Like most of Munjoy Hill, the neighborhood’s corner store is becoming gentrified.

When the Hilltop Superette opens next Monday, residents of Portland’s East End will be able to get Grey Poupon, green curry paste and fresh-cut steaks within walking distance.

But those who came to rely on the convenience store formerly known as Colucci’s for cheap beer, basics like butter or a roll of toilet paper in a pinch can rest assured the new market will carry all the staples, too.

“We have everything they had before and then some,” said general manager Nate Philbrick.

For more than a year, since damage from an arson fire in a second-floor apartment shuttered the store below, hill-dwellers have been eagerly awaiting its reopening.

Bob Gordon, who lives across the street, said he popped into the store daily for “simple things, like ice.” It was Carol Baker’s go-to spot for stamps. Caleb O’Connell said he’s gone “starving” many mornings without its breakfast sandwiches, and Diane Russell has been eating a lot less ice cream.


But even more than her Sunday night Ben & Jerry’s ritual, Russell – the neighborhood’s representative in the State House – misses running into her constituents at the register, where she worked once a week.

“It’s the heart of the hill. Everybody goes there,” said Russell. Since Colucci’s closed, she said, the store’s reopening is “all anybody talks about.”

After the arson, word was the market would be back in business within a couple of days. Then a sign on the window announced it would open the next fall – and stayed there long after the leaves had fallen.

Since renovations to the building on the corner of Congress and North streets began in November, people in the neighborhood have been able to keep better track of the progress and their anticipation showed in the smudges from faces pressed up against the windows and the over-eager customers who let themselves in the door last week hoping it was open.

The goal has been to be in business by the Fourth of July, the store’s busiest day of the year. Philbrick said he isn’t concerned that the employees will only have a few days to work out the kinks before tens of thousands of people flock to the hill for the city’s annual fireworks display off the Eastern Promenade.

“You can only be so prepared,” he said.


In addition to an abundance of beer, the day’s best-seller, the store will carry all the fixings for a backyard barbecue, from charcoal to coleslaw.

Philbrick said the new ownership’s aim is to be “a full-service grocery store on a small footprint,” the true meaning of a superette, a word that’s long been part of the store’s official title.

Because that style of store was more common in an earlier era, the design of the market was given “an old-school vibe,” he said, with hand-painted signs and vintage fixtures, including an antique front counter.

Philbrick accepts that there are people who will probably still call it Colucci’s for a while – including his boss, Bill Simpson, the owner of a property management company and a resident of the neighborhood who bought and renamed the market himself.

The Colucci’s name will also still have a place in the store, where the former owner’s famous homemade sausages will continue to be sold. But that’s not the menu item that Philbrick has gotten the most inquiries about since taking over management of the store. For others who are wondering whether it will be back, he now has an answer.

“We will have the cheeseburger basket,” he said.

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