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Meet Bob Habel of Green Harbor General Store in South Shore

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bob Habel.

Bob, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My wife, Deborah and I were both in the corporate world. I retired in 1993 after 32 plus years and Deborah after 26 years left through downsizing a few years later. We were both in the fast-paced information industry. A far cry from retail sales and selling penny candy!

The Green Harbor General Store, a little neighborhood general store was in foreclosure and up for auction. It had been sitting vacant for three years. It’s a turn of the century store and it had never been closed before. It was in really rough shape and definitely an eyesore for the neighbors. I was always pretty good at banging nails so I thought I would purchase the property for income producing purposes. I had no intention of becoming a proprietor of a general store!

The original proprietor, Charles W. McLauthlin, opened the Green Harbor store in the late 1800’s. In 1900, he married Lydia Curtis Peterson, daughter of Seth Peterson, boatman and sporting companion of Daniel Webster. McLauthlin owned and operated the store, living in the upstairs quarters until his death in 1938 at age ninety. In 1901, the Green Harbor Post Office moved to the Green Harbor General Store where it remained until the early 1950’s.

The Green Harbor store has since belonged to Varnum E. Gratto, Dan Michellini, Michael Moss, Harry and Virginia Bruckner and Joe and Jodi McDonough. We have now owned and operated the store for over 22 years. We purchased and renovated the store in 1995 and in 2003, we renovated the upstairs quarters where we now live.

Through a lot of hard work and local support, the “Genny”, as it is lovingly called, has been brought back to life and is the heartbeat of Green Harbor village once again. Many of the historical features of the building remain in place today such as the original hardwood floors adding to the charm of the store. It is open 364 days a year. Not only does it provide convenient services to its local residents, it’s a “friendly harbor” for its many seasonal visitors.

Deborah and I are both community oriented. We feel blessed to live in such a beautiful place. It’s like living in Mayberry, USA even though it is only 30 miles south of Boston. As proprietors of the General Store, we do feel a sense of responsibility to our community. For 21 years, we have hosted a fundraiser called Harvestfest. The intention of Harvestfest is to simply raise funds for beautification of our community and beaches and have fun doing it. However, the biggest result from the annual event has been the growth of a sense of connectedness and belonging. A priceless commodity! Oh, and Mr. & Mrs. Claus have been coming to the Genny for 22 years to see the Green Harbor children. A tradition for many families is a visit to the Genny to see Santa!

At age 81, my wife and the store keep me pretty busy. I don’t have time to get old! They say age is just a number anyways! People always say that one of their biggest desires in life is to simply make a difference. I guess owning the General Store has been a blessing in disguise as it has allowed me an avenue to do just that. As small business owners, we have been blessed with some great staff who have been with us for years. It is a good feeling to know that you are able to help others by creating a great place to work even for a select few.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It hasn’t always been a smooth road. With the store closed for three years, people went elsewhere for their needs. The Genny wasn’t on their radar. We had to find ways to help people change their shopping behavior and remember that we were open for business. It continues to be an uphill battle but we are happy to say that the neighbors support us throughout the year and share with us how much they appreciate all that we do for the community.

Another challenge as a small mom-and-pop shop is purchasing power. We can’t buy the volume like the big box stores or chain stores. We try to stay as competitive as we can. Being aware of buying right and selling at the right margin is challenging. It’s a nickel and dime business. You hope that people understand that and will shop locally even if they have to pay a little more for convenience.

Please tell us about Green Harbor General Store.
Our goal is to make our customers feel welcome and appreciated. We may be little, but for our customer’s convenience, we have a little of about everything! Our prices are fair and competitive. We have a dedicated staff who work their hardest at maintaining a high-quality standard of products and services. Our manager of 17 years is Linda Francis. She excels at learning the needs of our customers in order to provide the right product mix on the shelves.

We are known for several things. 1) coldest beer on the planet. 2) delicious homemade chicken salad and homemade chicken pot pies and 3) our penny candy. A rite of passage for a Green Harbor kid is to be able to walk to the Genny for their penny candy! And, yes you can still buy penny candy for a penny!

Deborah and I may have come from a corporate background but we take pride in keeping the “Genny” a working General Store that provides its customers with what they need and yet gives them a shopping experience that makes them feel like home. This I believe sets us apart from others in the industry.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I am very happy with my life. I have had ups and downs and challenges just like everyone else. I have a beautiful wife and a wonderful family and I wouldn’t change any of it. “Life is good!” is much more than just a saying on a t-shirt!

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