009 – had deteriorated enough to be named last year as one of the state's most endangered historic resources.

But thanks to the renovation efforts of Jennifer Greene, the store's future is much brighter.

Greene splits her time between California, where she practices law, and Phippsburg, where she has summered all her life. Since she doesn't plan to retire for a while, she is looking for a tenant to run the store. Greene has also renovated the second floor into a single-unit apartment, for which she seeks weekly summer renters.

The open house will be held from 3 to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, June 13-14. Refreshments will be sold, and old items discovered during the renovation will be displayed.

Once she purchased the property last August, Greene had the building temporarily moved about 35 feet so that a new foundation could be built, and acquired some additional space from a neighbor. The store now sits 9 feet further back from the road, in order to allow for a larger driveway and parking area.

Other work has included replacement of the building's sills, removing rotten siding, restoration of the front windows and reframing of the entire first floor, Greene said.

She hopes Winnegance 2.0 will "still feel good inside ... warm and old-fashioned and comforting. ... Everybody wants the deli, and they want the groceries. It's really simple; they don't want anything really changed."

Except for good coffee, Greene said. Folks want their coffee.

An inheritance she received after the death of her mother has allowed Greene to purchase and renovate the store.

"I've done many real estate projects where I've mostly lived in the houses, fixed them up," Greene said. "And I've usually bought houses that were in severe distress, that I thought I could save."

Winnegance met that description, and upon seeing it last summer, Greene's daughter told her mother she'd found the perfect project for her.

After laying eyes on it herself, Greene recalled, "what I saw was, as far as I'm concerned, the last of the real old grocery stores, which were really a very important part of my childhood growing up here."

Greene remembered such former stores at the Small Point and West Point areas of Phippsburg. About 15 years ago, after those two closed, she started going to Winnegance.

Despite the project having eaten up her inheritance, Greene continues to feel the work has been worthwhile.

"Absolutely," she said. "It's been a good thing to do. It's been a good legacy for my mother.

"I'm glad I did it, also, because it's made the people of Bath so happy," Greene added. "And I didn't anticipate that, that people loved this whole country store thing as much as I did. And it's been very sweet; really very touching."

People interested in leasing the store or renting the apartment can reach Greene at winnegancegeneralstore@gmail.com. A website, winnegancegeneralstore.com, is in the works.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.