Bradbury Bros. Market turning 60 ByJennifer Hagan,Staff writer
Posted Feb 5, 2004 at 2:00 AM – Updated Dec 18, 2010 at 12:16 AM
KENNEBUNKPORT -Bradbury Bros. Market has been a local landmark now for 60 years, and the family-owned business has a rich history to celebrate.
Co-owner Stedman Seavey said whenever someone gives directions to a place in Cape Porpoise, Bradbury Bros. Market is usually the first landmark people think of, which is one indication of how well-known the grocery store has become.
The store that would later become an important fixture in the life of Cape Porpoise residents began when Frank Bradbury sold 100 hens from his barn and turned in the family insurance policies in 1934, according to co-owner Tom Bradbury. With that money he bought enough wood for an 8-by-10-foot structure next to his driveway called Bradbury’s Grocery and they began by selling milk and eggs from their farm while Frank’s wife, Alta, would cook hot dogs and hamburgers in a large iron frying pan, according to an article Bradbury wrote in March 11, 1992 issue of the Star.
According to the article, the store gathered a large group of regulars who would come in the evening for the political debate, with Frank Bradbury fielding the Democratic “in a town where nearly everyone was a registered Republican.”
The store continued to expand, and after a few years Frank Bradbury had a mind to buy the store across the street, where the market is located now, purchasing it with his son, Wilbur (Seavey’s and Bradbury’s uncle), in 1944.
In 1946, Bradbury’s father, Charles, returned from his tour of duty in Africa and bought his father’s portion of the business, coining the name Bradbury Bros. Market.
The store went up for sale in 1976, but neither Seavey nor Bradbury were interested in running the family business at the time. It passed on to Vick Chewning and Jon Swennes, who changed the way the store was run, bringing in wine, which had never been stocked because the town was dry until 1969, and breads and bagels from Boston, Bradbury said. It was under them that he discovered the joy in working at the former family business, especially because the owners allowed him to use the store as a platform to launch other projects, such as the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, which he said is still one of his greatest joys.
Seavey said until that point he had worked mostly in the restaurant business, but was craving his own business. In 1990, the cousins who grew up running around the store purchased it and began running the operations. Bradbury joked that it was his “mid-life crisis.”
Through the years, Seavey said it has been the store’s mission to adapt to the needs of the town. However, he said that some of the greatest changes over the years have been the variety of products and the variety of ways those products are available. Sometimes the store has adopted services to keep up with the needs of the town, such as when the post office closed, Bradbury Bros. decided to host it, he said.
Seavey said that the store has been the center of Cape Porpoise and a central part of Kennebunkport for years and is important to maintaining the character people love, something Seavey said can sometimes be a “burden.”
“Some people say that we’re an institution and we tell them we feel like we live in one,” Bradbury joked.
“Sixty years ago it was a grocery store. Today it has a role that goes beyond the selling of groceries, but you need the selling of groceries to keep things moving along,” Bradbury said on a more serious note.
Although Seavey and Bradbury have five children between the two of them, Seavey said none of their children have expressed an interest in running the store one day. “Tom and I didn’t have any interest initially,” Seavey recalled. He said he thought it would be nice for the family business to continue on, but “everyone needs to pursue their own dreams.”
Bradbury said he thought their grandfather would be very pleased to see that the business he started has lasted so long.
Over the years, the store has been host to a variety of people, whether it’s the former President George Bush, First Lady Barbara Bush, and the press corps, or the town’s own cast of characters. Seavey recalled a story about his grandfather becoming so irate with Kenneth Roberts that he almost tossed the writer out of his store. Seavey said he could not remember why, suggesting it might have been something to do with his clothing.
Bradbury said that they have always had a policy of never complaining about someone while working because invariably the person that’s being discussed or a relative or friend will be nearby.Occasionally, to blow off some steam in the busy summer months, Bradbury said those at the meat counter will quote Monty Python skits. One day they were shooting lines back and forth from the witch sketch in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” “And I’ll be damned if a witch didn’t walk in the front door,” Bradbury exclaimed. Laurie Cabot, from Salem, Mass., stepped into the store, although Bradbury said she didn’t hear them.
Over the last 60 years the number of people who have browsed the aisles in the grocery store is innumerable, and will likely continue to grow. Bradbury said that no matter where he’s traveled in the world, if he is wearing a Bradbury Bros. Market T-shirt, there is always someone who recognizes the name of the store.
By Jim Kanak
Posted Feb 3, 2005 at 2:00 AM Updated Dec 18, 2010 at 7:37 PM
KENNEBUNKPORT’Since 1963, Tom Bradbury has worked at the Bradbury Brothers Market in Cape Porpoise.
