A sign on the store door recently carried the announcement by the couple that has run the store for a little over 15 years.
“We will be closing Jan. 1,” the sign said, “so the new owners may make a smooth transition into their new business. Thank you to all of you who supported us through the years. We will never forget you.”
The note was signed by Ralph Borden and Jennifer (Jenn) Holewka, and their respective daughters, Kaitlynn and Karysssa.
The new owner is Jennifer Grantham of Westport, who last May filed papers with the Rhode Island Secretary of State, creating a limited liability company called “Simmons Cafe and Marketplace,” which will run the establishment.
A purchase and sales agreement has been signed, and the closing will take place Jan. 17, after the new owners return from a family vacation.
“We hope to maintain the historical elements of the store and village,” said Ms. Grantham in a call from out of the country where she and her family are staying.
“We plan a fresh look, with options for lunch, and local and healthy foods,” she said. “We want to cater to existing customers, and support local crafts. We’ll talk to everyone to find out what they want.”
Susan Chase of Little Compton will be the manager of the cafe and marketplace.
“Everyone is excited about it,” said Ms. Chase. “We want to be complementary to everything that’s there. It’s got a lot of potential for community engagement.”
Last October, Ms. Grantham applied for holiday sales and victualing licenses in the name of Simmons Cafe & Marketplace. The new licenses were approved by the Little Compton Town Council on Nov. 21.
Ms. Chase said she did not know whether additions or improvements are being planned for the building once the new owners take over. She said she hopes the cafe and marketplace will be open for business sometime in April, a wish that Ms. Grantham shared when she called. There will be employees to be hired, Ms. Chase said.
As for the format of the new cafe and market, Ms. Chase said, “we’re hoping it’s locally sourced, and that local vendors will be able to sell their produce and wares here.”
“We’re just really waiting for the time to begin. The Granthams have a plan,” she said.
The departing owners
On the last day the Simmons Store was open under the departing management, a stream of visitors dropped in to pay their respects.
One of them, Marsha England, who said she used to live across the street and now lives a quarter mile away, said, “I used to come in here every five minutes.”
She said of Mr. Borden and Ms. Holewka, “these guys have run a really nice store. I’ve enjoyed coming over here. They have great sandwiches, great service. What else can I say? I’m sorry to see them go. They’ve always had great coffee. They’ve always had whatever you need.”
All the regulars who come into the store know them as Ralph and Jenn. They and their kids have often worked behind the counter or in the deli and greet customers.Ms. Holewka said, “It’s been like a landmark, because everybody would stop and ask for directions to all the different beaches. We finally typed it out on pieces of paper and gave them out. It was a meeting place for a lot of different people.”
But it was time to sell, both she and Mr. Borden agreed.
“It was getting to the point, after 15 years of seven-days-per-week non-stop work, I got burned out,” said Mr. Borden. “I decided to move on to bigger and better things. It was the right time for us to go.”
Ms. Holewka said, “it’s been long enough. It’s time to let someone else come in. I’m thankful for the support of all our customers and friends.”
“I could write a book,” Mr. Borden said of his experiences at the store. “It’s had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of great moments, but the great outweighs the bad.”
He said he’ll remember the day a couple of weeks ago when his daughter Kaitlynn rode her horse Nutter Butter into the store.
“The horse kind of ducked down and came right in,” he said.
Mr. Borden said he’s heading off to Florida as soon as his daughter finishes the eighth grade at Wilbur & McMahon this spring. He said he hopes to find work and a new home in the New Port Richie area, close to Tampa.
Some loyalties to the area will remain, he said. “I’m a Patriots fan, a Red Sox and Patriots fan. Always will be. I’m taking my loyalties with me.”
Mr. Borden is a range officer for the National Rifle Association (NRA), and a certified instructor, and said he hopes to find work in Florida, “probably something in the gunsmith industry. There are a lot of opportunities to work with the NRA down there. It’s more popular down there than it is up here.”
Ms. Holewka plans to remain in the Little Compton area, and is studying for her associates degree in occupational therapy at Bristol Community College
The new owners
Ms. Grantham, in an undated but relatively recent online entry on the site Linkedin, wrote about her husband Rupert Grantham, their interests, their family, and their plans for the store.
“After three years together, Rupert Grantham and I got married on 08/08/08,” she wrote. “We now have a four-year old daughter, Zinnia, and one-year old son, Coltrane! We’re involved with an eco-tourism and reforestation project in Panama, at Eco Venao. We completed a ‘green addition,’ on our home in Westport, Mass. in 2011.”
And, she said, “We’re thinking about buying a local store, to turn it into a natural foods marketplace and cafe.”
Ms. Grantham and her husband Rupert live not far from the home of Rupert’s father, Jeremy Grantham. The elder Mr. Grantham, says Wikipedia, “is a British investor and co-founder and chief investment strategist of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo (GMO), a Boston-based asset management firm. GMO is one of the largest managers of such funds in the world, having more than US $97 billion in assets under management as of December 2011.”