The family-owned market with an iconic bull on the roof is just days away from closing after 70 years in business – the past three decades in West Gorham.

Nicely’s Market, 397 Ossipee Trail (Route 25), is set to close on Monday, Aug. 31. The market is widely known for the statue of a bull on its roof.

The market’s owner, Brenda Nicely of Gorham, is closing its doors nine years after her husband, Felgar Nicely, died unexpectedly at 56.

“Mom is retiring,” said Kyle Nicely, on duty at the market last Friday. “And I have other ventures going on,” he added.

Brenda Nicely said Tuesday that “it’s been a privilege to serve the people.”

She said she plans to visit a son and grandchildren in Seattle.

The property, which also houses a Casco Federal Credit Union branch, is for sale.

The closing of the market marks an end of opportunities for high school and college students, who have had jobs there through the years. Kyle Nicely estimated the number of students who had worked there as “probably hundreds.”

Kyle Nicely’s grandfather, Charles Nicely, founded the business in 1945 on Brighton Avenue in Portland. It was a meat market and gained fame for the bull mounted on its roof. Felgar and Brenda Nicely had bought back the family’s market before closing the Portland store in 1984.

They re-opened the market in 1986 at the Gorham location, transforming the site from a vacant former lumberyard. Brenda Nicely said moving the business to Gorham stood out as the most memorable event in the market’s history.

“Doing business in our community is the best thing we ever did,” she said.

Kyle Nicely, a 1996 Gorham High School graduate, began working in the market in 2001.

The market has been popular over the years for not only Gorham residents, but also for commuters.

“We sell a lot of pizza, a lot of sandwiches,” Nicely said.

And customers are dismayed to hear about its closing.

“I’m going to cry,” a regular customer, Kristen Harrington of Gorham, said on Aug. 21 when she stopped in the market and learned of plans to close it.

Another frequent customer, Dan McKeage of Gorham, likes to stop at the market with his kids for breakfast sandwiches on weekends.

“The breakfast pizza is excellent,” McKeague said last week, “and the regular pizza is excellent.”

Nicely said local politicians often drop in, and the market has attracted some celebrities, too. Dave Cowens, the former Boston Celtics basketball star, once ate lunch there.

“He gave me an autographed picture,” Kyle Nicely said.

A comedian and actor, Jim Varney, who was famous as the Ernest character in TV commercials and in a film, also had stopped in the market.

The market this week had a half-dozen employees, including Kyle and his mother. The market is strategically located a short distance from Gorham’s town line with Standish. With the bull on the roof and easily spotted from the heavily used highway, the market and its bull have served as a landmark for travelers.

“It is used for directions,” Kyle Nicely said.

The same bull that was atop the Nicely’s in Portland has been perched for nearly 30 years on the roof in Gorham.

“I remember the bull from Portland,” Harrington said.

The bull has withstood a couple of harrowing ordeals, including Hurricane Gloria in 1985.

Before it was mounted on the market’s roof, the bull was fenced in at the Nicelys’ home on Mighty Street in Gorham. Hurricane winds blew the bull into the swimming pool. The bull filled up with water and sank.

“We had to get a crane to get him out,” Nicely said.

Then in 2001, a couple of juvenile rustlers made off with the bull, even though it was bolted down to the market roof. The incident was a Halloween prank and Buxton police spotted the bull early the next morning on the lawn at Bonny Eagle Middle School.

The bull sustained $1,000 in damages, according to an American Journal article on Nov. 14, 2001. The juveniles apologized, their parents paid for damages and Felgar Nicely didn’t press charges.

The bull was trucked to Gordon Reichert’s Auto Body shop to repair cracks. It received a new coat of fiberglass and was re-painted. The bull also needed its tail replaced, Nicely said.

Now, shuttering the store leaves the bull’s future up in the air.

“‘What are you going to do with the bull?’ people ask,” Nicely said, but added it has yet to be determined.

In observing the occasion, Nicely said the market would offer some deals this weekend.

“It’ll be more of a party,” he said.

Kyle Nicely, son of the retiring owner, stands last week in front of the business widely known for its bull on the roof.Staff photos by Robert LowellAs the sign indicates, Nicely’s Market in Gorham is closing Monday, Aug. 31. Staff photos by Robert Lowell


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