In the days before large shopping malls, Walmart and the internet, you could find most anything you needed by heading across the bridge to the stores on Congress Street in Portland. If you lived in or near the Ferry Village neighborhood in South Portland, however, you could simply take a quick walk to Anderson’s Variety Store at 97 High St.

In this late-1920s view, looking west on High Street, the one-story building that encompassed 95-97 High St. is on the right. Just beyond it is the two-story Dow’s Drug Store building. On the left side of the street is the old Peoples Methodist Episcopal Church. South Portland Historical Society photo

Anderson’s Variety was a neighborhood institution. The business was established by Norman “Allie” Anderson in the early 1920s. He ran the store for over 40 years, closing it about 1963.

Allie Anderson was born in Ferry Village in 1893, the eldest son of Jay Anderson and Minnie Allen. He served overseas in 1918 as a Wagoner in the U.S. Army during the World War I. He was honorably discharged in 1919.

He married Vera Doughty, also from Ferry Village, in 1922. They lived at 84 Grand St. in South Portland where they raised their three daughters, Marcia, Norma and Mary Lou. It is unclear what happened to his wife, Vera, but Allie remarried in 1944 to Olive Doughty (from Harpswell). Allie and Olive continued living in the home at 84 Grand St. and they worked at the store together, as well.

At his Anderson’s Variety Store, Allie sold a wide assortment of dry goods – clothing and shoes, towels and other home goods, toys and games, yarn and sewing supplies, paint, hardware, wire screening and other miscellaneous items. The variety of his inventory is surprising considering the small amount of space that his store occupied. The building is no longer there today. If you were standing on High Street facing north (toward Portland), the large two-story Dow’s Drug

A back-to-school advertisement for Anderson’s Variety that appeared in the Cape Shore Sentinel on Sept. 10, 1948. South Portland Historical Society image

Store was on the northeast corner of High and Sawyer streets (that building is still there, but has now been converted to residential apartments), and the building that housed Anderson’s Variety was just to the right of the drug store. It was a long, one-story building, numbered 95-97 High St. Anderson’s was at 97 High on the left side of the building. On the right side at 95 High St. was an A&P grocery for many years, then became Frank’s Variety, owned and operated by Frank W. Richardson, Jr.

There have been very few photographs found that document the existence of Anderson’s Variety (as well as the A&P or Frank’s Variety next door).

We also have not yet found any photograph of Norman “Allie” Anderson. If you have any photos to share, or if you know of any Anderson family descendants, we would really appreciate hearing from you. South Portland Historical Society can be reached by phone at 207-767-7299, email at, or mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106. Thank you.

A frequent buyer card from Anderson’s Variety preserved in the collections of South Portland Historical Society. South Portland Historical Society image

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at

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