Dan Bouthot, owner of Uncle Tom’s Market, which closed Nov. 23 after more than 60 years in business. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — A more than 60-year chapter in Brunswick’s history ended last month as owner Dan Bouthot turned off the lights and hung up the “closed” sign in front of Uncle Tom’s Market for the last time. 

The Pleasant Street corner shop, which opened in 1957 as Model Market, has been a mainstay in Brunswick for the better part of a century. 

Bouthot’s father, Tom Bouthot, known around the neighborhood as “Uncle Tom” in later years, opened the store during the age “when everyone went to the little corner store.” 

They started out selling meat and groceries, but as the supermarkets moved in it became harder to keep up, especially with the meat sales and more product was beginning to spoil, so the Bouthot’s switched gears, added home-roasted peanuts and cashews and adapted. Over the years, the business evolved into more of a specialty beer shop, but many of the same touches, like the roasted nuts, the adult magazines and Tom Bouthot’s white coat never changed. 

Dan Bouthot started working in the family shop pricing items and putting them on the shelves before he hit double digits, but he doesn’t know exactly when the store officially became his. There was no fanfare, nothing ceremonial about it. His father came into work while Bouthot was going over a shipment, said “I stopped at the lawyer’s office and signed the papers to put the store in your name,” and that was it. They never really talked about it again. 

Of course, it would still be many years before Bouthot was really in charge. His father had control of everything almost up until his death in 2011, he said. “It was his baby.” 

Bouthot ran the store in his father’s stead, weathering the changes and building up the inventory until it boasted more than 500 different beers, stopping just last month, when he decided it was time to close. 

Tom Bouthot, later known as “Uncle Tom,” opened what would later be known as Uncle Tom’s Market as the Model Market in 1957. Back then it was all the rage to be “the ‘model’ whatever,” his son and Dan Bouthot said. The store was renamed in 1976. Contributed photo

People in the community have been disappointed to hear of the closing, he said, but he knows of someone who wants to buy the building and is ready to say goodbye. 

Doug McIntire grew up in Brunswick and used to spend time at Uncle Tom’s after school, playing on the pinball machine in the back corner; admittedly an odd spot for an underage kid, what with the “beer and the adult literature,” he said, but “Tom and Danny were really engaging people, they were fun to hang out with.” 

In the 1980s, people were still coming in to buy their groceries there, McIntire said, and Tom Bouthot would keep a ledger behind the desk, letting people buy on credit, though he suspects at times those records were lost or crossed out. 

“He was a kind man,” he said, adding that his sense of humor became more “colorful” the more he got to know a person.

Uncle Tom’s Market hanging up the closed sign is “a sore loss for the community,” he said, but “a sign of the times.” 

That generation that shopped at their corner stores has come and gone. 

“It’s another piece of small-town Brunswick that’s disappearing,” he said, as places like Uncle Tom’s, which was “never the prettiest store on Pleasant Street,” and that admittedly had an “old musty feel,” are being replaced by Hannaford and other chains that can’t replicate the small-town feel. 

“Any day they were open, Tom was there behind the counter in his white jacket,” McIntire said. “He was always present and was a steady presence. He had a warm welcome for everyone who came in.” 

Uncle Tom’s was a Brunswick institution, much like the Fat Boy Drive-In, which went on the market last winter, signaling the end of an era for the restaurant, which opened in 1955. 

Others, like Tess’ Market, Danny’s Dogs and Topsham’s Michaud’s Market are some of the few remaining true area landmarks, he said. 

“These places are getting harder and harder to find.” 

Uncle Tom’s Market on Pleasant Street, a Brunswick landmark, closed last month. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

But running a small-town corner store is no easy feat, and Dan Bouthot has spent the last decade working 60-hour weeks with no time off. His kids did not want to take over the business, and though he loves the customers and loves to talk with them about the beers, he wants to spend more time with his family. 

His wife’s father died earlier this fall and she had to go to Thailand while he stayed and manned the shop, he said. She fell and broke her foot and he wasn’t able to be there to help her. 

“That kind of put the nail in the coffin,” he said, and from that point, things moved quickly. 

He has projects he wants to do at home, he said, like a kitchen remodel and a new garage. Beer will remain a hobby. 

After years of trying everything from the biggest breweries to the smallest in homebrews, Bouthot couldn’t narrow down his favorite style, let alone a favorite beer. 

Beer is like music, he said. A person can listen to classical music or metal and the more he gets to know a genre, the better he can appreciate it, but picking a favorite is like trying to decide a favorite song. Sometimes a person might want to listen to something else, he said. 

He enjoys a real, aged Belgian sour, though sometimes, like on a cold, rainy night, he might crave something different, like a German-style smokebeer (which also makes excellent steamers, he said). 

“It’s been fun,” he said, adding that he hopes the store’s legacy will be his ability to teach people more about good beer. 

“It opens people’s eyes,” he said. “You can’t drink Budweiser for the rest of your life. It’s just not right.” 

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