Since 1990, he and his cousin, Stedman Seavey, have owned the market, and its sister location in Goose Rocks. All that is changing now, as Bradbury last week sold a majority interest in the store to Seavey. Bradbury wants to devote himself more completely to his role as the executive director of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.
?My original intention was to continue doing as we’ve been doing, running the store and using volunteers [at the conservation trust], and kind of running back and forth,? Bradbury said. ?But I couldn’t picture that working, particularly in the summer. It’s the nature of volunteers; they come at different times and schedules. Someone has to come up with direction and keep everyone going in that direction?
Bradbury said that another factor was the growth of the trust.
?It’s been growing all the time since 1979,? he said. ?Then we only had 150 members. Now it’s 1,400. If you want to do [the job] right, you just can’t do it part time.?
As the demands of the trust have grown over time, so has Bradbury’s commitment to it. ?In addition to the membership is the fact that land prices have escalated so greatly,? he said. ?Now, we’re looking at raising one and a half to two million dollars. To do that, you need to concentrate on it. There’s grant writing and all the associated processes that go with it. We’re also responsible for overseeing the properties. That becomes more time consuming. Someone has to be coordinating the efforts.?
Bradbury said that conservation trusts evolve beginning with a vision and then creating the infrastructure to pursue it. The building of the trust’s headquarters on Gravelly Brook Road was a critical step, he said. The next step is bringing on the full-time executive director.
?The questions were, how much was left to be done and how much time do I have left.? Bradbury explained. ?I was selfish enough to say that I wanted to see if I could complete the stage, so the organization was doing all the things we thought possible. If I could devote myself full time for X number of years, it would be the best way to get things done.?
Bradbury’s and Seavey’s grandfather founded Bradbury Brothers Market in 1944. An uncle, Wilbur, came and worked with the grandfather until Bradbury’s father, Charles, returned from World War II. Charles bought out his father and then ran the store with Wilbur until 1977. That year, they sold to Vic Chewning and Jon Swennes. By then, Bradbury was working at the store, and the new owners kept him on as a manager.
?I never intended to be in the store at first,? Bradbury said. ?I give Vic and Jon a lot of credit. With my father and uncle, the store was all consuming. I’d seen that and that wasn’t what I wanted. But Vic and Jon allowed me to have a lot of flexibility. I became involved with the trust on their watch. The store has for all these years been a wonderful bonus, a place where people came and went. You get to know new people in town. It was the perfect place for getting an organization like [the trust] up and running. Vic and Jon allowed me to do that.?
Then, in 1990, Bradbury and Seavey decided they wanted to own the market. ?We were in our late-30s, wondering what we were going to do with the rest of our lives,? Seavey said. ?We approached the owners and bought it. It was great to bring the store back into the family.?
Bradbury said the purchase benefited the conservation trust even more. ?The nice thing about the store was the flexibility,? he said. ?I could talk about the trust and the store at the same time. The two worlds merged quite nicely. The different involvements I had kept it intellectually challenging. It was always fun.?
In the transition, Seavey said that he expects his daughter, Bethany, and son, Brandon, to get more involved in the market, as well as his wife, Betsy. ?We have another, smaller store in Saco, and Bethany runs it,? Seavey said. ?She does the whole thing over there, from soup to nuts. Brandon also works there. Both are interested in the grocery business and they?ll probably get more involved here.?
Bradbury said that he is not leaving the store entirely. ?I’m still on the board of Associated Grocers,? he said. ?And I?ll still run the store at Goose Rocks in the summer. So, summers will still be challenging. But, this frees up an enormous amount of time to focus on [trust] projects.?
Seavey said he understood Bradbury’s decision. ?I worked in the store in 1970, as a senior in high school, and that was the only time I worked there until 1990,? he said. ?For Tom, it was different. He’s been here since age 5. I’ve been here since 1990; he’s been with the store for 50 years. I understand where he’s coming from.?
Seavey said that the market will remain very much the same. ?It’s not a tremendous change,? Seavey said. ?Every decade or so, you reassess the situation and decide what you want to do. I love the grocery business. The thing about the store that’s tremendous is, we had our 60th anniversary this summer. It’s nice to have a small, family-run store in a small community. Cape is one of the great small communities in the state. I’m looking to carry on for quite a number of years to come.?
Bradbury echoed Seavey’s sentiments, with one caveat. ?Small local businesses like ours are things that need to be supported because they are the type of places that bond people to the community,? he said. ?It’s a place where people meet each other and around which communities are built. I hope the store lasts a long time. It remains in the family and will remain essentially the same as it has been.?
?But now people can go in there with less chance of being assigned to a committee.?